Fighting the good fight. Has it left the Jewish Community?

“Diaspora Jews. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!”

by Alan Simons

Why is it, I wonder, Diaspora Jews are willing to show as a group how philanthropic and ardent they are towards raising funds and giving their time and support towards non-Jewish distresses, such as the Rwandan Tutsi, the people of South Sudan, the ethnic rights of minorities in Burma, Canada’s First Nations, and currently Syrian refugees? Yet, as individuals, why do we continue to be uncomfortable to willingly expose ourselves, to open our arms favourably, towards Christian, Muslim and other individuals? Why do many in the Diaspora treat non-Jews with utmost suspicion?

Yes, our long standard tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (righteousness) and gemilut chassadim (acts of lovingkindness) are renown and respected by non-Jews. But more and more these days we repetitively remain on the sidelines in showing support to those who fight the good fight.

JIN RCMP dThis past Sunday I had the honour of being invited to the inaugural 2017 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)/IDI GTA Intercultural Ramadan Friendship Dinner. Organised by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA., the event was held at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

To put the importance of this Canadian event into perspective, the RCMPs media advisory reported:

“This occasion demonstrated a gesture of mutual respect and partnership between community and law enforcement.

In attendance were the Chiefs of Police and dignitaries from Government offices. This occasion also included Canada’s 150 year celebration.

The IDI has been working closely with the RCMP and policing partners in the Greater Toronto Area to promote social cohesion, personal interaction, respect and mutual understanding among people through dialogue and partnership. The RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team – Public Engagement Unit has been very active in developing trusting relationships in the community to improve engagement and implement community programs.

‘What an incredible opportunity for us to interact with so many from the diverse communities we support,’ said Superintendent Lise Crouch, Assistant Criminal Operations Officer for National Security. ‘It is events such as this one that continues to remove barriers for our police officers. The police are members of so many communities and contribute both on and off duty. This friendship dinner highlights the strength in collaboration and respect.’ ”

JIN RCMP cOut of the countless hundreds attending from many faiths and cultures, I would hazard a guess there were no more than four Jews present, and certainly, no rabbi found the time to join the clergy from other faiths.

To my mind, I regard in the eyes of the Diaspora, this to be one further example of how the Jewish community has become more entrenched in its attitude of “us” and “them” and less willing as individuals to show where they stand on issues relating to interfaith/cultural (call it what you will) dialogue at the grass roots level.

What a missed opportunity to support those who are attempting to fight the good fight. As Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Diaspora Jews, take heed! Mutual respect and partnership are an integral part of our very being. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!

(Photo credit: RCMP)

Alan Simons can be reached at alan@alansimons.info

COMMENTS

“I could not agree more, Alan Simons. Well said. Same issues here in Winnipeg. Proud of our Muslim Jewish Interfaith dialogue group, but we are not representative of the attitude of the “institutional Jewish community.” It’s more than just caring, Alan, it is massive ignorance about each other. We might be willing to donate a little money to make ourselves feel better but most Jews know nothing about Islam or Christianity and frankly harbour some horribly incorrect notions, yet purport to “know the truth.” However, other cities are doing better – Calgary for instance because of the example of true leadership by strong clergy in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. The recent recognition by King Abdullah of Jordan reflects their exemplary achievement.”

-Belle Jarniewski, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Rwanda: 7 April 2017. Never Again!

Four words:

Duhore Tuzilikana Kirazira Kwibagirwa!

We Must Never Forget!

Today, 7 April 2017 is the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. 

by Alan Simons

In a few weeks time, on 23 April at sundown, Jews throughout the world observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. It is the day where we pay tribute to all the victims of the Holocaust and ghetto uprisings. Inaugurated 64 years ago we like you, have no intention of forgetting our loved ones. Therefore, as a Jew, my message to you is not from a stranger, but from a brother and partner. For in commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, your loss, is also my loss.

However, I ask myself what right do I have to speak of such experiences of genocide?

Who am I to speak of such unthinkable acts of violence and cruelty, unequaled in modern history?

I never witnessed killings, or had my life threatened. I never lost immediate family members, nor witnessed rape or sexual mutilation, or had to hide under corpses.

Rwanda April 7 2017 bSo, what authority gives me the right to speak about Rwanda’s genocide, to talk about your families and friends who perhaps survived these 23 years, and hopefully, I repeat hopefully, have been able to overcome their traumatic experiences and find optimism in the future, as well as speak of those who were murdered?

Well, a few years ago President Kagame of Rwanda, photographed above, said: “The world chose to watch as one million were being slaughtered. Victims were turned into perpetrators and justice was turned into a political tool. The world has shown us that we cannot afford not to fight. Do not be afraid to stand up for truth, justice and for who we are. The only way to live in this world is to stand up for ourselves, stay true to who we are and define our own destiny.”

Perhaps, more than anything, it is in these words that binds Jews and Rwandans together in a mutual understanding of what intolerance and hate is all about in our society today. And, we have only to look at the past few weeks of what happened in London, a few hours ago in Stockholm, as well as the gassing earlier this week of children and adults in Syria, to appreciate the scope and threat of the world we continue to live in.

Hate is hate, irrespective of one’s religion, colour or nationality.

Even now in Canada there are deniers of both the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust who continue to thrust their sick fermented ideas into the international arena. As Hitler remains centre stage to many antisemites, it was only a couple of months ago that Rwanda’s deniers actually competed to question who was to blame for the 1994 killings. 

It’s been said that sadness is but a wall between two gardens. May all of those who perished in the genocide be remembered for their beauty and fragrance that grace our gardens.

My dear Rwandan brothers and sisters, finding an appropriate way of honouring and remembering the dead is one of the goals of the mourning process. For, as Elie Wiesel the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor said, “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

(Photo credits: From Paul Kagame’s Post, in Timeline Photos)

 

For the Love of God!

Opinion

Entrenched apathy and helplessness at its worst

by Alan Simons

Hisham Melhem is Washington DC bureau chief for Al-Arabiya. Last year he wrote an opinion piece titled, “Middle Eastern Christians; death, exodus, betrayal and silence.” 

He wrote: “Those of us who have been sounding the alarm about the death of cosmopolitanism, pluralism, inclusiveness and the imperative of maintaining what is left of the once rich human mosaic that was at the heart of what made some of the great cities of the region beacons of culture, are stunned at the general silence, and yes the betrayal of Western societies – particularly the United States – of these communities.”

Last week in an article published on line by Canada’s CBC. “Ramadan attacks leave Muslims wondering: Where is the public outpouring of grief and solidarity?” The article referred to the evil murderers and terrorists who have committed sickening and unspeakable acts of violence and hate towards children and adults this month alone. These include attacks in Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen.

“We tend to pay a lot closer attention to atrocities that happen in Europe or the U.S.,” Qasim Rashid, visiting fellow at Harvard University’s School of Islamic Studies and spokesman for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, told CBC News. Rashid and many other Muslims have taken to social media to express dismay at this seeming indifference.”

The article goes on to quote Anne Barnard writing in the New York Times, “… desensitisation to turbulence in Iraq does not explain the relative indifference to attacks in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh.”

Both Christian and Muslim communities it would seem, are actually stunned by the apathy and indifference towards each other’s horrors.

Indifference? Well, we can look no further than in Israel. Where is the international outpouring of grief for the wave of terror happening there? Palestinian violence and terrorism, since September 2015, has targeted Israelis in 156 stabbings, 96 shootings, 46 vehicular attacks, 1 vehicular bombings, including 40 killed and 517 wounded? (Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC).

For the Muslim, Christian or Jew, the apathy and helplessness we share for each other’s lives has reached a level that is having a resounding affect on our daily life.   

With 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims, together with a mere 16 million Jews in this world, for the love of god surely one would think there might be enough people on all sides willing to come together in solidarity, a solidarity to fight the evils perpetrating amongst us. Yet, for the most part, we watch with careful restraint, avoiding the need to cross that fine line which will bring us in close proximity to each other.

Perhaps this Jewish proverb sums it all up: “Kal yoter lishmor al sak parosheem me’asher al bat m’uhever. It’s easier to watch over a sack of fleas than over a daughter in love.”

Is it too simplistic to say we all have to find a common denominator in which to to quell the passionate dislike we have for each other? Egged on by both right-wing and left-wing political misfits and their minions in Europe and in North America, Islamophobia, Judaeophobia, and hatred towards Christianity, are all finding new breeding grounds with societies that have a loathing for anything that is unlike their own.

The late Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

Let us all rise up to this indifference. Surely, it would be a befitting memorial to the life of Elie Wiesel.

(Feature image credit: Pinterest)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”