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

Peace: Just a Concept Without Real Action

A Canadian Perspective

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article was originally published by Canada’s Mosaic Institute and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on September 26, 2016.

bernie-farber-mosaic-institute
by Bernie M. Farber

This past Wednesday was “International Peace Day.” It is UN inspired and celebrated each year on September 21st. According to the United Nations website, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Indeed, this year’s theme was “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

The UN in 2015 identified 17 sustainable goals that must be met in order to develop a peaceful world. Everything from the challenges of poverty, hunger and xenophobia to eradicating racism, political corruption ensuring clean safe water, protecting our environment-it is a list that is at once compelling and complex.

The world today remains very much a place on the edge. While here in the western world we have luxuries we never would have thought possible even a decade ago combined with ample supplies of food, clean water and democratic based governments, we are often the envy of countries that have far less.

And yes we are very fortunate. It is that good fortune then that gives us added responsibility.

And yet we still have so much to learn about the earth, diversity and peace. We need to be prepared to learn these lessons from sources that are not at first blush apparent.

Anne Wilson Schaef is a world renowned academic who has devoted much of her life to Indigenous culture and learning. In her book “Native Wisdom for White Minds” she tells of her work with Hawaiians among many other indigenous people. She relates the adage of one Hawaiian Elder who once said:

“The day Hawaiians disappear will be the day when the water no longer flows.”

Professor Schaef explains:

“What I have come to understand is that if we cannot save the redwoods or the whales or the Hawaiians, it is not their disappearance that is key. What is key is that we will have lost the level of consciousness that allows us to comprehend the importance of diversity to the survival of the planet. If we do not understand the need for diversity, nothing else matters.”

How the does all this intersect with International Peace Day? We all desire peace on a very direct and pragmatic level. Yet even here in Canada when we examine the UN’s “sustainable goals” how is our own report card?

At a time when Indigenous reserves are still on water advisory notices and have been for over 20 years; when despite political and government rhetoric that we are committed to cleaning river and lake water, the decision of the Ontario government to permit clear-cut logging that demonstrably increases mercury outputs into the water system next to the Grassy Narrows reserve remains a real threat; as Canada welcomes over 25,000 Syrian refugees but has yet to make a dent on Yazidi refugees that we acknowledge are facing genocide, how close are we to real peace?

Yes, International Peace day is a wonderful concept to embrace. But until we put real meaning behind the concept it is destined, sadly, to remain just that.

Bernie M. Farber was appointed Executive Director of Canada’s the Mosaic Institute in 2015. He is a native of Ottawa, Canada and a graduate of Carleton University. His long-spanning career in the not-for-profit sector includes the role of CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress (2005-2011) where he spearheaded multiple human and civil rights initiatives, inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogues among Canada’s wide-ranging diverse communities including Rwandan genocide survivors, Darfurian survivors of the Janjaweed as well as working closely with the Canadian Roma community.

(Featured Image credit: divinereality)

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