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

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It’s our 10th birthday! A no mean feat for an Internet news site that has consistently kept to its original mission statement.

by Alan Simons
by Alan Simons

Two years ago Tarek Fatah, the Canadian secular, progressive and liberal activist said: “Any nation, any society, any country that is created on the basis of a hatred towards the others, will soon run out of people that it can hate or groups it can decimate and it will devour itself.”

Yesterday evening in Toronto there was not a ripple of hate or intolerance. I had the good fortune of participating in Ve’ahavta’s 16th Annual Community Passover Seder. The event, under Jewish and Aboriginal leadership, was in effect one of the most important social justice events held in Canada for sometime. In excess of 295 people attended the evening which brought together adults and children of all religions without community or family, to share equally in a Seder with Jews of numerous denominations.

“Tonight we concentrate on those who are without community or family, and we ask ourselves, how we can play a role in changing such hardship using our own resources.”  – Avrum Rosensweig

As Avrum Rosensweig, President and CEO of Ve’ahavta succinctly put it: “Our unique and interactive Seder allows people of all faiths to come together in order to recall this historic biblical event which teaches us about bravery, faith, and ultimate freedom. We take this opportunity in the Jewish calendar to unite as a community and to band together to remind ourselves that the comparable atrocities of today are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated by any of us!”

Ve'ahavta's 16th Annual Community Passover Seder. Toronto April 2015. -photo (c) jewishinfoNews

Ve’ahavta’s 16th Annual Community Passover Seder. Toronto April 2015. -photo (c) jewishinfoNews

Ve’ahavta describes itself as a “Jewish charitable social service organization dedicated to promoting positive change in the lives of people of all faiths who are marginalized by poverty. Ve’ahavta (Hebrew for ‘and you shall love’) is committed to engaging community members in a meaningful and hands-on way to support our collective mission of tikun olam (repairing the world). Ve’ahavta delivers poverty alleviation programs that break down barriers, restore human dignity, foster capacity-building, and empower marginalized individuals to break the cycle of poverty.”

My observations, listening and talking to many of the guests and eighty-ish volunteers present last evening, suggests that at least in Toronto there is a willingness from all societies to outstretch their hands and come together in dialogue, without hate and intolerance. Rosensweig’s Ve’ahavta has a formula that works well.  Let others take note of it!

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

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

Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

ہم اسرائیل کے پاس خدا کا شکر ہے

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SPECIAL. Archbishop Tutu to meet with Canadian Jewish leaders in Toronto

 

The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/St. John Ambulance

The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/St. John Ambulance

TORONTO, May 27, 2014 jewishinfoNews has learned from an informed source that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has accepted an invitation to meet on Tuesday morning, May 27, with a delegation from Canada’s Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs (CIJA).  Led by Shimon Fogel, CIJA’s Chief Executive Officer, the private meeting will take place in Toronto. CIJA is the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada. The  CIJA delegation see the meeting as a constructive opportunity to share their perspective with a significant Church leader and human rights champion.

Archbishop Tutu, as the Order’s South African Prior, together with approx. 60 senior-level volunteers of the Order of St. John from North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand are attending an international gathering of the Order of St. John in Toronto. 

The Archbishop is learning more about the valuable contributions of about 350,000 St John global staff and volunteers, including various Canadian community service activities through St. John Ambulance, such as the national Therapy Dog Program.

“It is an honour to attend this international gathering and to share stories of compassion,” said Archbishop Tutu. “No matter where you are in the world, people’s lives are saved by first aid, and communities are strengthened by the many programs offered by St. John, such as their innovative and uniquely Canadian, Therapy Dog initiative.”

“We are delighted to have Archbishop Tutu attend and participate in the international gathering of the Order of St. John in Toronto,” said St. John Ambulance Chancellor Mairi Arthur. “The Archbishop and all the delegates who have travelled from around the world to attend the 2014 Grand Council Meetings, deserve to be applauded for their caring and devoted contributions to helping the people and communities they serve.”

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