Dear friends,

Let me begin by expressing the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s deepest condolences to the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous peoples and communities across the country as we mourn the horrific deaths of 215 children found in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
We know that this was not a discovery, but a confirmation of the terrible truth and that silence is not a solution to the continuing pain and injustice experienced by Indigenous communities. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and extend our support to help ensure their rich heritage, legacy, and the future of their children.
When I sat down to write this week’s Shabbat message, sadly, once again, antisemitism is a dominant theme. 

We are deeply concerned with the dramatic increase in antisemitism in Ottawa and across Canada. Our proactive approach includes Board Chair Michael Polowin and I meeting with Mayor Jim Watson earlier this week to discuss the situation, including what we are seeing on social media.  


Here are a few examples of other actions we have taken:
  • Federation communicated with all local councillors, MPPs and MPs regarding our concerns and requested them to issue clear and unequivocal condemnations of antisemitism. In some cases, we have expressed our deep concern over one-sided and polarizing statements they made and for which they must be held accountable.
  • I spoke at a virtual town hall meeting organized by Minister Lisa MacLeod, with the participation of local MPP Jeremy Roberts as part of Jewish Heritage Month and in response to the rise of antisemitism. We are grateful to them for their public condemnations of antisemitism.
  • Federation is closely coordinating with Ottawa Police Services to ensure the safety and security of our community and we are grateful for their partnership.
  • Our team is working on supporting students and providing them with tools to deal with online harassment that many have been experiencing. We have engaged the Ottawa School District Board and will continue to work hard to ensure that public schools are safe places for Jewish students.
Along with many other organizations in Ottawa, Federation was proud to be one of 200 signatories to an appeal to Canadians to stand against antisemitism.

As some of you are aware, this past week, as part of a public relations stunt, flyers were placed in mailboxes of homes and some businesses in Ottawa and in cities across Canada with a fake demolition/eviction notice as a crass form of anti-Israel protest. We have investigated thoroughly and do not see any evidence to suggest that Jewish homes and establishments were specifically targeted. While it is egregious and outrageous, these flyers do not constitute a hate crime.  

Federation understands that receiving such a flyer at your home is deeply upsetting and we want to reassure our community that we are working closely with authorities and there is nothing to indicate an increased threat to the Jewish community.  

We continue to encourage people to remain vigilant, follow security protocols, and report any concerns to CIJA through their website. And if it is an emergency, call 911. We also encourage you to visit FighIt.ca where you can learn more, find a range of resources, and call on the Government of Canada to address antisemitism. 

Let me conclude with a personal story. Last weekend, I went for a bike ride, one in which I have struggled in the past. In fact, a couple of years ago, I actually quit while still far from home, and phoned a friend to come get me. This year was different and I am proud that I did not find the ride particularly challenging. I draw inspiration from this experience in our current fight against antisemitism. It is intimidating to write that first letter, and it can feel scary to take a stand. But the more you do it, the better you get it at and the easier it becomes.  

Biking is a solo pursuit, the fight against antisemitism and justice for Indigenous people is a communal one in which all can and should play an important role. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Andrea
P.S. If you missed last night’s AGM for the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, you can watch it here. Yasher Koach to Lawrence Weinstein on a successful term as Chair and a warm welcome to the new Board Chair Lawrence Soloway.