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Winnipeg Board Of Jewish Education Stonewalls Questions About Antisemitic Incident

United wall of silence from BJE, Gray Academy, Jewish Federation and UW Collegiate

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The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has been made aware of an incident during a sports tournament” is the only on-the-record comment so far from anyone, about the antisemitic antics that targeted Jewish high school basketballers on February 2 when the University of Winnipeg Collegiate came to play on the Asper Jewish Community Campus. (Image: Official logos)   

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The mystery about the University of Winnipeg Collegiate terminating one of their basketball teams after a game against the Jewish high school continues to grow, as do rumours about what led to the junior varsity boy’s team being abolished.

The Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education continues to refuse to shed any light on exactly what happened during a Gray Academy game at the Rady Centre on February 2nd. A Board statement claimed that “when there are incidents in sports (we) work closely with the administration of the other school to ensure appropriate follow up in keeping with community values, policies and expectations of respectful conduct on and off the court or field.”

When asked by TheJ.ca to elaborate on the timeline of ‘who knew what when’, what policies are in place regarding the reporting of antisemitic incidents suffered by students, and what actions the BJE is taking to remediate the harm UW Collegiate players caused to Jewish students and spectators, BJE President Josh Weinstein responded in a huff:

“If others have chosen to talk to you, this does not alter the fact that we don’t comment on incidents involving students. Therefore, I will not be providing you with any further comment.”

However about an hour later, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg finally admitted that the visiting Wesmen team did, in fact, engage in some sort of offensive activity in an incident involving BJE students. 

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Federation President Gustavo Zentner wrote, “The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has been made aware of an incident during a sports tournament that included behavioral issues that fall outside the true spirits of sports and community-building. The Federation is in direct consultation with Gray Academy of Jewish Education to provide any support and avail them of any resources needed.”

Zentner was kept in the dark for 13 days by the BJE until he learned of the scandal from TheJ.ca.

While refusing to deny the incident was antisemitic in nature, Zentner also stated, “We understand that all parties involved are working directly with the Manitoba High School Athletics Association and other pertinent authorities.”

One of the questions Weinstein ducked was a request to “provide the BJE policy for (Head of School) Lori Binder and the staff about the reporting of antisemitic incidents involving students to your Board and to the funders.” That policy apparently does not exist.

He also avoided answering whether they had notified “B’nai Brith, CIJA, or a similar human rights agency about this antisemitic harassment of the school’s children”. The question of “when and how will the BJE engage the broader Jewish community to get their input and advice?” was also ignored. 

Meanwhile, Zentner insisted, “We take any incident affecting the youth of our community very seriously and stand up against all kinds of hate, intolerance, and discrimination.” Despite that assertion by Zentner, his Federation and the BJE (which Federation funds) are doing the polar opposite of the advice from federal Antisemitism advisor Irwin Cotler that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” for Jew-hatred.

“These kinds of antisemitism are not limited to the specific targets but they have fallout for the community as a whole. That’s why in order to address it… there could be collective action and collective discussion as to what is the best way to remedy these things.”

Prof. Cotler told TheJ.ca that he endorses “The 4 P’s”: Prevention of the Crimes, Protection of the targets, Prosecution of the perpetrators, Partnerships between government authorities. None of those are being upheld by the united wall of silence from Gray Academy, the BJE and our Jewish Federation , and students and  the community will remain targets as a result.  

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After a bizarre Winnipeg Free Press story on Saturday that did not include the word “antisemitism” once, did not mention the Feb. 2 incident, and reduced the controversy to a “behavioral issue”, Belle Jarniewski, Executive Director at the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, posted on her Facebook page:

“I would have appreciated if the UW Collegiate had been more forthcoming with details of what happened. Rather than pulling the team (which had lost every game this season), as a discipline measure, they should have had taken the opportunity to make this a teachable moment in the true sense of the word -i.e. ensure that education on antisemitism and antiracism of all kinds is an integral part of the curriculum at the Collegiate.”

Later on the long weekend, she raised “A report from the UW which reviewed a 2017 event (that) elaborated a number of responses to antisemitism on campus.”

“Among them: “Recommendation 1: That the university publicly acknowledge the serious problem of anti‐Semitism, and commit to taking steps to prevent the expression of its various forms on campus. Recommendation 5: That the university track any reported or known incidents of anti‐Semitism on campus, and develop appropriate response protocols and strategies. Recommendation 7: That the university encourage events and other opportunities to educate UW community members about the Holocaust, anti‐Semitic stereotypes, and other topics of concern to the Jewish community.”

Jarniewski continued, “I note with disappointment that UW does not seem to be taking these recommendations seriously and that no classes from the UW Collegiate have registered for the Holocaust and Human Rights Symposium this year after having been a part of it for 20 years. There is no cost and the program will be virtual.”

The President of the Board of Jewish Education, Josh Weinstein, deflected any discussion about what happened at a Gray Academy basketball game when the Raiders hosted the University of Winnipeg Collegiate. As a player in 1989, he led the Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate varsity Raiders to a provincial title. (Screencap: Sport Manitoba)  

The handling of the affair by both schools seems designed to hide the harm done to the Jewish community and shield the coaches and athletic directors. They worked out a secret deal that appears to be primarily intended to protect the game of basketball in Manitoba – and not teenage Jewish athletes. Our information is, that not even this incident was reported to the parents of the Gray Academy players.

As TheJ.ca reported last week, there is a history of problems between the teams, and none of it was ever reported – as required – to the Manitoba High School Athletic Association.

High school sports has become a hotbed of aggressive and sometimes violent conduct towards Jews.

At a girls basketball games last Saturday in California, “Buena Park students held up pictures of Swastikas on their phones to distract (shooters)”;  at a championship boys soccer match on Feb. 15 in Miami, a mob yelling “Hitler was right” and “Dirty Jews” attacked Scheck Hillel players and fans; one Jewish student was hospitalized with a metal cleat lodged in his eye after repeated kicks to his face.

With Jewish education officials and Federation leadership keen on keeping the details of the Rady Centre incident a state secret, conflicting and escalating versions of what transpired have been circulating. A number of reports to TheJ.ca have claimed that antisemitic gestures, described as a “Hitler salute” in one instance and a “Hitler mustache” in another, were made by UW players, and that people were spit on. TheJ.ca was also told that Miami was not the only place “dirty Jews” was uttered in contempt to high schoolers.

Yet another version, from a family connected to the team, asserted that only 3 Wesmen players were involved which makes the outcome – collective punishment of all the UW players – really hard to fathom. At press time, another family close to the team said the antisemitic incident consisted of chants or statements of “Free Palestine!” – which is a genocidal chant of the terrorist Islamist Hamas.

Until the adults responsible for the Winnipeg Jewish community and for our students come clean, fear within the Jewish community – on edge since the rock and bottle throwing riot on May 15 2021 that injured some Jewish teens and which was never addressed by the Jewish Federation – will continue to grow. We expect that even wilder versions of what is being covering up by all parties will continue to unfold.

Alone you may think that one non-violent incident does not hold a place of significance for the Jewish community in Winnipeg – we have overcome much more – but how are we to measure warning signs, or alternatively (Hashem Willing) to celebrate the lack of incidents, if we can’t even get our own community to identify and expose the bigotry in the first place?

If the “leaders” in our community are gate keeping the truth and won’t stand up for us who will? What kind of an example does it make for the Jewish students that experienced the incident? It screams “Sweep things under the rug and don’t rock the boat too much kids.”

The goal is not to publicly identify some minors that may have made some gestures or espoused hate filled rhetoric, but to have our community support each other and to track the frequency and severity of each incident. No federation, or board alone should have the power to silence an event like this. 

(At press time Thej.ca hadn’t yet heard back from Minister of Education Wayne Ewasko or Sports and Culture Minister Obby Khan. The MHSAA was unable before deadline to verify the schools are working directly with them. The Rady JCC did not respond to our inquiry before deadline. We will have lots more on this story, and more from Prof. Cotler, next week.)  

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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