Editorial: Safety Of Canadian Jews In Our Own Hands, Not Our Leaders'
The year 2019 was a watershed year for Jews in Winnipeg and the absence of the harassment and violence plaguing our brethren in Toronto, Montreal, New York and Europe should not fool anyone, it's coming, we have to be ready, and our leaders are not prepared for the task.
TheJ.ca came into existence last spring because we could see clearly the fires fueling rabid antisemitism being fed not only by traditional enemies, but by new political and social allegiances they forged, that incorporated using useful Jewish idiots on the progressive left to legitimize their anti-Zionist messaging.
Winnipeg Jews were shocked last February when I exposed the infiltration of the Jewish Federation by anti-Israel sympathizers who used their positions in Limmud to platform a pro-BDS 'rabinical student' IfNotNow leader and tried to foist him off on 3 synagogues as a legitimate Shabbat dinner speaker. (Federation didn't even know what IfNotNow was, because seemingly they didn't read the memos about INN harassment of Federation buildings in Boston and Detroit and anti-Israel incidents by INN chapters on campuses in other cities.)
Try as they did to disassociate their institutions from Lex Rofeberg's presence in our community, concerns linger. How were the shuls were so easily fooled? Why was he allowed to speak inside a community-funded classroom? And questions still linger about the mingling of Federation and Limmud business leading into the 2019 session.
Less than 2 months later, our institutions had to be dragged into the fray when the radicalized executive of the Social Planning Council shielded their antisemitic agenda by cloaking the appearance of the vile Sharia-touting Linda Sarsour under the guise of raising money for a moribund Muslim Women's charity.
This came about because, as I warned, the progressive left had identified Winnipeg as a soft target - or, a target sufficiently softened up - to spread antisemitism and hatred of Zionists in the guise of "justice" and "human rights".
It was only upon the leadership of Ron East and his wife Shirli spearheading a petition, that the Seven Oaks School Division reversed course within days after being duped into renting a venue. But upon the move of the panel event to the local communist Ukrainian outpost, Jewish community leaders used every excuse in the book - "it's on Erev Shabbas, it's during Pesach, protests just draw attention to them" to refuse to spread the word about the protest across from the hall.
The Overton Window shift of Winnipeg newsrooms of Winnipeg newsrooms was firmly proven as a sympathetic media repeated the Sarsour-nik narrative:
- the event was "sold out" (tickets were being offered all around Selkirk Avenue),
- the protesters were "forced" by city police to take up across the street on McGregor (that position was chosen the day before -- by the protest organizers),
- the opposition to Sarsour was simply 'a few loud individuals' (because God forbid, anyone in the Winnipeg media or "activist" crowd admit that ultimately over 4200 people had signed the petition stating Linda Sarsour was not welcome to spread her hate in Winnipeg. )
We have not heard the end about media coverage of that SPC event with Linda Sarsour, but since then newsrooms have not jumped onto any other story about antisemitism to such a degree. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
When Nakba Day came up in May, once again the Federation piled up the excuses not to lead the Jewish and Israeli community to face the pro-terrorist faction, and it was left to the grassroots to score a stunning tactical victory by intercepting the march before it got to City Hall, deflating the hatefest with calls for peaceful cooperation and a 2 state solution.
Despite the proven success of even a moderate presence with 5 Magen David flags, the Federation refused to counter the protest outside the Negev Gala in June, letting the quisiling progressive Jewish rump deliver twisted anti-Israel rhetoric on Main Street at rush hour across from City Hall, without challenge.
In July it was considered too provocative by our enemies for the Jewish community to even have a public discussion in a civic building about the threat caused by the Jewish left making league with murderous Islamists.
City officials first canceled the venue for a speech by Lauren Isaacs of Herut Canada, then lied about canceling the event when the outrage poured into their email boxes and phone lines. About this affront to community safety, Federation again stayed silent.
Is it any wonder then that pro-BDS terrorist-lovers from Nakba Day stood across from the Rady Centre spewing more lies and hate about Israel during Folklorama, knowing the Jewish leadership had no idea who they were and lacked the spine to even find out their names and affiliations.
I need not enumerate the parade of anti-Israel speakers who have appeared since August, and that Federation officials had no knowledge of those scheduled events. With every incidence of "official" silence and avoidance of confrontation, those that hate Jews take it as a cue they are mainstream enough to fall under the 'free speech' umbrella and grow their numbers among woke activists, so-called peace movements, and among local Islamists.
As Ben Freeman described the Diaspora this weekend- "The western post-Holocaust golden age of Jewry is over. This relatively peaceful period was an anomaly in the history of the Jews & now we are back to ‘normal’. We have to recognise this so we are prepared to deal with it."
Winnipeg Jews should not be fooled about their local representives' ability to adapt to the new/old reality: Federation couldn't even be bothered to issue a statement of reassurance about the fact a Nazi recruitment drive was busted by RCMP in Manitoba. That's how they treat our enemies, by pretending they don't exist.
Even when told that one venue realized it, too, had been duped by the euphemistic languge that hides the leftists' Jew-hating agenda, and canceled a speaker, Federation did not inform the community in the monthly newsletter so that the business owner could be thanked and supported. That is how the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg treats friends of the Jewish people.
Going back to my exposing the Rofeberg scandal, the evidence is clear:
The agency supposedly responsible for our community safety and protection has proven zero capacity for intelligence gathering -- and zero interest in doing so.
Given I have been doing about 30 years of secular often political and investigative reporting and business activities, and have been largely outside the formal organized Jewish community since I graduated Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, my shock at this negligence is immense and my disappointment profound.
My family was deeply, nationally involved in the Canadian Zionist Federation and Pioneer Women Na'amat. I have been lucky to live in the era described by Freeman, where they were able to support the State of Israel without any fear of harassment, cancel-culture or violence. That era has come to an end.
We are in a war against antisemites whether they are right-wing nazis, left-wing marxists, Islamists, anarchists, hyper-Christians or simply white racists. Up until 2020, our leadership behaved like there was no threat to our safety. Freeman makes clear, that also has to end.
Newly enshrined JFW President Joel Lazer apparently wants "to raise awareness about the incidents of antisemitism". He can start by ensuring his staff take steps to identify threats by name and circulate those identities to the community. TheJ.ca has been targetted by some of these il-willed individuals and would be glad to clue him in, if only his staff will arrange an interview with Lazer as asked for in November.
Lazer also noted "I think CIJA does good work. We are going to utilize CIJA as much as we can. They are a resource for our benefit."
To convince the generous and supportive Jewish families that fund his Federation of that, Lazer will first have to explain why in Toronto, BDS boycott tactics are publicly countered and ridiculed by CIJA, while in Winnipeg his staff insists BDS poses no threat to our residents and should be ignored under their 'sha-shtill' shtetl playbook. We've heard proof firsthand, at the event with Lauren isaacs, that their playbook is failing Jewish children in high school.
Universally recognized as a good guy, Lazer will have nonetheless have a credibility problem - particularly from the Israeli community - if Toronto Jews (and Israelis) get actively defended but Federation donors in Winnipeg are expected to sit back and wait for the insults, the spitting, and the punches to the head. And let there be no mistake, that has been the case.
In Toronto, Jews get a bang for their buck when it comes to activism and being defended; in Winnipeg, Jews get patronized and treated dismissively if they ask too many questions about it. Don't make noise.
In the meantime, the Israeli-Canadian Council has struck a chord among the local congregation with plans to act swiftly to develop advocacy at the political and community level and safety initiatives and support on the streets -- even on Shabbat. There are at least two other instances of the infiltration of major local Jewish events by bad actors which TheJ.ca has not reported on yet, but with the rot coming from inside, the time has come for the carpenters to build our civil protection, not wait for the architects drawings. This grassroots effort by Ron East began before the practice-pogroms in New York this month, and Jews in other cities in Canada have asked to be educated on the Winnipeg model being developed.
This initiative deserves the support of all major Jewish institutions in our city, and all our fellow Jews who identify as believers in Zionism. It's the fancy new excuse for Jew-haters to beat you or your family up. Don't kid yourself. And don't wait til it happens to make noise about not wanting it to happen.
And here's a postscript, about how my year ended while writing this column .
I got a phone message left for me tonight, by a pleasant female voice acting like it's a survey:
"Hiiii, I'm calling from the Society of Cheap Jews, we're just taking a survey to see if you're a cheap Jew too.. and uh we just got one reference ... Marty you're a cheap Jew too, so you're declared a cheap Jew. Yay! you take care now you cheap Jew."