New Federation Board Must Ravamp Approach To Safety Of Winnipeg Jews
Across the world, Jews are having a serious discussion about a modern approach to community safety. We, in Winnipeg, are not immune from the kinds of intimidation, threats and attacks that continue to escalate across North America and threaten the peaceful and safe existence of Jews in the Diaspora. Those threats need to be identified, researched, evaluated, and nullified.
But if you relied on the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, you'd never learn about how the escalation is reflected in the rise of antisemitism locally. Here, there is no discussion with the community at all. That has to change before a preventable incident claims a victim.
Among recent situations readers may find concerning:
* “Six million $ was not enough,” read a message drawn in marker on the welcome sign of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Los Angeles in mid-September.
* California has seen a rise in anti-Semitic harassment assaults and vandalism for three consecutive years, with 126 hate crimes targeting Jews in 2018 compared to 104 the previous year, Spectrum News reported.
* New York Police Department reported 52 percent of the reported hate crimes, or 163 in 2019, have targeted Jews. Over the same period last year, the NYPD reported 108 anti-Semitic hate crimes. New York City, Long Island, and Westchester are home to roughly 1.5 million Jews, the largest community of Jews outside of Israel. A new security plan includes the hiring of seven new full-time security professionals who will oversee needs across the New York area with five security directors based locally in Long Island, Westchester, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Funds will be used to enhance a notification system to alert institutions in real time about possible threats.
* Two images of swastikas were found in the boy’s bathroom and another one scrawled on a locker in the Pelham Middle School in Westchester, NY on October 2nd.
* Antisemitic, white supremacist literature and a DVD was left at a synagogue in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Temple Emanuel reported the incident to the Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network (the latter two based in New York City) on Sept. 13. The ADL recorded 58 similar incidents in North Carolina between 2018 and 2019 — including 31 instances of white supremacist propaganda and 24 instances of antisemitism.
* The City Council of Durham, NC, ratcheted up tensions in the community by imposing a one minute time limit for speakers opposing its repeated pro-BDS, anti-Israel resolutions. “Last year, incidents where faculty or academic departments promoted or attempted to implement academic BDS (at Duke University in Durham, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) nearly quadrupled.” said antisemitism activist Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. A frequent visitor to the state is Linda Sarsour for meetings with antisemitic, pro-BDS groups.
* Repeated incidents of stalking and harassment of Jewish institutions and businesses in the Toronto area by BDS leaders were reported this summer. The UJA Federation of Toronto has taken control over security matters from CIJA, launching a Community Security initiative and "have provided security training to hundreds of community members and on-site guidance to more than 30 synagogues across the GTA – with more to come".
* This weekend "graffiti was found on Shabbat morning" at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton.
"It appeared to be freshly done, in sidewalk chalk, on the ground at the entrance of the parking lot". wrote Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli. "There was a swastika and the word "Jews" crossed out. On investigation, three more spots of this graffiti was found: at the other end of the parking lot, in the lane behind the Shul" and on a nearby sidewalk.
MEANWHILE, in Winnipeg ...
Repeatedly this spring and summer community leadership took no action to repudiate or counter antisemitism and in particular the activities of pro-BDS agitators.
Neither blood-libel protests outside the Israel Folklorama pavilion, ongoing harassment by Antifa supporters of pro-Israel activists, or the uncovering of a white supremacist training cell in our city provoked a single message to the Jewish community from Federation, which practices ‘whistling past the graveyard’ at our peril. This is despite their assurance to us earlier this year:
"when those dissenting voices have brought antisemitism to our community we have spoken up and will continue to do so when incidents like that occur." Elaine Goldstine, CEO, Jewish Federation, August 22, 2019.
Antisemites in Winnipeg did not take the summer off, but the Federation Twitter account did. The Twitter account posted zero announcements in July and August. Their social media accounts are seen as a nuisance rather than a practical tool to communicate not only with Jews, but with the general public. The next time the Facebook account mentions the word antisemitism, will be the first time this year.
Pushed by TheJ.ca and pro-Israel activists to respond to the rise in antisemitism, a meek after-the-fact paragraph in their October newsletter revealed that baby steps were finally taken.
"Last month, the Federation in conjunction with CIJA held a security training day where representatives from Jewish organizations throughout Winnipeg received situational awareness training, which improves a person’s ability to identify threat indicators early, and permit a response which prevents and mitigates harm to the community and its members...
I would like to thank CIJA and the paramedics for leading this valuable training initiative, which has empowered the staff of the Jewish organizations to respond if an incident should arise."
It's a start -- but none of this informs or "empowers" the average Jew in Winnipeg.
Now, compare that paragraph with the message to Jews in Toronto:
Security is the foundation of a thriving community.
Every member of our community has a role to play in keeping us all safe. When attending services in the coming weeks, community members should exercise a healthy degree of vigilance and awareness.
If you see something suspicious or out-of-place, say something ASAP to security staff or volunteers at your synagogue.
It's been made clear that Federation officials don't think that members of the Jewish community have anything to worry about.
Based on our experience since April at the TheJ.ca with Israel and Jew-hating right wing zealots, Islamist extremists, woke anarchists and Marxists, progressive self-hating Jewish leftists, and based on our interactions with the Winnipeg Police Service, the RCMP, and elements within the intelligence and counter-terrorism field --- NOT SO FAST.
At the very least, everyone can agree the community deserves whatever information is available to protect against Nazis. Last week an incident on a Winnipeg Transit bus resulted in an online search for a racism-spouting jerk. This appears to be the guy on the bus.
"Bill Noble, a vocal supporter of the neo-Nazi Canadian Nationalist Party, former member of the Aryan Guard, and moderator for the Canadian section of Stormfront. He's dangerous and on the streets of Winnipeg."
Federation officials seem to be constrained by outdated rules of engagement. Consequently not only don't they warn the community about Nazis, they don't plan for the day your Baba or Zaida, or your teenage kids, are waiting at a bus stop or getting on a bus with this guy.
Keep in mind that in the current socio/political environment, we've seen elderly residents going to political forums being physically intimidated and called... Nazi scum, for exercising their rights to free speech and freedom of association.
What if, what happened in Hamilton had occurred at a political town hall at the Rady Centre. How would it be handled by Jewish leadership?
Federation officials might say they had no inkling Antifa - led by BDS champions - posed any kind of threat. But, that would be untrue.
They might say, as they already have to us:
"For the most part, the BDS movement ... can have a negative impact on our ability to amass greater support for Israel and reduce antisemitism. Their movement is fed by attention; we have made the decision not to protest in such a manner that actually gives their movement fuel."
Yet in Toronto, a spokesman BRAGGED to us how they expose BDS attackers on Israel and take action to discredit their memes, protests, and canards.
This was pointed out to a Winnipeg Federation official who has never responded to the question of "What evidence is there that the Toronto tactics would backfire in Winnipeg?" That question needs to be answered, but Federation staff have stonewalled it.
We note also, that in Toronto, the community has taken responsibility for safety back in-house and out of CIJA's control. And in Toronto, people know they can go to the Community Security team for help and there's been "security training to hundreds of community members."
In Toronto, the UJA Federation CEO stated, "We will not remain a thriving community unless we can continue to gather at shuls, day schools and community centers and be confident in our security and well being".
The incoming Board of the Federation in Winnipeg should undertake to host a public meeting and hold an open discussion about our security and well being. There must be an open forum about whether we need to be a little less like Winnipeg, and a little more like Toronto.
The new Board needs to hear directly from the community about their concerns, and not have it filtered by a bureaucratic process that stonewalls legitimate questions. No matter what, policies about communication and alerts, need to be modified to fit the new reality Jews are facing in North America.
They can start by discussing intimidation and assaults of our young people, and discussing where those threats are being made and by whom.