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  • Marty Gold

"We Need To All Shout" About Antisemitic Incidents, Seminar Told

A surprisingly large audience at Temple Shalom Synagogue in Winnipeg was told that the best defense is a good offence against anti-Jewish incidents, and were encouraged to challenge mainstream media outlets for unfair or biased coverage.

Winnipeg Friends of Israel presented a seminar "Antisemitism Here and Now" Tuesday evening with Shelley Faintuch, who was the longtime Community Relations officer for the Jewish Federation.

Seminar organizer Yolanda Pepini-Pollock remarks on a New York Times antisemitic cartoon

Speaking before an audience of about 70 people who were to some degree, motivated by recent controversial events locally, Faintuch provided an illustrated review of antisemitism through the ages, including ancient cartoons and caricatures that were the ancestors to the cartoons the New York Times just published about Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu.

Citing esteemed Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, she relayed his message "Anti-Jewish hate is consuming Europe" and "there is no safe place on earth for Jews."

Touching on the more modern incorporation of anti-Zionism into the spectrum of traditional anti-Jewish attitudes and tropes, Faintuch enumerated how Europe has been afflicted by hate because of the collapse of the Centre-Right political parties, and the rise of extremist parties, left and right-wing antisemitism and "the street". She noted that in Germany police report a 60% increase in violence against Jews, and that in France 30% of Jewish residents avoid going to public events out of fear.

One of the people in attendance was the Editor-in-Chief of French news outlet La Liberte, Sophie Gaulin. She warned the audience that antisemitism was creeping into our community in ways that reminded her of the atmosphere in France that forced her to move to Winnipeg 16 years ago. The tolerance of 'minor' incidents in France set the stage for more blatant promotion of such conduct and propagandists, so "We can't say it's not too serious."

Speaker Shelley Faintuch, top left, overlooking some of the crowd concerned with the rise of antisemitism in Winnipeg.

Media coverage of the recent BerMax Caffe affair which resulted in charges of mischief against the Jewish owners, was raised. They are now alleged to have staged an antisemitic-themed attack on their restaurant and it was clearly a sore wound for the community, with Faintuch stating that "extreme antisemitism" has followed (in online forums) in the wake of mainstream media coverage. "When there is indifference we need to all shout."

The participation of radical American antisemite Linda Sarsour at a Social Planning Council of Winnipeg panel last Friday was also a point of spirited discussion, with Faintuch suggesting that media outlets have to be told directly of people's concerns with slanted or incomplete reporting. In the days leading up to the panel, Mayor Brian Bowman and Deputy Premier Heather Stefanson proclaimed their opposition to Sarsour being given any kind of a platform through a publicly-funded non profit. Winnipeg Friends of Israel chair Yolanda Pepini-Pollock assured the gathering, "We accomplished a lot despite how it was portrayed in the media."

In post-seminar discussion, many in the audience concurred that the petition and awareness campaign by publisher Ron East motivated the grassroots to contact SPCW and pressure its funders like the United Way and the Manitoba government far ahead of the panel date, which led to Sarsour canning the usual hate-filled diatribes about Israel from her speech.