On Sunday, Canadian and world Jewry will observe the fast of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Throughout the centuries, Tisha B’Av has also become a day for commemorating the Crusader massacres, the expulsion from Spain, and the countless other waves of antisemitic persecution that have affected our people from generation to generation.
Tisha B’av 2016 brings a sobering message for Canadian Jewry: It could happen here too. Public displays of antisemitism are on the rise in Canada. As a community, we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand — especially as waves of antisemitism have roiled other developed countries such as France and the United Kingdom.
In April, notorious Holocaust denier Ken O’Keefe was allowed to spread his hatred in public lectures at the University of Toronto and Concordia University. In July, a schoolteacher praised PFLP terrorists while a young poet denounced Jews as “killers of the prophets” at the annual al-Quds Day hate-rally in downtown Toronto.
Last Sunday, a political party with representation in Parliament endorsed the antisemitic boycott of Israel by a wide margin, despite the fact that the resolution’s submitter has advocated on behalf of a terrorist who murdered Israeli civilians.
This week, the “World Social Forum” has taken over downtown Montreal, using public money to spread anti-Israel hatred and 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Here at B’nai Brith Canada, we have worked tirelessly to expose and confront antisemitism wherever it festers in this country. The response from Canada’s Jewish community has led to an apology from the University of Toronto for hosting O’Keefe, a Toronto Police investigation into antisemitism at the al-Quds Day hate rally, and a distancing of the federal government from the World Social Forum.
We cannot rest until antisemitism and all forms of bigotry are banished from the Canadian public sphere.
Our Sages teach us that while the First Temple was destroyed due to the sins of the Jewish People against G-d, the Second Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred” and bitter infighting among Jews (Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1).
It is with this historical lesson in mind that B’nai Brith continues to unite all streams of Canadian Jewry, and to expose contemporary groups which claim the mantle of Judaism while working to undermine Jewish security in Israel and worldwide.
As a community, we must not allow actions which would rightly be condemned as antisemitic when committed by non-Jews to be replicated with impunity by groups that merely insert the word “Jewish” into their names. There can be no fig leaf for antisemitism - not when we face unprecedented challenges both in Israel and at home.
Despite our successes over the past few months, there is clearly much work left to be done. When Jewish university students return to campus in September, anti-Israel extremism is sure to follow. We know that those who hate our community will not give up this fight so easily.
This Tisha B’Av, our community stands at a crossroads: Will we stand idly by while antisemitism gains legitimacy in Canada, or will we stand firm against the forces of discrimination, to promote a safe and pluralistic society for all Canadians?