Friends of simon wiesenthal center | Impact Report 2021

is not a gift
from heaven,
one must
fight for it

every day.”

|  Simon WiesenthaL


As seen in this statistical snapshot,

the numbers tell an impressive story

It's been a busy time for FSWC, even amid a prolonged pandemic. Covid-19 didn’t make our work any less pertinent as we adapted our activities to engage with thousands of people primarily online and in various media. The following fast facts and figures give a sense of what we’ve been up to lately.




live and play-back
views of virtual


students participated
in equity and diversity




students, teachers and
community members took
part in Freedom Day




teachers took
part in summer


police participated in 2-day
conference on confronting hate crimes, with members from 50 different police services in attendance


hate crime
incidents reported
to police


letters of complaint
to universities, unions, businesses and others


speeches submitted
by students to
Speaker’s Idol

in a new era

FSWC’s online workshops and programming

teach people of all backgrounds about

intolerance and defending human rights

As an organization with education as its central raison d’être, we weren’t going to allow a pandemic to prevent us from providing learning opportunities on critical issues we’ve long championed. To continue our work, we adapted to the new reality imposed by Covid-19. Under the leadership of Melissa Mikel, FSWC’s Director of Education, we pivoted to deliver all workshops virtually, including Holocaust survivor testimonies, to ensure we could reach students and school teachers.

While some of our regular initiatives – such as our Toronto classroom and our award-winning Tour for Humanity mobile classroom – were sidelined due to pandemic restrictions, we taught our curriculum by way of other channels. For example, we converted our three-hour Equity and Diversity in-person student workshops into one-hour virtual learning experiences. As always, the focus of our workshops and other online activities was on tying past atrocities to current events with the aim of influencing young people to advocate for a more equitable future and protecting human rights for all.

For the first time ever, due to the online format of our programs, we were able to educate and empower students in provinces we’ve never reached before. FSWC educators presented lessons on the Holocaust, antisemitism, hate and exclusion in Canada, along with conversations about how to change the cycle of hate and intolerance through the power of standing up and speaking out.

Corporate Presentations

As part of its mandate, FSWC shares its education programs with diverse constituencies, all of whom share an interest in a more tolerant and equitable society. Over the past year, our educators have conducted virtual workshops with people in various professional fields, including leading law firms and major privately-owned companies in Canada. With topics ranging from antisemitism to the history of the Holocaust, and the roots of hate and intolerance from a Canadian perspective, the lessons presented reflect the rich diversity of the multicultural Canadian landscape.

“My father gave me a blessing and he told me that if I manage to survive, I have to tell the world what happened here.”

|  max eisen

In Conversation with a Survivor Speaker Series

Launched in October 2020, this bi-weekly virtual platform features survivors of genocide and other atrocities, giving them an opportunity to share their often harrowing testimonies. A partnership program between FSWC and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, the “In Conversation with a Survivor” speaker series educates Canadians about the Holocaust, genocide and other global injustices, alongside the importance of defending human rights. Among those featured so far in the series are Rwandan genocide survivor and peace-builder Emery Rutagonya, residential school survivor Delores Kelly and Holocaust survivors Vera Schiff, Eva Olsson and Leonard Vis.

Partnerships with Diverse Organizations

Over the past year, FSWC’s Education Department has joined forces with numerous organizations in Canada to present a wide range of programs online. From synagogues to Jewish federations across the country, the list includes the Canadian War Museum and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. Among the content developed in the context of these partnerships was a special virtual program in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2021, which featured a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi genocide.

Programs for Liberation75

Last May, FSWC participated in Liberation75, a five-day online event commemorating the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust. We presented three programs (including teacher training and student workshops) as part of this global gathering of survivors, descendants, educators and community members. Of particular interest to educators was the interactive workshop we offered (with the Toronto-based Reena Foundation) titled “Digital Hate: What If Hitler Had Social Media?” It focused on the power of propaganda used by the Nazis for their first victims – people with disabilities – and also in their targeting of Jews during the Holocaust.

Equity and Diversity Training for Educators

Introduced in January 2021, our “Unpacking Intolerance” pilot program involved 20 elementary and high school teachers from five private schools in the Toronto region. It provided them with knowledge of historical and contemporary issues of antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate along with tools to help them better address these topics in their classrooms. This pilot program led to six weeks of summer training with more than 100 teachers and the generous support of the Ontario Ministry of Education. The professional development program consisted of 9.5 hours of interactive Zoom training over two
consecutive days led by experts in the Toronto FSWC office and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

striking a chord

Timely digital content and engaging live

events online help FSWC broaden its reach

and resonate strongly with its constituents

Over the past year, FSWC has made its presence felt through a variety of original programming and compelling outreach that address current events from our perspective on human rights, antisemitism and other forms of hate. We organize these initiatives on diverse platforms for maximum impact. Each, in its own way, spotlights the importance of educating about the dangers of racism and the lessons of the Holocaust, while underlining our commitment to combating hate wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.

Collectively, our events and the content we create send a strong message to our supporters and far beyond that FSWC is the vanguard standing up, speaking out and taking action against intolerance, antisemitism, racism and xenophobia and working for positive change in Canadian society.

Working with Association Mimouna Breaks
New Ground in Morocco

In May, FSWC announced its new partnership with the Moroccan-based Association Mimouna, its first-ever such initiative in the Arab world. Founded in 2007, Mimouna not only preserves Morocco’s rich Jewish heritage but is also the country’s leader in fighting antisemitism and strengthening ties between Muslims and Jews.

Speaker’s Idol Continues to Inspire and Empower

In May, more than 300 students from across Canada submitted written speeches for FSWC’s annual public-speaking competition. During the live broadcast online, more than 9,000 viewers watched the 10 finalists present their speeches about how to create positive change in the world and the importance of supporting human rights and fighting injustice.

Marking International Holocaust
Remembrance Day

On January 27, more than 2,000 people tuned in live for FSWC’s virtual candle-lighting ceremony in memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis and in honour of those who survived. Organized in partnership with other organizations, the commemorative event included a special presentation by author Heather Dune Macadam about the first transport of Jewish women to Auschwitz.

FSWC Makes Its Voice Heard at National Summit on Antisemitism

In July, FSWC participated in the historic National Summit on Antisemitism hosted by the Canadian government following the alarming surge in Jew-hatred. CEO and President Michael Levitt; Director of Education Melissa Mikel and Director of Policy Jaime Kirzner-Roberts presented key recommendations for policies to combat antisemitism.

Columns Make the Point in Canada’s Largest Newspaper

Last fall, FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt began publishing opinion pieces in the Toronto Star that appear every two weeks in the online and printed editions of Canada’s largest newspaper. Also shared widely over social media and in FSWC’s newsletter, the columns address current issues linked to human rights, antisemitism, racism and Holocaust education of Jewish women to Auschwitz.

Alerting the Media and the Community

Over the past year, FSWC has attracted considerable media coverage. Doing good work is one thing, making sure people know about it is another. We do that through timely press releases (with statements from Michael Levitt and Jaime Kirzner-Roberts) on newsworthy issues, events and initiatives, coupled with our eblasts, social media posts and content-rich weekly newsletter.

Leading the Way with Joint Community Statements

For increased community solidarity and an amplified voice on important issues, FSWC reached out to other Jewish community organizations to issue joint communiqués. One example: in May, we played a pivotal role in having CIJA and B’nai Brith Canada partner with us in issuing two public statements supporting Israel during the war triggered by the Hamas terror group.

Social Media Micro-Campaign
Targets Antisemitism

In July, as part of our increased communication on social media, we launched a micro-campaign called #ItsAntisemitism. The series of eye-catching, provocative posts, which directed people to a landing page with responses to misinformation often used to denigrate Jews and Israel, attracted many new and younger followers to FSWC’s social channels.

now more
than ever

FSWC’s advocacy and outreach efforts

defend human rights and address the

hate targeting minorities

disturbing rise in antisemitism and other

Given that FSWC’s advocacy work concentrates on issues at the core of our organization’s mandate – Holocaust and genocide awareness and education with a special focus on human rights and hate crime; racist, antisemitic and extremist groups; hate propaganda and online hate – it’s little surprise the need for such efforts has continued throughout the pandemic.

The war between Israel and Hamas in May unleashed a torrent of antisemitic incidents in Canada. FSWC received an unprecedented number of reports from citizens across the country experiencing Jew-hatred firsthand. While many of the incidents were more severe than in the past, perhaps more disturbing, the response from school boards, universities, labour unions and the media was largely one of indifference.

Under the leadership of Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, Director of Policy, FSWC engaged lawmakers, law enforcement officials and university leaders along with public institutions in government and civil society, stressing the seriousness of the situation and the need for action. This in addition to the ongoing advocacy work being carried out throughout the year, some of which is featured here.

Addressing Hate in the
Canadian Armed Forces

As part of its mandate, FSWC shares its education programs with diverse constituencies, all of whom share an interest in a more tolerant and equitable society. Over the past year, our educators have conducted virtual workshops with people in various professional fields, including leading law firms and major privately-owned companies in Canada. With topics ranging from antisemitism to the history of the Holocaust, and the roots of hate and intolerance from a Canadian perspective, the lessons presented reflect the rich diversity of the multicultural Canadian landscape.

Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism

Last September, in response to an increasingly worrisome phenomenon, lawmakers from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel launched the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism. FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt, a former MP, is a member of the 11-person group, whose goals include developing new global strategies to combat widespread Jew-hatred on the internet and engaging social media companies to remove hateful, violent propaganda targeting news from their platforms. FSWC, which has actively consulted with the Task Force, welcomed its interim report in June which included recommendations to fight online antisemitism.

Professional Development for Ontario Law Enforcement

FSWC conducted “Lessons in Humanity” law enforcement training programs for members of police services in Ontario. Focusing on the increasingly complex and diverse environment in which law enforcement officials are working, the workshops and speakers established links between current events and daily police work in Canada. The role of law enforcement in conflicts – specifically, the Holocaust – was examined from a historical perspective, followed by an analysis and discussion of modern-day issues such as antisemitism, the Middle East conflict, terror and Jewish targets, hate crimes and laws, campus and BDS/hate advocacy.

Police Conference on Confronting Hate-Motivated Crime

In February, FSWC held a two-day law enforcement conference on hate crimes in Canada, the largest such event in the country’s history. Named “Building a Case Against Hate,” it gave police new tools, approaches and knowledge to help them improve the quality of police responsiveness to hate crime. The content was designed to build stronger, more effective investigations to allow police to identify perpetrators and build convictable cases against hate criminals. The conference also presented best practices in deterring hate-motivated crime. Participation in the event was unprecedented, with 1,100 law enforcement personnel from both local and national forces from across Canada taking part.

Engaging Political Leaders for Response to Rise in Antisemitism

Remaining strictly non-partisan, FSWC has appealed to senior politicians from all Canadian parties and all levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) to address the rising tide of Jew-hatred now bedeviling the country. We called on the federal government to tighten the hate laws on the books so law enforcement can act more quickly and efficiently to combat the perpetuation and promotion of violence and hatred against Jews and/or other communities. In July, FSWC participated in the government’s National Summit on Antisemitism where we put forward recommendations on actions Ottawa should take to combat Jew-hatred. We stressed the importance of political leaders sending a strong message that antisemitism, regardless of how it may be disguised, is unacceptable.


Donors respond in record numbers to

FSWC fundraising events and other

efforts to enable us to broaden our

important work

As the need for FSWC’s varied actions, advocacy and educational programs increases, so does the amount of financial resources required to carry out our work. To that end, the generous support we’ve received over the past year from our community – from individual donors to corporate sponsors and government bodies – has been highly gratifying. All the more so in light of the increased challenges all charitable organizations have wrestled with in fundraising from not being able to hold in-person gala events or meet face-to-face with donors due to the pandemic.

The new reality further added to the importance of online outreach to current and prospective donors including stepping up our donor stewardship. Through a series of initiatives over the past year, several of which are featured on these pages, FSWC has succeeded in generating funds that make our work possible, impacting tens of thousands of Canadians every year, both on a local level and national scale.

As we prepare for 2022, we need your support to strengthen our work on the frontlines combatting antisemitism and hate through our many Holocaust and human rights educational programs and advocacy initiatives. They all underpin our goal to inspire and empower more Canadians to speak out and take action against hate and intolerance in their communities and beyond.

Spirit of Hope 2021

For the first time, FSWC’s annual marquee event, Spirit of Hope, took place virtually, with a global audience. In June, more than 1,000 people around the world tuned in to a thought-provoking program featuring the architects of the groundbreaking Abraham Accords from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel and the United States. Moderated by award-winning TV journalist Lesley Stahl, of 60 Minutes fame, panelists included Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi (Israel), Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa (Bahrain) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (US), with special remarks from UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba. Under the stellar leadership of Spirit of Hope Co-Chairs Sharon and Ron Baruch and Daryl and Derek Erdman, the evening raised over $3.5 million, making it the highest-netting event in FSWC history.

“For the sake of our children, silence is not
an option

|  michael levitt

Spirit of Hope 2021

The focus of this year’s direct mail was on galvanizing support against the growing surge of global antisemitism. Clearly, based on the response, it resonated with Canadians, reflecting their concerns about the alarming rise in antisemitism and other forms of hate. Surpassing the targeted goal, the campaign produced unprecedented results in both the number of donors that contributed to our appeal and the total dollars raised. We’d like to interpret such a resounding response as a strong vote of confidence in FSWC as a leader in efforts to combat antisemitism, hatred and racism in all its forms and in our work on Holocaust education.

State of the Union

Last November, FSWC hosted its first-ever virtual State of the Union annual event, attracting more than 2,000 viewers and $3.2 million in donations. In addition to special video messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory, the highlight of the evening was a lively panel discussion featuring former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and former CIA Director David Petraeus, moderated by Indigo CEO Heather Reisman. They provided an in-depth analysis of current global issues, including the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the Abraham Accords, the US-China relationship and the post-election situation in the US.

Grant from the Ontario Ministry of Education

In validation of the important role FSWC plays in combatting antisemitism and other forms of hate in schools and communities, the Ontario Ministry of Education awarded us a $327,000 grant for twelve student and six teacher training programs during the summer: The ‘Unpacking Intolerance: Equity and Diversity Training for Educators’ program, offering professional development sessions to help educators learn about dismantling systems of oppression and antisemitism in homes, schools and communities; and the ‘Tour for Humanity Virtual Summer Leadership Camp,’ during which students learn about human rights, deal with injustice, and develop ideas for creating positive change.

Designated Donation for Tour for Humanity

At a time when the need for educating youth about the dangers of intolerance has never been more acute, FSWC is fortunate to have received a legacy donation from Esther and the late
Mark Goldenberg and family. This gift will
allow for a second Tour for Humanity bus
to be on the road in the coming months,
visiting schools across the country.

A letter from the President and CEO

“... FSWC continues to look for new ways to stand up for the Jewish community and ensure that antisemitism and other forms of racism never go unchecked.”

Dear Friends,

As I conclude my first year as President and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I want to express my gratitude for the tremendous support and confidence I’ve received from donors, the FSWC team, our Board of Directors, participants in our programs, social agencies we work with, public figures and the community at large. All of you have helped make the past 12 months so meaningful for me, and so productive for our organization.

To say it’s also been an unusual year for Canada and the rest of the world due to the ongoing pandemic, would be a gross understatement. All of us have been tested by a global public health crisis we had never before experienced. Amid the major challenges and uncertainties we’ve all faced, most people have shown great resilience and resourcefulness, giving me reason for optimism about the future, albeit with vigilance.

To be sure, Covid-19 hasn’t brought out the best in everyone, as seen in the alarming upsurge in antisemitism and other hate, both online and in person. In late July, Statistics Canada revealed 2,669 police-reported hate crimes in 2020, an increase of 37% from the previous year and the highest number ever recorded. For the same period, Toronto Police Service figures showed a 43% increase in reported hate crimes targeting the Jewish community and an unprecedented 51% rise in hate crimes overall in Canada’s largest city.

At FSWC, such sobering numbers make us even more committed in our work promoting inclusion, respect, social justice and Canadian democratic values, as reflected in the pages of this report. For all our achievements, there’s much more work to be done. Indeed, FSWC continues to look for new ways to stand up for the Jewish community and ensure that antisemitism and other forms of racism never go unchecked. For us, silence is not an option.

Long before I began my work at FSWC, I knew it was an integral and essential part of the Jewish community and Canadian society at large. It’s my honour to uphold FSWC’s proud legacy of being a leader in the fight against antisemitism and the defense of human rights. I look forward to continuing this work in the years to come, along with the exemplary team I’m blessed to work with every day.

Thank you for your ongoing support which makes our work possible. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss with me.

Wishing you Shana Tova and all the best for a healthy, safe and fulfilling year ahead.

Michael Levitt

President and CEO
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center

A letter from the Chairman of the Board

“I constantly marvel
at the dedication,
compassion and
professionalism of
the FSWC team and
the important
impact they make
locally, nationally
and internationally.”

Dear Friends,

In the winter of 2020, I was honoured to be appointed Chairman of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Soon after, Covid-19 turned the world upside down. In the new reality that ensued, so much changed in our day-to-day lives. However, it quickly became clear to me FSWC’s mandate remained as relevant as ever, perhaps even more so.

We clearly had to adjust to unchartered ground and embrace new ways of engaging our community and other Canadians on issues of antisemitism, racism and the protection of human rights. As the child of a Holocaust survivor, these matters are always close to home. FSWC’s vital work promoting tolerance, inclusion and countering all forms of hatred is always close to my heart.

Initially, given the isolation and unprecedented restraints we all faced, challenges were many. Based on its past record, it’s little surprise that FSWC has risen to the occasion. Over the past year, under the inspired leadership of President and CEO Michael Levitt, the organization has reaffirmed its important role in our community and in Canadian life.

Reading the content of this impact report reminded me, yet again, why I first became involved with FSWC many years ago. It further substantiates FSWC’s well-earned reputation as being one of Canada’s leading human rights organizations and a key member of the Jewish community. It reflects why I’m so proud to serve and support FSWC as its Chairman. It reinforces my commitment to the values and principles that govern FSWC in its work in education and advocacy.

I constantly marvel at the dedication, compassion and professionalism of the FSWC team and the important impact they make locally, nationally and internationally. I hope you’ll have a similar reaction when you read this report.

On behalf of FSWC’s Board of Directors, thank you for your interest in and support of our organization. It’s a strong motivating factor for all of us at FSWC and helps make our work possible. We have much more planned for 2022.

Warm wishes of Shana Tovah. May you and your loved ones be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy, safe and rewarding year, full of hope, happiness and renewal.

With much appreciation,

Fred waks

Chairman of the Board
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center

Board of Directors 2020-2021

Fred Waks, Chair of the Board of Directors
Gerald Schwartz, O.C., Honorary Chairman
Michael Levitt, President & CEO

Lawrence Bloomberg, C.M., O Ont
Michael Bregman
Paul Bronfman
David Cynamon
Gordon Diamond, O.C., OBC
Joel Feldberg
Jeremy Freedman
Ron Frisch
Rabbi Marvin Hier
Rabbi Meyer May
Sam Mizrahi
Philip Reichmann
Jill Reitman
Gloria Salomon
Molly Shoichet, O.C., O Ont
Raymond Stone
Eddie Weisz
Eric WeiszCe

cil Yolles, Honorary Board Member
Samuel Belzberg z”l, Honorary Board Member
Honey Sherman z”l, Honorary Board Member

For a full list of FSWC lay leadership including
Board of Governors and Senate, please click here.