2022 in Review: Making a Positive Impact on Many Fronts

December 30, 2022

Community Update

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2021 Year in Review

Reflecting on the past year, it’s difficult to select only a few highlights when it comes to the hard work and impact of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) team in 2022. Our educators reached more students than ever with workshops on the Holocaust and human rights; our advocacy team's work resulted in remedial actions by institutions to confront antisemitism; and our allyship with diverse communities intensified. Amid an increased mainstreaming of antisemitism, Jews and non-Jews came to FSWC for assistance in dealing with this disturbing phenomenon. At the same time, with the goal of creating a better society, FSWC reached out to members of the Jewish community and other communities to fight antisemitism and other forms of hate, thereby creating positive change.

Below you’ll see a selection of highlights from the past year. As we head into 2023, our schedule is already filling up with schools registered for educational workshops, programs booked for law enforcement and educators and events to inspire students to be changemakers. All this and more while we remain on the front lines combatting antisemitism on behalf of the Jewish community. If you haven't done so already, please consider making a year-end donation today to support our work in 2023.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe New Year.

Shabbat Shalom,
Michael Levitt
President and CEO, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center

Make a year-end donation

Over the past year, FSWC brought Holocaust and human rights education to some 35,000 Canadian students, in person and virtually, across eight provinces, including on the Tour for Humanity mobile education centre. From learning about the history and lessons of the Holocaust to better understanding Canada's human rights history and the dangers of online hate, students were inspired to be upstanders against antisemitism and all forms of hate in their schools and communities. Thousands more students participated in FSWC's annual Freedom Day and Speaker's Idol events, where inspirational speakers - students and activists - took the stage to motivate others to create positive change in society. Our wonderful team of Holocaust survivors joined us on many occasions to share their poignant stories and important lessons with students.

Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Tour for Humanity II hit the road for the first time this school year and will be making its first trip outside Ontario in 2023. CBC's The National joined us during a recent visit to a school in Sutton to cover how education on the bus is impacting young Canadians amid rising antisemitism in the country and abroad.

FSWC partners with schools to face antisemitism head on

Earlier this year, FSWC announced a partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). This after speaking out on antisemitic incidents at schools in Toronto, including students performing Nazi salutes, and urging the board to take immediate action to address rising antisemitism at its schools. In addition to the TDSB, FSWC has worked with other boards and schools throughout Ontario, including in North Bay, to help respond effectively to incidents.

Government funding to propagators of hate addressed

Over the past year, FSWC addressed numerous incidents of antisemitism that resulted in positive changes for the Jewish community in Canada. As the Laith Marouf scandal made headlines across the country, FSWC worked closely with Canadian Heritage and Minister Ahmed Hussen to ensure measures are implemented so hate groups and individuals with racist ideologies never again receive government funding. Shortly after FSWC's Michael Levitt questioned Twitter over its failure to suspend Marouf during an Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism hearing, Marouf was finally suspended.

Battle against antisemitism at U of T continues

The University of Toronto was the epicentre of campus antisemitism this year, with a series of incidents bringing the issue to the forefront. Most recently, a scathing report on antisemitism at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) led to FSWC reaching out to Temerty's dean and U of T's president, requesting a meeting and for the issue to be immediately addressed. This came more than a year after FSWC called on U of T leadership to take urgent action following reports of Jewish students at TFOM being subjected to antisemitic harassment and intimidation. Earlier this year – after FSWC collaborated with TFOM on an antisemitism presentation for faculty members – more than 300 Jewish U of T faculty members signed an open letter to TFOM denouncing an outrageous antisemitic diatribe by 45 other faculty members against Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.    

Perpetrators of hate crimes sentenced

This year saw the former leader of the now-defunct Canadian Nationalist Party, Travis Patron, finally sentenced to jail for wilfully promoting hatred against Jews. FSWC had worked vigorously with the Crown and Saskatchewan Attorney General’s office, urging for hate crime charges to be laid against Patron.

Meanwhile, a Toronto man guilty of committing violent antisemitic attacks was sentenced to 36 months of probation. In this case, FSWC submitted to the Crown a community impact statement describing the impact of Michael Park’s actions on the local Jewish community and requesting a parole condition that would require him to stay 100 metres away from Jewish institutions.

This year, FSWC delivered 54 professional development programs to some 2,500 professionals. Programs included training for adults on the Holocaust, online hate and how to incorporate equity lessons into classrooms. FSWC's Antisemitism: Then & Now workshop, which teaches about both historical and modern antisemitism and how people can be better allies to the Jewish community, was delivered to government employees and other institutions. FSWC's Building A Case Against Hate conference was attended by more than 900 law enforcement officials from across Canada, who gained knowledge and tools to build stronger and more robust cases against hate criminals.

Throughout 2022, FSWC hosted a series of special programs and events to engage members of the Jewish community and other communities to be advocates against hate and to carry on the lessons of the Holocaust. From the Legacy Portrait Project to conversations with authors and experts on Holocaust-related topics, such as intergenerational trauma and the dressmakers of Auschwitz, our programs keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and relevant.

As part of FSWC's efforts to connect with younger community members, our generationNOW initiative for under-40 professionals continues to attract a growing number of participants. This year, we hosted a special focus group, with 20 people in attendance, to discuss the kind of programs this demographic would like to see. As we enter 2023, engaging the next generation of Jewish community leaders committed to fighting antisemitism is a top priority.

From standing up for the Ukrainian community by raising funds and delivering essential goods to those affected by Russia's invasion, to collaborating with the Afghan Women's Organization in recognition of World Refugee Day, to working with the City of Toronto on a Toronto For All campaign to educate residents about antisemitism, 2022 was a year of building bridges and strengthening allyship for FSWC. Our engagement with the Ontario Ministry of Education also helped lead to the provincial government mandating Holocaust education in elementary schools and support for our Antisemitism Classroom Toolkit for teachers and parents.

This year's Spirit of Hope benefit featured NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a social justice champion and ally against antisemitism, who highlighted his efforts to build bridges with the Jewish community and inspire all to be an ally.

Make a Year-End Donation Today

Thank you to everyone who donated this year and supported FSWC's important work in combatting antisemitism and hate through education and advocacy. As we head into 2023, please consider making a year-end donation, if you haven't done so already, to support our programs and initiatives in the new year. Donations made by December 31 will receive a 2022 charitable tax receipt.

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