“We have a bumpy road ahead," former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told more than 350 Jewish community members and allies during last night's 2023 State of the Union, hosted by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center at The Symes venue in Toronto. More importantly, he added, "Democracy has prevailed in Israel."
The contentious issue that has dominated public life in Israel this year – the raging debate over proposed judicial reform – figured prominently in Bennett's remarks. He addressed the current political situation in Israel, its internal and external threats, his experience forming the country’s first-ever coalition government with an Arab party, and what the future holds for the Jewish State. He maintained that tribalism and division among Israeli Jews represent the biggest threat to Israel’s future, even more than a nuclear-armed Iran, he added, without minimizing the danger of such a reality. The insightful discussion was moderated by Heather Reisman, Founder and Executive Chair of Indigo Inc.
Despite attempts by anti-Israel activists outside the venue to silence Bennett and intimidate attendees, including the use of antisemitic invective, the event went on uninterrupted.
"Tonight is proof positive our community will not be silenced," FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt said on the podium. “We will not back down from those driven by hate targeting our community and who seek to demonize and harm the world’s only Jewish State." He spoke following moving speeches from FSWC Board Chair Fred Waks and Peter Gazzellone, vice-principal at the Etobicoke School of the Arts who shared his experience as a participant in FSWC's recent Compassion to Action trip to Poland to learn about the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, the recent smear campaign against Bennett has included attempts to ruin the reputation of The Symes, where last night’s event took place. To its credit, its management refused to yield to heavy-handed pressure from anti-Israel activists to cancel the event. We encourage you to take a moment to show your appreciation by giving The Symes a positive review on Google and Yelp.
Thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday for this eye-opening, empowering evening and for standing united in the fight again antisemitism and in support for human rights and the State of Israel.
Our important work in education and advocacy would not be possible without your help.