August 4, 2023
Shabbat Shalom | Candle Lighting: 8:19 PM EDT
A Note from Michael Levitt
Together, We Are Stronger
The just-released hate crime statistics from Statistics Canada come as no surprise, revealing a 2 per cent increase in police-reported incidents against the Jewish community in 2022. Yet again, Canadian Jews remain the most targeted religious group and second most targeted group overall. The only solace is the smaller rise in hate crimes against Jews compared to the exorbitant increase of 49 per cent in 2021. Still, this doesn't negate the disturbing fact that antisemitism continues its upward trajectory in Canada, consistent with a similar trend in other countries.
Numerous events and circumstances help fuel rising hatred. Historically, growing instability, tensions and uncertainty in society have contributed to increased hate toward "the other," as people find groups – Jews being the most common scapegoat - to blame for societal ills. Today, we see attempts to sow division and hate play out in the mainstream - by political leaders or celebrities, like Kanye West - and among fringe voices, both online and offline.
In my latest piece in the Toronto Star, published earlier this week, I highlight a study that found antisemitic tweets on Twitter, now rebranded as X, have increased substantially since Elon Musk acquired the company last fall. As people, especially youth, spend more time online, this continuing growth in hateful rhetoric on social media platforms is of great concern, for which their owners and senior executives must be held to account. This, before we see another instance of online hate contributing to physical attacks in the real world.
But, as the time-honoured saying goes, what starts with the Jews doesn't end with the Jews. The latest StatsCan hate crime data shows us other minority groups are also facing an alarming rise in hate incidents, including the Black and LGBTQ+ communities. As the Jewish community accounts for only 1 per cent of Canada's population, we can’t fight antisemitism alone, and we can’t fight it without working to combat other forms of hate.
That's why Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center has been steadfast in extending our outreach to other at-risk communities to build an alliance of diverse groups in our shared goal to confront hatred. Just this past week, we reached out to numerous Black community organizations to engage on important anti-hate efforts, at a time when the Black community remains the group most targeted by hate crimes, according to the new StatsCan data. This outreach is part of our ongoing engagement with individuals and groups in the Chinese, Japanese, Sikh and many other communities in Canada. We’re looking forward to strengthening these relationships in the weeks, months and years to come because, as I’ve often said and firmly believe, together we are stronger.
Community Update. FSWC engages with StatsCan as latest statistics show rise in hate crimes
In response to recently published Statistics Canada data on police-reported hate-motivated crimes in 2022, FSWC released a statement outlining data on hate crimes targeting Canada’s Jews. According to StatsCan, the Jewish community saw a 2 per cent increase in hate crimes in 2022 and remains the country’s most targeted religious group and second most targeted group overall.
This week, FSWC also met with Statistics Canada to discuss its Report and Draft Recommendations for Police-Reported Indigenous and Racialized Identity Statistics via the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and to provide feedback on Jewish community identity and concerns. We’ll continue to provide input as the initiative develops and will be discussing the prospect of providing training about antisemitism and Jewish identity.
After learning of swastika graffiti on a Toronto For All ad against Islamophobia in Scarborough, FSWC denounced the hateful vandalism and contacted the Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit to ensure the removal and investigation of the graffiti. “An awful expression of hate targeting the Muslim community and the important Toronto For All message supporting diversity and the fight against Islamophobia in the City of Toronto,” FSWC stated in an online post. “We denounce this hateful graffiti and have reached out to the Toronto Police Service to ensure a thorough investigation to find the perpetrator.”
Earlier this week, the Toronto Star published FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt’s latest column, “’X’ marks the spot of Jew hatred,” in which he discusses rising antisemitism on the X platform, formerly Twitter, especially since Elon Musk took over the company.
This week, FSWC joined in commemorating Romani Genocide Remembrance Day, remembering the hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti victims of the genocide committed by Nazis and their collaborators. On August 2, what would’ve been Shimon Peres’s 100th birthday, FSWC honoured the former Israeli president and prime minister and champion for peace.
Education Update. Freedom Day is next month!
FSWC is looking after the final touches for another successful Freedom Day event in September. This year’s event will be taking place in person at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto and streamed live to YouTube, so that students across the country have the opportunity to participate. If you are interested in attending to witness the impact of Freedom Day, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freedom Day is designed to inspire Canadian youth to be change-makers and build a better future by taking a stand for freedom, justice and human rights in their communities. Learn more about the annual event here.
In the meantime, the FSWC education team continues to consult with educators at private, public and Catholic schools this summer to prepare programming for the coming school year. Suggestions range from arranging survivor speakers to developing unique programs that will educate about the Holocaust and antisemitism. We’re pleased to share that the Tour for Humanity mobile education centre is completely booked into May 2024, with a first-ever west coast tour slated for the new school year.
Spotlight on New Books
Highlighting recently published non-fiction and fiction involving subjects related to the work of FSWC
The Survivor: How I Survived Six Concentration Camps and Became a Nazi Hunter
By Joseph Lewkowicz, co-authored with Michael Calvin
HarperCollins Publishers, 304 pages
True to the title of his compelling memoirs, Joseph Lewkowicz is indeed the ultimate survivor. Having survived six concentration camps during the Holocaust while his entire extended family of 150 were killed, he has since lived a long life. After defying the odds and gaining freedom in 1945, Lewkowicz set about hunting down escaped Nazi war criminals who killed his family and many others. He was responsible for bringing to justice Amon Goeth, the notorious Nazi commander of the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland where Lewkowicz was brutalized.
Following the war, Lewkowicz also helped other Holocaust survivors. He took part in a covert operation that rescued hundreds of orphaned Jewish children who had been hidden by doomed parents in Poland during the Nazi occupation. He later worked as a diamond dealer in South America, married and raised a family in Montreal, and now, at age 96, lives in Jerusalem. For decades, Lewkowicz didn’t speak about his Holocaust experiences and only agreed to write this book after his children urged him to share his story and a rabbi told him it was important for young people to learn what happened through the stories of survivors, with the hope it will help prevent another Holocaust ever happening again.
Limited tickets for screenings in Winnipeg and Vancouver on August 21-22 are still available!
Simon Wiesenthal Around the World
2023 FSWC Sponsors
Fred and Linda Waks and Family