July 14, 2023
Shabbat Shalom | Candle Lighting: 8:39 PM EDT
Throughout the summer, we’re including the voices of FSWC staff reflecting on their respective roles at the organization, starting today with Zach Sadowski, Director of Antisemitism Programming and Outreach.
AN IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY FOR FSWC
“It’s been amazing.”
That’s how I responded to someone I had lunch with this week who asked about my “new” job at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. After four months in my role as Director of Antisemitism Programming and Outreach, it no longer feels like a new job anymore. The team at FSWC has been incredibly welcoming and I’ve felt at home from day one.
Having worked at other Jewish organizations and private companies, I can confidently say there’s something special going on at FSWC. This is a supportive place to work, where everyone is encouraged to fulfil their mandate their own way. I’m amazed each day by the work my colleagues do. Their collective impact belies the relatively small size of the team.
When I began at FSWC, I was surprised to learn my position hadn’t existed previously. In Canada, Jews have long been the most targeted minority group when it comes to hate crimes and yet in the many well-established Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs across the country, antisemitism was ignored. The potential impact of being the first ones to rectify this is enormous.
I’ve spoken with many DEI professionals, most of whom told me they simply hadn’t realized the need for antisemitism training. It’s not due to discrimination but rather ignorance. Antisemitism isn’t like other forms of racism. To borrow from David Baddiel’s book, Jews Don’t Count, traditional racism sees the other as lower status, whereas antisemites view Jews as both low and high status. For them, we are thieves, dirty, deceiving and privileged, powerful and controlling of the world. But this ignorance represents an opportunity to bring our educational programming to the same DEI spaces that for too long have viewed antisemitism as far less pressing than other forms of racism.
To that end, in the workshops and presentations I’ve delivered so far, I’ve engaged more than 1,000 people. I’ve also met and reached out to dozens of other DEI professionals and hope to start a new round of workshops at businesses we’ve had no prior contact with. In addition, I’m actively working with one city’s police service to produce a modular antisemitism training program that potentially could be in the hands of officers across Ontario and even Canada by 2024. We’re also producing an exhibit that reflects the content of our antisemitism workshop to be displayed in various venues in Toronto.
There’s no limit to the future reach of our antisemitism programming. This is just the start. Working with the amazing team at FSWC and supported by our lay leadership, and our donors who make our work possible, I know this program can make a difference in the sadly never-ending fight against antisemitism.
Community Update. FSWC strongly condemns the decision by Swedish authorities, as reported in the media today, to allow protestors to burn holy books of different religions, including possibly a Torah tomorrow outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm.
After we learned that an antisemitic, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ British imam was touring Canada, including at universities, we reached out to the University of Waterloo and Toronto Metropolitan University to express our concerns about their hosting someone who consistently spews multiple forms of hate. It’s all the more disturbing in light of the recent hate-motivated knifing attack at Waterloo. We have yet to hear back from Waterloo. For its part, the TMU cited the importance of free speech in defending giving a platform to the imam while claiming not to tolerate hate. We also issued a public statement criticizing institutions of higher learning giving a platform to someone with a clear antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ2S+ history, saying free speech doesn’t include inciting hatred against vulnerable communities.
This week, we met with the Ontario Public School Boards Association to discuss antisemitism and extremism in English-speaking public-school boards, while highlighting FSWC's programming and training offerings. We’ll be continuing to explore the prospect of providing annual training to school trustees around the province in the fall.
We are proud to be partnering with Ben Gurion University Canada to present a special screening of the movie GOLDA, starring award-winning actor Helen Mirren on August 21 and 22. The Toronto show sold out in one day, however the other Canadian cities are still available. Buy your tickets today!
FSWC is, once again, seeking witnesses for an upcoming trial against a former Nazi guard who worked at Sachsenhausen concentration camp between April 1943 and March 1945. In collaboration with Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, we’ve put out a call for survivors of the camp and relatives of victims. Please share this important request widely with your friends and family. Please share widely and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the latest from FSWC, we encourage you to follow our social media channels.
Education Update. Following a busy and successful 2022-2023 school year, FSWC's education department is pleased to share highlights from the past year.
Simon Wiesenthal Around the World
2023 FSWC Sponsors
Fred and Linda Waks and Family