September 15, 2023
Shabbat Shalom | Candle Lighting: 7:10 PM EDT
A Note from Michael Levitt
Ushering in a New Year
Later today, as the distinctive roar of the shofar is heard, Jews in Canada and around the world will begin celebrating the joyous holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the start of the High Holidays. It’s both a time for reflection on the year that has just passed and contemplation of the year ahead. While being thankful for our relative good fortune, in Canada, especially compared to the dark periods and inhospitable places in Jewish history, let’s enter the new year with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to making this world a better place.
This past week was filled with exciting announcements by FSWC for the new year, including about our annual Spirit of Hope gala and our educators heading back to schools and on the road with the Tour for Humanity. On Monday, with much exuberance, we announced that legendary actress and longstanding friend of Israel and the Jewish people, Helen Mirren will be the keynote speaker and the recipient of the 2023 FSWC Humanitarian Award at our upcoming Spirit of Hope event. I’m certain it will be an incredibly joyous and impactful evening, that you surely don’t want to miss.
This week, both of our Tour for Humanity mobile education centres returned to the road, launching what will be a jam-packed year of delivering Holocaust and human rights education to tens of thousands of Canadian students in the 2023-2024 school year. The buses will be travelling across Ontario and Western Canada - a tour we eagerly await after our first-ever visit to the east coast last spring proved such a success.
The upcoming year has plenty of more excellent programs and initiatives to look forward to, including our upcoming annual Freedom Day event, Speaker's Idol student public-speaking competition, Building a Case Against Hate police conference, and the increasingly in-demand Antisemitism: Then and Now workshop for professionals. These programs are just a few of the many we have in store and that we look forward to updating you on over the coming months.
For now, I want to extend my warm wishes to you and your families for a very happy, healthy and meaningful Rosh Hashanah and a wonderful year ahead.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova,
Community Update. Legendary actress Helen Mirren announced as Spirit of Hope keynote speaker
Earlier this week, FSWC was pleased to announce that legendary actress Dame Helen Mirren will be the keynote speaker at our upcoming Spirit of Hope gala, taking place on November 2 at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto. Widely respected for her extensive philanthropic involvement with many charities and a longstanding friend of Israel, Mirren will also be presented with FSWC's Humanitarian Award. Join us for an evening to remember by sponsoring a table today! Individual tickets will be made available for purchase very soon.
Toronto minority groups join forces in response to city’s latest hate crime data
Last night, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) hosted its first-ever session of the Allyship Conversation Series, in partnership with groups representing the Canadian Chinese, Black and LGBTQ+ communities. The discussion, titled Unpacking Toronto's 2022 Hate Crime Data, featured representatives from the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, FSWC, the Federation of Black Canadians and Egale Canada who talked about latest hate crime statistics in Toronto and how to build allyship among vulnerable communities.
Amid an alarming rise in antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate, both online and in person, the meeting focused on the types of crime being committed, wider related developments and events that influence the rate of hate crimes and how escalating hatred has impacted the well-being of each community.
FSWC will be sharing a recording of the session next week, so stay tuned.
FSWC supports fundraising campaign for Marrakech Jewish community
In the aftermath of the tragic earthquake in Morocco that has killed nearly 3,000 people, the Jewish community in Marrakech is working to rebuild two synagogues, a cemetery and Jewish institutions and homes that have been destroyed.
The Moroccan Jewish Community of Toronto is launching a fundraising campaign to support efforts to rebuild, with contribution from FSWC. We encourage anyone interested in donating to this important relief effort to contact us at email@example.com for details.
Education Update. Tour for Humanity heads back on the road
The FSWC education team marked its first school visits of the 2023-2024 school year on Wednesday this week, with both Tour for Humanity buses on the road visiting schools in Maple and Midhurst, Ontario. Over the span of just two days, our educators delivered 11 workshops to 335 elementary and secondary school students.
Tour for Humanity also visited the Simcoe County District School Board for its first standing committee meeting of the year, attended by all trustees, superintendents and the director of education. Tour for Humanity Director Daniella Lurion spoke at the meeting, addressing the importance of the new Grade 6 Social Studies curriculum expectations on the Holocaust and Jewish heritage.
Local media covered the Tour for Humanity's visit to the Simcoe County District School Board and one of its schools, as the school board welcomes Holocaust learning in the newly updated Ontario Grade 6 curriculum.
Freedom Day is just days away!
On Wednesday, September 20, FSWC will be hosting our 14th annual Freedom Day event at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto. Hundreds of students from across the Greater Toronto Area will be in attendance, in addition to thousands more participating virtually, at the live event, which is dedicated to empowering and inspiring young people in Canada to be changemakers and stand up for freedom, justice and human rights.
This year’s Freedom Day will feature a series of inspiring speakers and performers, including Indigenous social media influencer and traditional hoop dancer Notorious Cree, Holocaust survivor Hedy Bohm, two-time Juno Award-winning reggae musician/singer Kairo McLean and Speaker’s Idol finalist Sonya Kovtun. The event will be MC’d by TV personality Rick Campanelli, and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow is scheduled to be in attendance.
All teachers are invited to register their students for the event here.
FSWC is looking forward to participating in the upcoming Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in Ottawa next month, hosted by CIJA. FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt will be moderating the United Against Antisemitism panel featuring international experts and multi-faith allies discussing why they have devoted their careers to ensuring their local Jewish communities are fully respected within society and supported to practice their faith safely and securely in any way they choose.
Simon Wiesenthal Center Around the World
2023 FSWC Sponsors
Fred and Linda Waks and Family