Confronting Antisemitism in Canada and Beyond

I recently visited Israel and witnessed the events that unfolded on October 7. The conflict began when Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, breached Israel’s border defences on October 7, deploying three thousand Palestinians, trained fighters as well as ordinary civilians who invaded peaceful communities committing acts of violence and capturing as hostages over 230, men women and children of all ages. It’s worth noting that regular Israeli citizens played a vital role in swiftly stopping the attackers on the very first day, even before the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) arrived. The rapid response and intervention by the local police and ordinary citizens was remarkable and saved many lives.

Upon my return to Canada, on October 16 and 17, I attended a conference in Ottawa, focused on addressing the issue of the resurgence of antisemitism in present-day Canada. This event, organized by CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada, had been planned before the outbreak of the current war against Hamas in Gaza. The conference brought together a diverse group of 1,500 individuals, including 250 high school and college students as well as many professionals, law enforcement officers, NGO leaders, educators and scholars of many fields. They all came together to address the problem of the resurgent hatred towards Jews and Israel appearing in Canadian society including the newly insidious strain emanating from social media platforms.

Notable figures, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leader Pierre Polievre, gave keynote addresses, emphasizing the gravity of the situation and reinforcing the collective resolve against illegal discrimination towards Jews. One of the most impactful accounts came from a teacher from the Ottawa Public School System, who courageously shared shocking revelations about the persistent bullying of the youngest Jewish pupils in Ottawa’s elementary public schools.

The gathering also offered an opportunity for intimate dialogues with Members of Parliament: I was assigned to meet with Sherry Romanado, Federal Member of Parliament for the district of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, and Brad Redekopp, Federal Member of Parliament for Saskatoon West. Their openness highlighted the potential for collaborative parliamentary action on this file and paved the way for sustained advocacy, a commitment shared by all participants determined to confront antisemitism head-on.

The most important lesson highlighted by the conference was that “silence is collusion”: Silence is what enables antisemites and the spread of antisemitism. The conference also pointed to the power of collective action to bring about significant change. However, even as the conference ended, we became aware of the dire necessity for action in this area: A Palestinian protest was taking place in Ottawa outside the doors of the conference hall and we were advised not to exit via the main doors; It served as a stark reminder of the obstacles to be overcome. Given these realities, we all must reaffirm our unwavering commitment to fight against the poison of antisemitism whatever its source, utilizing the lessons of the past to guide us toward a more inclusive and just future for Jews and all peoples in Canada. If Jews can be singled out, anyone can be singled out for persecution and lawlessness must be vigorously addressed by all governmental authorities.

Resilience and Unity: How the Jewish Community Responds

The Jewish people have a long and proud history of solidarity with their brethren, exhibiting remarkable resilience in adversity over centuries of exile from their homeland, Israel. Jewish communities in every diaspora have consistently demonstrated their commitment to caring for orphans, widows, and strangers among them. In Montreal, this noble endeavour is entrusted to the Federation-CJA, which tirelessly works to provide for those in need. Every year, the community comes together for a fundraising campaign, gathering funds for these essential services. This year’s mission included raising urgent funds for the war effort in Israel, initiated on the very first day of the conflict.

Our enduring traditions, commitment to Torah study, and alignment with Torah principles have provided sustenance for the Jewish people throughout millennia in both prosperous and challenging times. This emphasis on regular Jewish practice is pivotal in our collective efforts to support Israel’s existential war of survival, the eradication of the threat to our people from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran as well as the local threats of antisemitism. Whether inside or outside Israel, we are all dedicated to the common good, working towards the recovery of our captives and the elimination of threats like Hamas, ensuring the safety of our people worldwide.

The issue of antisemitism, which is the ongoing hatred and discrimination towards Jews, has been a long-standing problem. The Jewish community has always acknowledged this issue, as evidenced in the following passage from our Passover seder:

Through the ages, many groups have risen to destroy us. But the Holy One, Blessed Be, always saves us from their hand!

She’ lo echad bilvad amad aleinu l’chaloteinuV’ha Kadosh, Baruch Hu, matzileynu mi’yadam. (Hebrew)

On April 7, 2020, the talented Ishai Ribo enchanted the audience with his rendering of this Passover classic, ‘Vehi She’amda.’ With his mesmerizing vocals, he breathed life into the timeless lyrics, reminding us that throughout history, many have tried to bring harm to our people.


In today’s world, where we’re bombarded with news of conflict and suffering, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. But in the midst of this, we can find hope and purpose in the belief that each of us has a role to play in bringing about positive change whether standing up against injustice or simply being present for those in need, we can all be agents of goodness and positive change.

Think about when you’ve seen kindness or compassion make a difference, whether in your life or the world around you. Those moments are like glimpses of the divine, reminding us of our power to create miracles through our actions.

And it’s not just about individual efforts. When we come together as a community, our impact multiplies. Regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs, we share a common humanity and a responsibility to make the world a better place for everyone.

In our tradition from time immemorial, we pray for the time when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb”  a time of peace in which the strong and the weak coexist peacefully for the greater good. Chazan Mutlu from Central Synagogue in NYC recorded a prayer that is regularly recited on behalf of Jews facing adversity, wherever they may be, on land or sea. The prayer seeks the boundless mercy of God to release those in distress, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom. In the present time, we fervently pray for the speedy release of over 230 hostages captured by Hamas on October 7 “Hashta ba’agala uvizman kariv.” – speedily and in nearest time!


3 thoughts on “Confronting Antisemitism in Canada and Beyond

  1. Merci beaucoup Abigail Hirsch pour ce témoignage personnel si bien étayé et qui, en ces temps très difficiles pour le peuple juif en Israël d’abord et en diaspora, met l’accent sur la capacité de résilience des uns et des autres. “Am Israël Hay” (le peuple juif est vivant).
    Dr Sonia Sarah Lipsyc

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