Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let's hope push doesn't come to shove at Pride Parade

Special to The CJN

For anyone who loves Toronto, the last few days have been pretty hard to bear. The G8/G20 vandals, visigoths and huns were not only at our door, they seemed determined to smash it down on a madcap spree of wanton destruction. We’ve seen police cars torched, store windows smashed, police officers assaulted by a fringe group of rage-fueled radicals hiding like wolves in sheep’s clothing amidst flocks of more peaceful protesters.

When apprehended or detained, the “Black-Bloc” Twitter activists predictably screamed about how their rights to free speech and assembly were being infringed upon, when in fact they were merely using these civil liberties as a cloak for their criminal behaviour. Their contempt for law and order seems just as colossal as their sense of entitlement to rampage and destroy as they please.

In a way, Toronto has lost its virginity in this rampant weekend of broken glass. But guess what? It’s not over yet. Even as we sweep up the sidewalks, we face a very real prospect of more ugliness unfolding here next Sunday July 4.

The Toronto Gay Pride Parade wasn’t supposed to be like this. The annual street party for LGBT rights should be all about celebrating one’s sexual identity as well as embracing the positive values of diversity, inclusiveness and acceptance.

But as many of us have witnessed, Pride has been hijacked by a bullying group of one-issue activists, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (“QuAIA”). QuAIA holds that it is their fundamental right to falsely brand Israel an apartheid state, thereby demonizing Israel and, by extension, the normative Jewish community. The implication is clear: all Jews who support Israel are racists. Many Jewish Torontonians (and there are 200,000 of us in the Greater Toronto Area) say that such malicious labeling makes them feel unwelcome and unsafe at Pride.

As my brother, lawyer Martin Gladstone, pointed out in his powerful documentary film “Reclaiming Our Pride”, QuAIA’s message has absolutely nothing to do with Pride’s mandate and violates the city’s non-discrimination policy. Martin’s film documented QuAIA’s raised fists, military garb, crossed-out swastika and the chant, “Fist by fist, blow by blow, apartheid state has got to go,” which the rabble shouted as they marched. Put plainly, that’s a call for the destruction of Israel in only slightly more veiled language than Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran might use.

Normally, our society permits such reckless and inflammatory rhetoric as the price of free speech. But we have a right to demand more civil discourse when our tax dollars are paying for it. Like all not-for-profits, Pride is obliged to abide by the city’s non-discrimination policy as a condition of funding. You can’t promote hate and intolerance in the public square on public funds.

After city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti introduced a council motion to defund the parade, Pride's board announced it was giving QuAIA -- or at least the term “Israeli Apartheid” -- the boot. On June 9 executive director Traci Sandilands, in a letter explaining the decision, outlined that if Pride allowed QuAIA to stay, it stood to lose funding and sponsorships worth more than $660,000, the participation of more than 50 groups, street permits, and cancellations of large parts of the celebration. She added that Pride faced “immediate bankruptcy" if it allowed QuAIA to march.

Their sole raison-d’etre threatened, QuAIA’s members and supporters screamed censorship when told they must respect the city’s conditions. Under the ridiculous premise that their civil rights had been curtailed, they roused supporters and caused a ruckus. Ultimately, they managed to convince Pride they were not really a poison pill after all and might easily be swallowed without fatal consequences.

All this happened on the quiet, as Pride was happily taking the city’s cheque for $123,000 to the bank. Only then did it announce, with truly breathtaking duplicity, that it was going to readmit QuAIA back into the parade. Mammoliti and the city councillors who backed his motion are understandably outraged at what Mammoliti has described as a purposeful deceit, and have put forth another motion demanding repayment. Torontonians should let their city councillors know that they regard Pride's "take the money and run" behaviour as unethical and scandalous.

Many city residents feel angry and upset. The Jewish community has a right to feel gratuitously antagonized, and abandoned by Mayor David Miller, who failed to provide the vitally needed leadership that should have been there from the beginning. If this had happened under Mel Lastman's watch, he never would have put up with QuAIA's antics for a moment.

Instead of voting with their feet by keeping away, the gay Jewish group Kulanu, the Canadian Jewish Congress and a host of other organizations are calling for more Jewish participation at Pride, not less. “We don’t like to surrender ground to the extremists,” Congress CEO Bernie Farber explained. Kulanu and many others plan to march with banners proudly proclaiming solidarity with Israel, the biggest champion of gay rights in the Middle East. But as some have observed, QuAIA’s divisive and hateful messaging promotes a “punch-counter punch” culture that, if tempers get inflamed, could be taken too literally by some in attendance.

Members of the Jewish Defense League of Canada and other defenders of Israel have also announced they are planning to be at the parade “to confront Pro Hamas hate.” Participants are being encouraged to bring signs to “expose the murder of gays in Islamic countries.”

Hopefully, push won’t come to shove this Sunday and things won’t turn out as they did in August 1933, when some foolish young punks unfurled a swastika flag at a baseball game involving a Jewish team in Toronto’s Christie Pitt Park. Perhaps you've heard of Toronto's Christie Pitt riot? The fighting went on for three days.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Noam Katz - Rabbi, Musician and Dean

Hard news media seems to really be waking up to the fact that social media, used as a tool for the aggregation and dissemination of news and newsy material, is quickly becoming a go to source. Many are more easily connected now to Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry BBM's for more up-to-the-minute and up close visual coverage than they are to accessing a television set.
Recently, if not for a posting on the Union for Reform Judaism Camps Facebook page, and an announcement from the Foundation of Jewish Camps website, we would have missed out on hearing that a great artist and recently minted Reform rabbi from HUC (Hebrew Union College) Los Angeles, Noam Katz, has moved his family to Toronto.
Heebonics caught up with Katz, just after the 2009 URJ Biennial. Katz is known for leading crowds of people from teens to their 40's in traditional prayers and rhythms, inspired by Jewish communities around the world. When he was last here in Toronto, he played songs from his latest album A Drum in Hand in front of 3,500 people.

Here's a sample track Sim Shalom from his third studio album:

Starting this summer, he takes on a new dual position with Camp George and the Leo Baeck Day School, as the Dean of Jewish Living. His music – as Vicky Tobianah previously reported for us – has transcended barriers, making his audience feel like part of a global community. Now for our children, in his new capacity, he will undoubtedly and successfully, seamlessly blend together formal and experiential education.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jews most targeted religious group in Canada: police

Police services across Canada recorded 1,036 incidents of hate-motivated crimes in 2008, with 165 of them targeting Jews.

Bernie Farber... “the numbers do not suggest Jews have something to worry about"

People of the Jewish faith were the single most targeted religious group, far eclipsing incidents involving Catholics (30 crimes) and Muslims (26 incidents), according to a report by by Statistics Canada that were released last week.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NDP MP says Palestine ‘occupied’ since 1948

NDP deputy leader Libby Davies faced calls for her resignation last week after she told a blogger she believed Israel has been occupying Palestine since 1948, the year of Israel’s independence.
To read full story, please go to The CJN's main website.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So Much Flotilla ... So Little Time

Since the raid on the Gaza Flotilla happened, there has been quite the barrage of video's and general media coverage, from comments to analysis. It has been our practice not to follow suit in posting the multitude of video clips to The CJN's main site, or here to the blog for that matter. The sources from which they originate appear often times to be suspicious and look spliced and or poorly edited. With all that has been added to sites like YouTube and embedded in articles you have been reading from other publications, what are your thoughts on all that is floating out there?

Friday, June 11, 2010

ISO interesting teachers

In August, 2005, I interviewed physics teacher Eli Honig for the first column I wrote as part of an ongoing series on teachers in the Jewish school system. Now, five years later, I’m about to interview teacher #48 for the column that will appear in the June 24 issue of The CJN.

The official name of the series, which runs at the end of the month during the school year, is “They are our teachers...” But more often than not we just refer to it here as the teacher feature.

The purpose of the series is to honour Jewish educators and let the community know who is teaching our children.

Mainly, I look for good teachers who are also interesting. As well, I do my best to vary the profiles by age, gender, and the school’s religious stream, and I look for a balance between day and supplementary schools, and subjects and grades taught. In addition to Honig, who teaches at TanenbaumCHAT (his profile is online here ), memorable interviewees include Mike Levinsky, who uses his acting skills to liven up his classroom at Leo Baeck Day school (article is here) and Kinneret Dubowitz aka “Morah Yoga” of Torah Tots Pre School (click here to see the article ).

Last month, I interviewed Shayne Hyman Train, an art and computer teacher at the Orthodox girls’ school Tiferes Bais Yaakov. To do justice to her curriculum as well as the school’s standards of Jewish law, she has to be particularly creative when doing her job. Click here to see the column.

I still have teachers on my list of potential candidates for the column, but I’m looking for new names. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Comedian Elon Gold parodies "ShamWow!"

Elon Gold is coming to Toronto on July 7th, performing on the ticket for this years Just For Laughs Festival. This is a great clip of him parodying the "ShamWow" towels and exposes all the potential of the ShmataWow.

Watch the main site for The Canadian Jewish News or sign up for our news brief The Scoop and you too can win tickets to see him live in person.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ask Ella — One-Way Friendship

Dear Ella,
My friend Rhonda and I go back to when we were in school. We graduated together, dated together and still live near each other. We have been through much in our lives, as we are now both in our 40s.

Rhonda has been through a divorce, illness, loss, kid problems, financial problems. I was at her side every step of the way. I took time off work, time away from my family and dropped everything when she needed me.
Now I have been going through a rough time, and where is Rhonda? She’s either too busy or just going out, has to meet her kids, has an appointment. She’s one of those people who says, “Let me know if you need anything,” but doesn’t really mean it. She’s always around for dinner or shopping though. I think I’ve had enough. Am I being hasty?
One-Way Friendship
Dear One-Way Friendship
People’s lives often take different paths, and priorities for each other may have changed. However, it sounds as though Rhonda may be what’s called a fair weather friend – a friend who comes around when it suits her, but will rarely put herself out. Most probably a selfish person who is focused on her own needs.
Spotting one of these friends can not only be tricky, but can take time. They may often sound concerned when you talk about a problem, but will rarely, if ever, turn their pseudo-concern into action. The problem here though is not Rhonda’s, it’s yours.
A big part of friendship is expectations. Yours are not being met. It’s not wrong to be able to lean on a good friend. Friendship is all about give and take, and it can take years to really know who’s giving and who’s taking. If Rhonda never comes through for you, then you have your answer.
Now what do you do about it? Avoid her? Tell her? Ignore her calls? The long history you have together warrants one final heart to heart. Let her know how you feel, and in your own mind close the door to those unmet expectations you had for this friend. You can still remain acquaintances if you choose to, but you must make that call. Once your expectations become more realistic, you will be far more at ease when it comes to Rhonda.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Celebration of Israel continues

Israel Day - This Sunday, June 6th, from 11:00am to 5:00pm at Mel Lastman Square (5100 Yonge Street) Celebrate Israel in style! Spend the day and enjoy the live stage show, Shuk-marketplace, live auction, Kosher food, entertainment and more! Of course make sure to stop by The CJN's table for a Chat! This is a free event for all.