The final production day for an issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin is always a busy day.
This final production day – Friday, September 7 – was the busiest I can remember. Normally, we go to press sometime between 1 and 3 pm, but today we held off so that we could cover the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Jewish Community Campus for a pre-Rosh Hashanah event at the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. Trudeau joined Lodge residents and Ottawa Jewish Community School Grade 3 students as they braided challahs to be donated to the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank and dipped apples in honey as they wished each other a sweet New Year. Trudeau’s 45-minute visit was at 2:30 pm.
While many MPs and cabinet ministers have attended events on the Jewish Community Campus over the years, this was, significantly, the first visit ever by a sitting prime minister. Click here for our coverage of Trudeau’s visit.
The day before his visit to the Campus, Trudeau told Canadian rabbis in a conference call that the government’s formal apology for the refusal to admit Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany on the MS St. Louis on June 7, 1939 would be made in the House of Commons on November 7 – just prior to the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Speaking of the prime minister, he is next scheduled to face the voters in a federal election on October 21, 2019.
On August 22, Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), wrote to Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Stéphane Perrault to point out that the scheduled federal election date falls on Shemini Atzeret “which serves as the concluding days of the annual High Holy Day period. Consequently, observant Jews will not avail themselves of the right to vote on that day.”
Since 2007, the Canada Elections Act has specified “the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election” be Canada’s fixed date for federal elections.
Strategically, the CIJA letter did not ask for a change of the election date, but noting other Jewish religious days in the weeks leading to the scheduled date, asked that special attention be paid to the scheduling of advance polls “to ensure that Canadian Jews’ right to vote is included.”
Last issue, I commented on the situation being faced by the Jewish community in the United Kingdom regarding Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – who may well be the U.K.’s next prime minister.
Corbyn has a long history of anti-Israel activity that has included embracing terrorists as “friends.” Increasingly, though, revelations of anti-Semitism in the party – and in Corbyn’s own history as an anti-Israel activist – have been revealed.
I won’t list all of Corbyn’s transgressions but one that surfaced since my last column was a 2010 speech in which he claimed that Israel controlled speeches made by MPs in the U.K.
MPs, Corbyn said, “all turned up [in parliament] with a pre-prepared script. I’m sure our friend Ron Prosor [then Israeli ambassador to the U.K.] wrote it.”
Also since that last column, important figures including former Labour Party prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the highly regarded former British chief rabbi, have expressed concerns about anti-Semitism in the party and about Corbyn in particular.
“When people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat.
“Jews have been in Britain since 1656 – I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews, the majority of our community, are worrying, ‘Is this country safe to bring up our children?’” said Rabbi Sacks in a BBC interview on September 2.
Normally diplomatic, Rabbi Sacks noted that it was the first time in 30 years that he had spoken out about a political party.
We continue to watch the situation in the U.K. with grave concern.