Students show courage in face of anti-Israel votes

What would you do if someone called you ‘a f—ing Jew’? asks Pauline Colwin.

‘Great, just what I want to see, a f—ing Jew.”

These ugly, hate-filled words were said recently to Eyal Podolsky, a Jewish University of Ottawa student, as he walked on campus. Podolsky is a well-known youth leader. In 2017, he won the prestigious Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Student Award for “demonstrating leadership and outstanding commitment to the Ottawa Jewish community.” [Read more…]

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From the Publisher: Criticism is one thing, action is so much better

Adapted from the poet John Lydgate, American President Abraham Lincoln once famously remarked “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” Based on this quote, it is entirely possible that President Lincoln once worked for Ottawa’s Jewish community.

A couple of years ago, I found myself at a cottage near Toronto. When a friend of a friend’s mother discovered I work for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, she let loose with a litany of complaints about the Toronto Federation, some dating back decades. (Before I said a single word, the one-way “conversation” had lasted 15 minutes).  While this personal exchange struck me as comical, I do encounter similar situations in my roles with Jewish Ottawa.  And I struggle with it.

On the one hand, I am delighted that people want to express their opinions and that they care and are passionate about the Jewish people.  This is indeed positive and commendable.

On the other hand, how do you distinguish between venting and unfair criticism based on a lack of facts or bias, versus a genuine desire to engage, understand and make things better?  In the age of social media, it is increasingly complicated.  Disparaging comments can be made so quickly on Facebook feeds, levelling thoughtless criticism at people and institutions.

Can this passion be channeled constructively? I don’t know, but I hope so. I do know that I have a strong personal preference for working together to try to solve issues, rather than spending time on planning how and if to respond to public criticism. And I also know that I am only human. While I try to be objective, there is no question that it is easier to work and find compromises with folks who reach out personally rather than attack publicly.

I often use a quote from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”.

Though they have their place, the best arena is not Facebook or the Ottawa Citizen. One stark example is the recent column by Andrew Cohen, which criticized the work of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Far better and more constructive are the coffee shop discussions and meeting rooms where people who want to elevate our community debate, plan and dream. And, most important, people who really want to make a difference DO it in action, rather than just observe and criticize.

Many years ago, a friend of mine had travelled around Southeast Asia and was struck by the poverty. Most of us would be touched by such scenes and perhaps share our angst about the suffering on Facebook. My friend was different. He started a non-profit organization designed to offer meaningful employment to the most disadvantaged in Cambodia.  It now operates in several countries and employs hundreds, bringing entire families out of poverty.

Commentary and criticism can be useful. Action is even better.

Andrea Freedman is president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.

 

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Israeli president comments on Western Wall controversy

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin criticized the regularization law that retroactively legalizes settler homes build on private Palestinian land. (Bryan Pace-Pool/Getty Images)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Bryan Pace-Pool/Getty Images)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin published an open letter today in response to the controversy generated by the cabinet decision to suspend the agreement reached in 2016 to create an expanded section for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

Rivlin wrote: “As a child, I used to walk with my father to the Kotel (Western Wall) each year to hear the shofar blown at the end of Yom Kippur, at a time when Jerusalem was under the British Mandate. I still remember arriving at the crowded area packed with worshippers, while among them waited uniformed British policemen. The tense silence was eventually broken by the cry of the shofar that sounded strongly despite the British policemen who immediately rushed forward to silence the shofar blower who was closely surrounded by his fellow worshippers. For me, this event was a symbol of the eternal faith of our People. [Read more…]

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St. Louis man pleads guilty to cyberstalking in eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions

(JTA) – A St. Louis man accused of making eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions pleaded guilty to cyberstalking charges.

Juan Thompson, 32, also pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan to a charge of conveying false information and hoaxes, The Associated Press reported. In April, the former journalist denied the charges. [Read more…]

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Belgian region parliamentary committee votes to ban ritual slaughter

(JTA) – A committee of the Walloon Parliament in southern Belgium has voted to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals, a requirement for both kosher and halal ritual slaughter.

The environment committee of the Walloon Parliament voted unanimously on Friday for the ban, which takes effect on Sept. 1, 2019. The issue is set to be debated later this month in the Parliament’s plenary, according to the European Jewish Congress (EJC).  Similar legislation has been proposed by the parliament in the northern Belgium Flanders or Flemish region. [Read more…]

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