The Jewish Federation of Ottawa 2018 Annual Campaign kicked off with two events on September 17: a family concert with children’s music stars Sharon and Bram in the afternoon, and a program featuring keynote speaker Hillel Neuer, the Geneva-based executive director of UN Watch, in the evening.
Sharon and Bram delighted kids and parents with their trademark singalongs at the sold-out afternoon concert at Kehillat Beth Israel while Neuer discussed his ongoing work standing up for human rights and against the persecution of the State of Israel at United Nations (UN) bodies in Europe at the evening event at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. It was the second year that the Annual Campaign Kickoff also included an event for young families.
Neuer, who grew up in Montreal, said his work is tempered by both his Jewish and Canadian values. He pointed out that two important anniversaries will be observed in November: the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, “the first time in history the international community recognized the indigenous rights of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine,” and the 70th anniversary of the UN vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Neuer said we must now fight back against the many groups that seek to delegitimize Israel.
Neuer pointed to the UN Human Rights Council as particularly problematic.
“Though the UN Human Rights Council was founded by great and ethical people, it was hijacked by the greatest human rights abusers in the world,” he said, pointing out that the council includes such countries as Saudi Arabia, Congo, Burundi, Qatar and Venezuela, who receive “legitimation by being members of the council.”
Neuer said the council has seven permanent items on its agenda, one of which addresses human rights violations all over the world, and another that solely addresses violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians. In the past decade, he said, the council has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all of the other countries in the world combined.
By methodically singling out Israel, Neuer said, “the UN violates its own charter.”
Neuer said UN Watch is active on many human rights dossiers beyond Israel.
“We carry a badge of honour as countless leaders of dictatorships despise us.”
Neuer concluded his talk by challenging the audience “to fight back and speak the truth – because it matters. Jews managed to survive persecution [throughout history] because we knew the truth. Diplomacy and advocacy can make a difference. Now we need to light the candle of truth.”
The evening was hosted by Kickoff Co-Chairs Karen Palayew and Lorne Segal and began with Shinshinim Idan Ben Ari and Noa Gil joining forces with a group from Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa in leading a couple of songs and testimonies from several community members on how programs and organizations supported by funds raised by the Annual Campaign have impacted them.
Annual Campaign Co-Chairs Sharon Appotive and Aviva Ben-Choreen also addressed the gathering.
Appotive said the Jewish world is stronger when it stands together and “that’s what the Federation is all about.”
Ben-Choreen introduced the 2018 Chai Challenge and urged Annual Campaign donors to increase their gifts to the Campaign in multiples of 18.