British Labour Party politician questions Jewish community’s need for more security

(JTA) – A British Labour politician supportive of party leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned the need for bolstered security for Jewish communities, saying some of the threat may be “in their own heads.”

Jenny Rathbone, who is a lawmaker in the regional National Assembly for Wales, made the statement last year, The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday after obtaining a recording of a Q&A discussion where Rathbone was asked whether she agreed with Jewish community leaders’ demand for bolstered security at synagogues. [Read more…]


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.



Chanukah 1950

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.
Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Chanukah at the Ottawa Talmud Torah, ca. 1950. (Ottawa Jewish Archives 6-061.)

L-R first row: Harvey Mendelson, David Shoihet, Stanley Kimmel, Gerry Greenberg, Syd Trainoff.

Second row: Vicki (Lithwick) Weiss, Judy (Zelikovitz) Schneiderman, Audrey (Silverman) Levy, Sheila Brozofsky and Dorothy (Saslove) Karp.

Third row: Ed Altman, Pauline Gandall, Anita Kathnelson, Bunny Lazarus, Chasha Pleet.

Fourth row: Sid Kardish, Jess Zelikovitz, Mel Shecter and Herbert Beiles, Joe Nadrich.

Fifth row: Gerald Zeichick, Rabbi Emmanuel Lifschutz, David Zelikovitz, David Lifschutz, Rochelle Schapira, Hymie Klein, Mrs. Sarah Zelikovitz and Mrs Ellen Lithwick.


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…]


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…]


Netanyahu: General belittles Holocaust by comparing Israeli army to Nazis

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed remarks made last week by the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff in which he appeared to compare Israel and its military to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

“The remarks are fundamentally incorrect. They should not have been made at any time, much less now,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust. The deputy chief of staff is an outstanding officer, but his remarks on this issue were utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me.” [Read more…]


Belgian Jew who lost leg in Brussels attack moving to Israel

Walter Benjamin speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News from his hospital bed in Brussels, March 28, 2016. (Screenshot from Channel 2)
Walter Benjamin speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News from his hospital bed in Brussels, March 28, 2016. (Screenshot from Channel 2)

Walter Benjamin speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News from his hospital bed in Brussels, March 28, 2016. (Screenshot from Channel 2)

(JTA) – A Belgian Jew whose leg was blown off in a suicide bombing at Brussels’ main airport said he would immigrate to Israel.

Walter Benjamin plans to make aliyah when he recovers from the injury he sustained in the March 22 attack, he told Israel’s Channel 2 Sunday. The attack was part of a series of bombings in the Belgian capital that killed 35 people and wounded hundreds. [Read more…]


After row over settler envoy, Brazil approves Israeli consul

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – Days after Israel agreed to withdraw a former settler leader as its ambassador to Brazil, Brasilia approved the appointment of a lower-level Israeli diplomat to Sao Paulo.

The Brazilian government formally approved Dani Goren as Israel’s consul general in Sao Paulo on Thursday. His name was OK’d by Israel’s Cabinet on Jan. 17, but kept secret until Brazil signed off, in strict adherence to diplomatic protocol. [Read more…]