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Its Time for Jewish Leadership to Lead PDF

Its Time for Jewish Leadership to Lead PDF

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Published by Bernie Farber
Canadian Jewish leadership fails Roma/Jewish refugees in sanctuary
Canadian Jewish leadership fails Roma/Jewish refugees in sanctuary

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Published by: Bernie Farber on Jul 03, 2014
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JULY 3, 2014 Comment 10
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hanges are upon us.
Awhile back, Open Window Bakery
closed its doors in Toronto. The Negev
Bookstore no longer exists there. In June, a
major Jewish gathering praying on behalf
of the kidnapped Israeli teenagers was
held up in Richmond Hill, Ont., north of
the city. The new editor of Canada’s major
Jewish newspaper was born in 1980, and
the leaders of two of the country’s largest
Jewish organizations, Jewish Federation
of Greater Toronto/UJA and B’nai Brith
Canada, are retiring. The State of Israel is
now underwriting programming in the
Diaspora, and more Jews live in Israel
than outside of it.
There is nothing subtle about these
changes. Open Window had the finest
cream cheese in the city, and Negev had
the greatest selection of fine prayer shawls
and Judaica. They are both gone. Rallies
and prayer vigils in the past were gener-
ally held in central Toronto, but now our
community’s larger assemblies are trek-
king northward. At 34, Yoni Goldstein, is
likely the youngest editor of The Canadian
Jewish News ever, and that has impacted
the style and demographic of this publi-
cation. Community leaders Ted Sokolsky
and Frank Dimant were born shortly after
the Holocaust, around the time of the
establishment of the State of Israel. They
led when the Diaspora played a significant
fundraising role in the development of
Israel, when many major volunteers were
survivors or individuals who had fought in
World War II and Israel’s wars.
What now?
Where do we go to find well-whipped
cream cheese for less than a fin, and
what do we do when we need a new
kippah for less than a 10-spot? Are we to
expect a further unfurling of the Jewish
community northward? Or is it possible
that lonely northerners will decide to re-
turn to their parents’ stomping grounds
farther south?
With the advent of younger publicists,
writers and social media directors, will
the Toronto Jewish community’s news-
papers and social media sites deal less
with anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, the
State of Israel and security, and – the
world allowing – increase intellectual,
cultural and economic material such as
pieces on alternative forms of Judaism,
Jewish rap and symphonic compositions,
debates on meditation versus prayer and
kosher gourmet cuisine?
And what of our new leadership?
A recent media release stated that
Frank Dimant’s major success was
fighting anti-Semitism. Will B’nai Brith’s
newest leader have the same agenda,
or will he/she pursue the proliferation
of community-based Alzheimer care
buildings, something Dimant oversaw
brilliantly? What of the newest iteration
of the Toronto federation? Will it expand
its cadre of agencies or create a different
model whereby all local Jewish services
and facilities find a soulful home on
north Bathurst Street?
Is there a professional out there who
has the skill and dexterity to fundraise
as Sokolsky has done, or will the UJA
machine require some subtle or not-so-
delicate tzedakah adjustments?
Now that Israel is in the midst of revers-
ing the financial relationship between
them and us, where does the Diaspora fit?
With our shrinking Jewish population and
increase in intermarriage, as well as an
uptake on aliyah from places like France,
Mexico and the United States, where will
our funds be spent and on what?
Will our new Toronto leadership
manage a closer relationship between
us and Eretz Yisrael, or will it scramble
to consistently remind our new gen-
eration of Jews that should they need
Israel’s right of return, it is there for them
tomorrow, and that we are blessed to be
sending our 19-year-olds to university
and not to battle.
We are staring through the proverbial
window of time, watching the wheels of
the clock spin round. Nothing rests. Every-
thing changes. If only, however, we could
be guaranteed of one thing – an affordable
container of savoury cream cheese.
P.S. So long you old boxers. Thanks for a
most absorbing match. n
Cream cheese and the Jewish future
Avrum Rosensweig
he case of the Pusuma family, refu-
gees from Hungary now hiding from
the Canadian government in church
sanctuary, is an international embarrass-
ment for Canada. It has also caused a
great deal of shame within our Canadian
Jewish community.
Jozsef Pusuma, his wife, Timea Darcozi,
and their six-year-old daughter Lulu came
to Canada in 2009 following a harrowing
and life-threatening experience in their
hometown of Budapest. Jozsef, Roma by
birth and with a Jewish father, was a hate
crimes investigator for the Movement for
Desegregation Foundation. Founded by
the only Roma member of the European
Union Parliament, Viktoria Mohacsi, it
was then the leading domestic monitor of
the many hate crime attacks against the
Roma in Hungary.
Sadly, 20 per cent of Hungarians sup-
ported the fascist Jobbik party in the last
elections. Jobbik is virulently anti-Ro-
ma and only slightly less anti-Semitic.
Despite this record, Ottawa has deemed
Hungary a “safe country” under new
Conservative refugee legislation.
Jozsef’s work was becoming well-known
in dangerous circles. And, on a quiet July
afternoon in Budapest, Jozsef, Timea and
then-18-month-old Lulu were viciously
attacked by four black-hooded men, prob-
ably members of the dreaded Hungarian
Guard. Jozsef and Timea suffered numer-
ous injuries; Lulu was shielded by Jozsef
lying over her taking all the blows.
They were told to leave Hungary or next
time it would be worse.
They fled to what they thought was a wel-
coming Canada. But here they faced other
horrors. An unscrupulous lawyer scammed
them of their life savings and, as he alleged-
ly did with other refugee claimants, mis-
managed their case. He did not present any
evidence before their refugee hearing – he
didn’t even attend. This lawyer is presently
facing disciplinary hearings before the Law
Society of Upper Canada.
The Pusumas, as a result, were ordered
deported, and the Harper government
hardened their hearts against any appeal.
Seeing a return to Hungary as a death
sentence, they instead took sanctuary
inside a Toronto church. They have been
there for almost three years.
Thankfully, our community has taken
up their cause of obtaining a temporary
residency permit. I am, however, not re-
ferring to the organized leadership of the
community. In this case, the grassroots,
the rabbanim, the Jewish schools, are
showing leadership, while the well-fund-
ed advocacy groups sit mutely by.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Af-
fairs (CIJA), our alleged advocacy voice is
ominously silent. Astonishingly, it actually
forbade the Canadian Jewish Holocaust
Survivors and their Descendants (which
it helps fund) to use their own letterhead
when the group decided to write a strong
letter of protest to Citizenship Minister
Chris Alexander in support of the Pusumas.
Meanwhile, Toronto-area children from
The Toronto Heschel School and the Temple
Emanu-El school have undertaken projects
in support of the family. Synagogues includ-
ing Holy Blossom Temple and Congregation
Darchei Noam, as well as rabbis and many
others, have shown their support.
Recently, a large rally in front of Chris
Alexander’s offices in Ajax, Ont., saw a
myriad of faith communities in attend-
ance. That day, 20 of us blew the notes
of the shofar in hopes that, like Joshua
in the Torah, we could bring down the
hardened walls of Alexander’s heart.
CIJA is not the only Jewish advocacy
group to turn its back on this vulnerable
family. Not a word has been heard from
either B’nai Brith or the Simon Wiesenthal
Center. Some have speculated that our
Jewish advocates refuse to make waves,
given our government’s strong support of
Israel, even if it means that a little girl has
spent over two years in a virtual prison.
This is not the Jewish way. Our history
has taught us we cannot remain silent
in the face of darkness. Our own tragedy
tells us we must shine the light of justice
and righteousness in dark places.
Saving the Pusuma family speaks directly
to our timeless Jewish values. It’s time for
Jewish leadership to lead and join those in
our community who walk with justice. n
It’s time for Jewish leadership to lead
Bernie Farber

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