Distressing rise of hate on agenda for Israeli official’s lecture
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During her upcoming debut on a Winnipeg stage, Israeli-American actor and activist Noa Tishby plans to deflect the spotlight away from herself to the ugly issue of hate crimes.
“Antisemitism is the oldest form of hate and discrimination being practised,” Tishby said in a recent telephone interview from her home in Los Angeles.
“It’s never gone away but it feels it’s back in style.”
So much in style that the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg used stronger language for that trend, naming Tishby’s April 24 lecture at Centennial Concert Hall An Epidemic of Hate: Confronting Antisemitism.
Although antisemitism is directed specifically against Jews, all Winnipeggers should be concerned whenever any religious or ethnic group is targeted, said federation president Gustavo Zentner.
“We know once you let hate go unchecked, tomorrow it will be (against) another group,” he said.
“We believe it is our duty to stand up against all forms of hate and bring the issue forward for the entire city and all the (diverse) communities.”
Statistic Canada figures from 2021, the most recent available, show a significant increase in police-reported hate crimes against Jews, jumping from 331 in 2020 to 487 in 2021. Jews make up about one per cent of Canada’s population but are the most targeted religious group, with 145 incidents per 100,000 population, compared to eight per 100,000 Muslims, or 144 in total.
Antisemitic acts usually fall into three categories — harassment, vandalism or violence, said Ruth Ashrafi, Winnipeg-based regional director of B’nai Brith Canada. The organization’s 2021 audit found 2,799 incidents nationally, and increasing six years in a row.
“We are really the (religious) minority that is targeted,” she said about the disproportionate number of hate crimes against Jews.
“We are definitely the canary in the coal mine.”
As Israel’s inaugural special envoy for combating antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel, Tishby is well-versed in the old tropes around Jews controlling Hollywood, finances or the entire world order.
“The thing about antisemitism, it is hard to identify,” said Tishby, who speaks in Winnipeg as a private citizen and not in her official capacity.
“It is shape-shifting conspiracy theory.”
She said some of the recent rise in antisemitism may be attributed to difficult economic times, the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the influence of social media.
“Social media is allowing people to get radicalized in every field and every area,” said the Tel Aviv native and author of the 2021 book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.
“It’s hurting public discourse; it’s hurting community and it’s hurting common sense and rationale.”
Hosting Tishby in Winnipeg may be one way to open public discussions about hate and antisemitism and jump-start conversations about ways to combat it, Zentner said.
“It’s about people in Winnipeg behaving in a more humane manner,” he said. “It’s about being good neighbours and standing up for each other and not letting discrimination and hate mould how we behave.”
Tishby witnessed that sort of standing up for each other recently when speaking at a Florida university. Members of a group known for making inflammatory comments about Jews on campus were in the audience until a student leader asked them to leave.
“She said, ‘You’re making my Jewish friends uncomfortable. Get out,’” Tishby said of the incident.
That straightforward talk needs to occur more often when people of one faith group witnesses abuse or hatred toward another, said Rev. Andrew Bennett, author of a March 16 report on hate crimes for Cardus, a non-partisan Christian think tank.
“As Christians, we have a particular duty to speak out against hatred against Jews because we’re so closely tied to the Jewish faith and the Jewish people,” said the Ottawa-based Bennett, an ordained deacon in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
“When they get targeted, we should be the first to stand up for them.”
Tishby agrees, saying bystanders of any background can support their Jewish neighbours by calling out antisemitic acts.
“Reach out to your Jewish community and ask them how they’re doing,” she said.
“It’s very much about speaking up and standing up.”
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Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
Updated on Monday, April 3, 2023 12:25 PM CDT: Changes reference to speaker in headline
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