Monday, March 9, 2020

New Ottawa Jewish Bulletin website!

The new Ottawa Jewish Bulletin website -- -- is now online. New content will now be posted there.

The new platform is more user friendly making it easier to find articles.

The site is organized by topic streams – Jewish Ottawa, Agency News, Jewish World, Arts & Culture, Voices, and our Library of current and back issues.

Under “Jewish Ottawa,” you’ll find articles about the community and community-wide events.

Articles specifically about or submitted by a particular agency will be filed under “Agency News.”

In “Jewish World,” you’ll find articles about Israel and Jewish topics that are broader than our local community.

The “Arts & Culture” stream is for book, music, theatre and film reviews and news, while “Voices” is for our regular and guest columnists.

The “Library” has PDF versions of our current and back print editions.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

From the Editor: Our city should adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism

Michael Regenstreif, Editor

By Michael Regenstreif

Last June, the federal government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a component of its anti-racism strategy. At the time, Canada was the 17th country to adopt the definition.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) – the advocacy agent for Jewish federations in Canada, including the Jewish Federation of Ottawa – has been encouraging provincial and municipal governments across the country to endorse and adopt the IHRA definition as well.

In an era when, sadly, antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise, it is important to have a common definition of antisemitism that can guide law enforcement officials, the courts, the educational system, and all of us. The IHRA definition does that by defining both classic antisemitism and pointing out examples of how criticism of the State of Israel can and does cross the line into antisemitism. However, the IHRA definition of antisemitism explicitly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

The line is crossed, though, by “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” or “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis,” or “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” or “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

In other words, criticism of specific Israeli government policies or Israeli politicians are as legitimate as criticism of specific Canadian or American policies. For example, as I write, environmental protest actions by several Indigenous nations in Canada have stopped Via Rail service across the country and it is not anti-Canadian to criticize the government on how it has handled the protests or even how it has handled the totality of relations – and reconciliation – with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. But it would be anti-Canadian to say that Canada has no right or legitimacy to exist as a country because of how it has acted on the protests specifically, or even on Indigenous relations generally.

Bill 168, a private member’s bill introduced by Ontario Conservative MPP Will Bouma, would make Ontario the first province to adopt the IHRA definition. The bill passed first reading at Queen’s Park two months ago and is now at committee.

At the municipal level, few cities have yet taken any action on adopting the IHRA definition. On January 28, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the city of Vaughan, a Toronto-area suburb became the first city in Canada to adopt the definition.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a motion was presented at Montreal’s city council calling for the city to adopt the IHRA definition. The motion was presented by Councillor Lionel Perez, an observant Jew, who told the Canadian Jewish News that he “believes the city should take this position because of the increase in hate crimes against Jews.”

However, when the matter came before the city council, Perez withdrew the motion when Mayor Valèrie Plante said defining antisemitism was “far from a black and white issue” and suggested sending the issue of antisemitism to a council committee which could devise a “Montreal model” to define antisemitism.

The following week there was no such hesitation when the city council of Westmount – the suburb next to downtown Montreal where I lived for 27 years before moving to Ottawa in 2007 – unanimously adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

I hope Ottawa City Council will also soon act to adopt the IHRA definition.

Bulletin website

I’m pleased and excited to report that work on the new Ottawa Jewish Bulletin website is nearing completion and the site is scheduled to go live at on Wednesday, March 4.

The new design is a big improvement on our old site, which we have not been able to update since August.

Since then, we’ve been posting content to a temporary site at which we’ll continue to use until the new site goes live. It will be great to get back to our real home on the internet.

Federation Report: Caring services during times of need

John Diener

By John Diener and Brent Taylor, Co-Chairs
Jewish Memorial Gardens

Jewish Memorial Gardens (JMG) operates the two community-owned cemeteries, the original Bank Street location, established in the 1890s, and on Herberts Corners Road in Greely, purchased in 1976. Combined, JMG is where more than 5,000 members of our families and friends were laid to rest. Approximately 75 burials are conducted annually.

Both cemeteries are divided into sections, each one associated with either a current or historic synagogue. Originally, the synagogues owned and ran their own sections, but that was no longer workable, so in 2008, the ownership of the properties was transferred to JMG. A Board of Directors runs JMG, and is made up of members from each of the founding synagogues, as well as representatives appointed by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. The Board is tasked with handling all aspects of day-to-day operation, maintenance, and finance, while the synagogues maintain halachic control over the sections that they previously owned. As the synagogues were the original owners of the properties, synagogue membership is required to purchase interment rights. However, measures have been put in place to secure a special “time of need” membership when necessary. We also have policies in place to ensure that those who do not have the resources to pay for interment rights and burial costs for a deceased family member are accommodated.

Brent Taylor
In June 2019, Jonathan Freedman, chair of JMG since 2012, stepped down and we became co-chairs. Brent chaired the multi-million dollar revitalization of the Bank Street cemetery that took place five years ago, and has continued to be hands-on in all aspects of landscaping, maintenance, and day-to-day operation of the properties. John served as treasurer for a decade, and had dealt with and continues to work with finance, accounting, day-to-day issues, and compliance with the Bereavement Authority of Ontario. Together, we work in partnership with a group of dedicated volunteers and one paid employee, Executive Director Tammy Torontow.

Dealing with death is very painful and stressful for families, and Tammy collaborates with the synagogues, rabbis, Chevra Kadisha, funeral homes, and our wonderful grounds-keeping contractor to make the experience as easy as possible. Together, they all do whatever they can to get families through the ordeal in a dignified fashion, while respecting our Jewish tradition and halachah.

We have challenges moving forward. Like all organizations, JMG has to be financially sustainable. The sale of flowers that we plant annually on gravesites is a major income source and families are encouraged to participate. Flower sales both help with our bottom line and are an excellent way to beautify the cemeteries while honouring the memories of our loved ones.

JMG also realizes that the needs of the community have changed. There are new groups within the community that will have to be accommodated, whether they be small congregations, mixed marriage couples, or unaffiliated Ottawa Jews who wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The Board is working on developing both short-term and long-term plans to deal with shifting needs.
Finally, both cemeteries are peaceful, beautifully landscaped places to visit, reflect and remember family and friends. JMG’s goal is to continue to provide caring, compassionate services to the community during times of need.

Visit or call Tammy Torontow at 613-688-3530 for more information.

From the Pulpit: A culture of creating leaders

Rabbi Menachem M. Blum

By Rabbi Menachem M. Blum
Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad

From the Caribbean to Mexico, from Florida to Europe, Ottawa vacationers attended Chanukah celebrations organized by Chabad and some brought back regards from my colleagues, Chabad rabbis posted around the globe. Their feedback was the same across the board, “It is so amazing to see young couples move to these far-out places away from their family and form their community and create a Jewish oasis in real deserts.”

My mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, is the inspiration that fueled the Chabad outreach revolution. His teachings continue to motivate thousands of his emissaries around the world to dedicate their lives to enhancing Jewish life wherever they are. This month, I participated in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary since he assumed the leadership of the Chabad movement.

In his opening address in 1951, he said in Yiddish: “Leig zich nisht arayn kein feigelach in busem,” literally, “Don’t put birds in your bosom.” This Yiddish saying refers to someone who fools himself by putting a bird in his pocket, thinking that this will make him fly.

This is how the Rebbe empowered thousands of his followers to go out and create Jewish communities in places where kosher food or synagogues are often non-existent. He made it clear that while having a spiritual leader for guidance and inspiration is important, in order to see real progress, we need to work on it on our own and achieve it from within. His message was, “I am here to inspire and guide you, but I won’t do everything for you.” His attitude was that his followers are required to find their power and strength on their own and light their fire from within. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, expressed it beautifully: “Other Jewish leaders that I’ve met created followers, the Lubavitcher Rebbe created leaders. It was he who encouraged me and ordered me to enter the rabbinate.”

This is the standard that the Rebbe set for Chabad and how he built his Jewish outreach machine. The financial and programmatic responsibility rests entirely on the shoulders of the local Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin. The couples don’t receive any seed money or capital funding from Chabad headquarters. Each chapter is independent and has to develop its own financial support from their local communities, which ensures that it establishes roots and truly becomes part and parcel of its local community. Although every chapter is directed by the Rebbe’s teaching and his guiding principle of loving every human being unconditionally, each chapter sets its direction as to what to spend most of its energy on. Whether their focus should be on youth programming, serving the elderly, education or on social programs and services.

In describing the Rebbe’s impact on world Jewry for the last 70 years, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz writes: “The Rebbe changed the direction in which Jewish history was moving. If you told a Jew after the Holocaust that his son or daughter would be more God fearing, that the next generation would be more religious than the previous generation, that person would react in disbelief. The crisis after the Holocaust was so deep that the general feeling was that religion had ended, a matter of a year or 10, until Judaism became a distant past. The Rebbe inspired his followers to embark on a worldwide mission to travel to all corners of the earth to open Jewish educational and social centres and engage Jews of all ages in Jewish life and today we are seeing the results.”