by Adam Silver and Hannah Silver
(Calgary) – Eighteen Calgarians joined almost 1,000 others in Ottawa for Antisemitism: Face IT, Fight IT! The conference, organized and hosted by CIJA, JFC-UIA, and all Jewish Federations across Canada had been planned for some time, but was forced to pivot and reconstruct itself after the Hamas terror attacks of October 7, 2023 and the aftermath as Israel began its defense efforts.
ADAM: The Calgary delegation included university Hillel students, board members, community relations committee members, other volunteer leaders, and staff, all of whom engaged in the broad content, participating in conversations with peers from across Canada. Our Calgary members were active in conversations, and proudly and effectively represented our community. We were very fortunate to have this group attend.
While there were many highlights of the conference, three stood out to me:
- Being an active part of the most significant advocacy day ever at Parliament Hill, with 133 community engagement meetings with politicians occurring within a three-hour period (I met the new Speaker of the House, Greg Fergus).
- Celebrating the Honourable Irwin Cotler as he retires from his role as Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, with a featured introduction by Noah Lew.
- Participating in the conference alongside my daughter and Co-Chair of Calgary Hillel, Hannah. It was meaningful to engage in this work with the next generation of my family, and a special opportunity to learn and strategize together.
It was also very encouraging to see Hillel students from coast to coast, as well as hundreds of high school students from Toronto and Montreal, join the conference and dedicate themselves to standing up and being proud Jews. Though we have much work to do and many challenges to overcome, our future is bright.
HANNAH: This conference could not have come at a more urgent and necessary time. Despite protesters gathering outside of the venue, this was an opportunity to collectively create some light during these very dark weeks. It was especially meaningful to engage with over 125 Jewish and allied students from campuses across Canada, all sharing strength and support, hearing from passionate, powerful speakers, and making our voices heard alongside community members.
Our Calgary student group had the honour to meet and share a word with Professor Irwin Cotler, a great inspiration to us all. On Monday morning, the whole student delegation watched as former ambassador Deborah Lyons assumed her role as Canada’s second Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism. We were proud to witness the passing of the torch. Throughout the conference we gained energy, valuable tools, made connections, and friends. We returned to Calgary feeling empowered, supported, and determined. At the end of the day, we know our history and we know who we are; we value life, we are resilient, and together we are so very strong.
ADAM AND HANNAH: Combatting antisemitism is not a one conference effort. It is a day by day, everyday battle. Sharing this experience together, and knowing we are not alone – that there are others in our community, across Canada, and around the world, Jewish and non-Jewish allies, who will be there with us, is reassuring and energizing. Finding our voices, sharing our concerns with politicians and decision makers, and standing together is the only way we will make a difference. We hope all of Jewish Calgary will stand tall and proud, and will continue to shine. It’s moments like this during which we summon the strength and resilience of our community. Am Echad!
Adam Silver is CEO – Calgary Jewish Federation and Hannah Silver is Co-President – Hillel Calgary.