By Deborah Shatz and Regan Treewater-Lipes
(AJNews) – The Edmonton Jewish community experienced a wonderful evening of positivity and camaraderie from an unexpected source on January 29 – Malibu influencer and ‘pizza girl’ Caroline D’Amore.
The internet sensation was the featured guest at a special event titled “Pro-semitism.” In a fireside chat with Michael Sachs, Director of JNF Pacific Region, D’Amore, who is not Jewish, spoke about her journey from knowing relatively nothing about Judaism or Jewish culture to becoming an avowed advocate in the fight against antisemitism. She was stricken by the brutality of the Oct. 7 attacks in Southern Israel by Hamas and then horrified at the way world opinion turned against Israel and the Jewish community almost immediately after.
“Caroline is a true advocate for peace, who recognizes the importance of speaking out, unapologetic in her words to shed light on the truth,” said Tami Cairns, who attended the event.
“She is shouting from the rooftops, standing up for what is right, not afraid of the backlash she may encounter.”
The accomplished businesswomen and CEO of Pizza Girl Inc. flew to Israel on December 13 to bear witness to the atrocities of Oct. 7. She journeyed to the site of the Nova Music Festival and met with a family member of a victim of the attacks.
“Oct. 7th was not a fight for freedom,” she wrote in a post from the Nova festival site. “It was a group of terrorists trying to kill as many innocent Jewish people as possible and then call home so their parents could be proud of them. This is the truth. This is the terrifying truth of what happened on Oct. 7th.”
“Attacking innocent party goers is not a fight for freedom,” she added. “It’s cowardice and cruel and pure evil. Anyone who celebrates this is gone and needs serious help.”
Caroline returned home from Israel and has been speaking in support of Israel and against antisemitism ever since. She is also raising awareness about the sexual and gender-based abuses that happened on October 7th.
Over 125 community members and friends attended the January 29 event at the Fantasyland Hotel and found the fireside chat to be warm and inspirational. D’Amore’s down to earth demeanor and refreshing presentation provided comfort to many of the people who attended the event – with her sincere message resonating during this difficult time – that we are not alone.
“I think a lot of us felt confused and very alone after Oct. 7,” noted Jay Cairns, Executive Director of JNF Edmonton. “Between how the news has been positioning the war, and the hateful disgustingly antisemitic online rhetoric that I was experiencing at the time and since, Caroline was this innocent voice that spoke to me and I would imagine to a lot of people who felt like they had no allies, no non-Jewish friends that were willing to speak up or even reach out to say how are you. She offered hugs to Jewish people and communities at a time when Jewish communities were being alienated.”
Stacie Pearlmutter also found the event to be refreshing and comforting. “Hearing Caroline speak and then talking with her after, was like meeting a new best friend,” said Stacie. “She is so down to earth and exudes kindness and positivity. Caroline speaks her mind and shares her heart, and the Jewish community is so blessed to have her as a fierce advocate and ally.”
D’Amore candidly shared her personal experiences following Oct. 7, and continues to serve as an inspiration to those to speak up for what’s right.
“At a time when the non-Jewish world is silent, Caroline has stood up, unafraid,” explained Tami. “Her public support for the Jewish community is so critical, so needed. She highlights the need to fight for justice, opposition of hate and teaching future generations to speak up.”
Her focus on future generations was central at the BBYO bowling event held for teens at Ed’s Rec Room at WEM on January 28. Around thirty local Jewish youth, grades nine to twelve, gathered for a Sunday evening of bowling and pizza joined by the pop-cultural celebrity.
D’Amore, sat down with the teens for a candid discussion about how they have experienced antisemitism since the largest coordinated act of mob-violence against Jews in eighty-years was barbarously inflicted on October 7 in Israel.
D’Amore admitted that before that fateful day, she had been blissfully unaware of how widespread the tentacles of antisemitism reached. She warmly and graciously listened to the stories of a few brave high schoolers who chose to share their experiences and she was visibly moved by their candor.
Jay Cairns said that Caroline has long been an advocate for women’s rights, who marches on behalf of marginalized communities and admits to being a leftist.
“She jokes that her dad calls her ‘woke’ but I think she’s very much awake, aware and able to speak to anyone willing to have a reasonable conversation about the human elements of the conflict and war,” added Jay. “She gave me hope. Some of us get lost in the doom scrolling of negativity towards the Jewish people; again, she joked to me who would have thought it would be the Pizza Girl from Malibu. But it was, she spoke her truth and encouraged us to say ours, and I thank her for having the strength to speak out.”
This event was sponsored by JNF Canada, Stand With Us, Na’amat Edmonton and National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), with support from Jewish Federation of Edmonton – all coming together to raise awareness and facilitate a comfortable discussion.
Regan Treewater Lipes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.