May is Jewish Heritage Month in Canada and around the world

(Ottawa) – The month of May is Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, an opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and learn more about the countless contributions Jewish Canadians have made to the country and to their local communities.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month was officially recognized by the federal government in March of 2018 after a unanimous vote in the House of Commons. The month of May was chosen because of its meaningfulness to the Jewish community around the world. Notably, it often lines up with Shavuot or the “Feast of Weeks”, which celebrates the spring harvest and commemorates the revelation of the Torah.

“Today marks the beginning of Jewish Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and recognise Jewish culture, faith, history and the immense contributions the communities have made to the social, political and economic fabric across Canada,” stated Minister or Housing, Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen.

“Our country is the proud home to about 400,000 people of Jewish heritage, making it the fourth-largest community in the world. Canadians of Jewish heritage have always played important roles in advancing medicine and the sciences, human rights, philanthropy, the media, the arts, and business. This month we also honour the courage and resilience that members of Jewish communities have shown throughout history and beyond.

“However, it is important that we recognise that Jewish communities in Canada and around the world continue to face a frightening rise of antisemitism, hate and discrimination. This is a lived reality for the communities, it is unacceptable, and it is our collective responsibility to denounce and combat hate whenever and wherever it occurs.

“To help combat antisemitism at home and abroad, the Government of Canada has allocated $5.6 million over five years to support the important work of the Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, Irwin Cotler. We also doubled Canada’s annual contribution to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Budget 2022 allocated $85 million over four years to support the launch of the new Anti-Racism Strategy and the Action Plan on Combatting Hate, and budget 2023 has committed an additional $25 million towards the new Anti-Racism Strategy.

“Our government provided $20 million to support the construction of the new Holocaust Museum in Montréal and $2.5 million for the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto. We also amended Canada’s Criminal Code to make it a crime to willfully promote antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust.

“As Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to reflect and learn more about the inspirational role Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in our society. Let us continue to educate ourselves and the next generation on the importance of building a safer, more diverse and inclusive society for all.”

B’nai Brith Canada is pleased to launch its annual Jewish Heritage Month Campaign  by introducing initiatives from coast to coast, designed to recognize the vitality of Jewish participation in Canadian society. There are over 325,000 Canadian Jews who make up less than 1 percent of the population. Cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have significant Jewish populations.

B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights collaborated with more than 60 different Canadian political entities to encourage widespread recognition of Jewish Heritage Month. Throughout the month, B’nai Brith will present videos and proclamations to highlight a wide range of dignitaries, leaders, community members and others spotlighting the vibrancy and longevity of Canada’s Jewish community.

“The Jewish presence in Canada goes back to 1738,” said Marvin Rotrand B’nai Brith Canada’s National Director of the League for Human Rights. “May honours the contributions and achievements of this remarkable segment of the Canadian population. We are thrilled to share and celebrate with our supporters, friends and others Canada’s Jewish community.”

“Expect to see Jewish Heritage Month observed on a national scale,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “As Canada’s most senior Jewish human-rights organization, we are proud to lead this national celebratory initiative. This month, please join us in celebrating the significant contributions of Canadian Jewry to the country.”

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