by Steve Shafir and Stacey Leavitt-Wright
(Editors Note) –On Nov. 6, Steve Shafir, President of Jewish Federation of Edmonton and Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO of Jewish Federation of Edmonton responded to an article which appeared in the October 30 edition of the Edmonton Journal . This is their op/ed. Re. “Acts of hatred; Why are Muslim women in Edmonton being attacked?”Oct. 30
(Nov. 6) – We felt the need to respond to this article after reading it. Firstly, acts of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry are not acceptable in Edmonton, or elsewhere in Canada. We would like to express our allyship and solidarity with Muslim women. Women in hijab should be able to walk the streets of Edmonton in safety and with dignity, and be able to practise their religion and culture without impunity.
The increase of hate crimes and actions in Edmonton are a huge concern to us. We are pleased to see that the newly elected city council is taking hate crimes seriously by making the issue a high priority on their agenda.
The Canadian Race Relations Report recently published “Race relations in Canada 2021: A survey of Canadian public opinion and experience,” which found that one in five Canadians reporting discrimination and mistreatment resulting from their race regularly or from time to time.
As members of the Jewish community, we understand the disproportionate experience of hate crimes by racialized communities. B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights organization, says it recorded 2,610 anti-Semitic incidents last year, the fifth consecutive record-setting year for reports of anti-Semitism in Canada. We encourage the reporting of hate crimes. At the same time, we are aware of too many unreported incidents of hate directed towards individuals wearing identifiable Jewish symbols such as a Star of David necklace or a yarmulke.
We are saddened that Mr. Wakefield’s article was published on the same day that yet another anti-vaccine rally occurred in Edmonton where participants equated the measures to the horrors of Holocaust and evoking symbols that Jews were forced to wear as part of Nazi persecution. Also, on the same day, a local antique store was caught by an individual trying to profit from the sale of Nazi memorabilia.
It also happened to be the anniversary of the massacre of 11 innocent worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. November is Holocaust Education Month in Canada and Jews around the world will be commemorating Kristallnacht on Nov. 9. We take heart in the support our community has received in condemning the recent anti-Semitic events in Edmonton.
We remain hopeful that despite the increase in hate seen that Edmontonians will support each other. We will contribute positively towards a goal of raising awareness and combatting hate, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We encourage all Edmontonians to continue speaking out. We cannot give into hate and we must never forget what hate can do and where it can lead us.
Steve Shafir is president of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.
Stacey Leavitt-Wright is CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.