By Howie Silbiger
In Friday’s Journal de Montreal, while ruminating on the latest Muslim violence at Concordia, a bomb threat that shut down the university for a day, columnist Lise Ravery asked why I didn’t report an incident at Concordia where I was told to take off my kippa because Concordia is a ‘Muslim university’.
At the time, I not only did not report the incident, but I also turned down fifty media requests to tell the story.
When the incident occurred, I posted the story on Facebook. The purpose of the post was to highlight that 20 years after I had last walked into the university, nothing had changed. The atmosphere and environment at Concordia still allowed for Muslims to attempt to intimidate Jews and the university, after so many years, still had done nothing to curb the problem.
When the first news report came out, I immediately got a phone call from a very nervous Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, a chaplain at the university and an email from the Dean of Students.
Bernath, whom I helped publicize his Chabad House when he first arrived in Montreal, by featuring him on various radio projects I was involved in, who then subsequently, after achieving moderate success, ignored my calls and messages, suddenly found my number and wanted to talk about the incident.
In a phone conversation he urged me to meet with the Dean of Students, promising to back me in creating a multi cultural event that would promote peace and harmony in the society.
We discussed reporting it and he supported my assertion that a report and a hunt for the individual perpetrator of the attack on me will do little to solve the global problem at Concordia. Something on a grander scale had to be done and some sort of action had to be taken by the administration of Concordia to change the culture and allow all students on campus to feel equal.
After my meeting with the Dean of Students where the Dean assured me that he would meet with Bernath and work on a program, I was sure things were headed in the right direction.
That was the last I heard from either men. Bernath got too busy fighting for his synagogue’s building and arranging a self aggrandizing infomercial documentary for his for-profit Jewish dating site, to worry about Concordia students. The Dean of Students, seeing that there was no real push from the Jewish chaplain, let the issue die down and disappear.
Perhaps I should have reported it. At least one person would have been brought to justice and maybe the story would have played in the news a few more days calling attention to the problem.
I trusted in the Jewish leadership at the university. Big mistake. The passiveness, attitude of Bernath allowed an opportunity for positive change slip away.