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Every year around this time, I write a speech that I would give at a graduation. In the 20 years I have been doing this exercise, I have never been invited to speak at a commencement. That said, here are my words to the graduating class of 2017.
It’s graduation time, looking out at all your faces, I remember when I sat in my robe, my eyes twinkling, my future uncertain, my life ahead of me. I remember the excitement, the fear and the unbelievable pride that I reached the point in my life that I was leaving high school and moving on to the real world.
Stop it. I don’t know if I would be excited to leave the bubble and safety you’ve experienced for the last few years. I’m not sure I would want to jump into the craziness that we call a world today and I’m definitely not sure that the real world is better than the fictional safe world you are all leaving.
We live in perilous times, extremism is rampant, economies are collapsing, terrorism is around the corner no matter where in the world you are. It’s scary times and sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to return to the safety of high school, the sanctuary of my parent’s loving house and the false sense of security I felt as a teen.
I know you are all thinking, what’s he talking about? We have our futures ahead of us, we have a future! We will change the world, we will make a difference, the world will transform itself to our value system, the economy will pick up, we’ll be ok.
The truth is, you will be ok, actually more than ok. You will be the inheritors of the problems, of the train wreck that my generation has left you. You will be the torchbearers, the leaders, the only people who can make a difference.
A few years ago, John Mayer sang that he and his friends were waiting for the world to change. But why wait for someone else to do the work? Use your knowledge, pursue your passion, change the world. Criag Kilberger was only 11 years old when he saw the injustice of child labour in India. Today, his organizations affect millions of lives. Craig is not special, he’s not a superhero. He was a young man who wanted to make a difference and he did.
11 year old Marley Dias, a black sixth grader in the US noticed that her school library didn’t have any books that featured major characters that looked like her. When she complained to her mom about the problem, her mom’s answer was “what are you going to do about it?”.
Accepting the challenge, Marley started a campaign to called 1000 black girl books. The campaign was to collect 1000 books about Black girls. She far exceeded her campaign and distributed the books to three majority Black countries. She continues to collect books and her goal is to distribute them to every school library in North America.
Ambition, drive, determination, that’s all it takes. Leave the bubble you are in, take chances, follow your dreams, continue your education, build your businesses, run for office, change the world.
I will never tell you it is easy, the world is a crazy place that is only getting crazier. But if you want to make a difference, if you want to build a society that will be beneficial for your children and grandchildren, you must start now.
Don’t wait for someone to suggest or push you to do something. Take the reigns and as Nike says, just do it!
Congratulations to the class of 2017, my prayer is that your wisdom, kindness, compassion and understanding will transform this world full of hatred to one full of love. That your skills and uniqueness will create a society that breeds peace and tranquility and that you will do a better job running the world than my parents generation and mine. G-d bless you all, Congratulations!
Although I had nothing to do with the protest at Concordia and was merely there to cover it for Montreal Jewish News, I am horrified by how many Jews and Jewish organizations have condemned the protestors.
The event was a speech by three academics who were explaining how Israel is committing ethnic cleansing on the Palestinian population. The end goal was to promote the theory that Israel is a murderous Nazi regime and the Palestinians are the new Jews.
The analogy is laughable and only 20 or so people were there, but the fact that strong Jews stood up and defended Israel should be applauded, not condemned.
As the Arabs have proven, over and over again, activism isn’t polite and is definately nit considerate of the feelings of the side being protested.
It is not that long ago that an Arab riot stopped Bibi Netanyahu from speaking on campus. Have things changed? No.
Jewish students still mostly don’t wear kippas in public at Concordia due to fear of anti Jewish attack. Earlier this year I was told to take my kippa off by a Muslim at Concordia because Concordia is a “Muslim” university.
Jews have to stop cowering and start being strong. Instead of being horrified that a hate fest was disturbed and some Israel haters were a bit inconvenienced. Instead of bending over backwards condemning and distancing themselves from these strong Jews, perhaps activism should be embraced and Jews who stand up should be praised.
I often wondered why more Jews don’t stand up for Judaism and for Israel, now I understand. Fear of public shaming from our own community.
There was no outrage about the content of the hate conference. No questioning or complaining that people were gathering at a university to condemn Israel as genocidal maniacs…Just outrage at a couple of Jews who decided to do something about it.
To me, that’s shameful.
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.
By Howie Silbiger
A mosque was shot up in Quebec city and multiple people were killed and injured. The attack happened the same weekend that the American President imposed a temporary hold on people travelling to the States from five terror supporting (and US hating) countries.
Is there a correlation? Can it be that suddenly homegrown haters are taking their cues from the liberal induced hysteria of the South?
While liberal Jews are falling over each other on who is going to condemn this attack first and a preliminary report by both La Journal de Quebec and TVA (Quebec’s largest TV news network) indicates that the perpetrators may be a Muslim from Morocco and a French Canadian, I sit and wonder why anyone is surprised by this.
Quebec has a history of mistreating its minorities. Whether it be restricting the use of a language, or creating a Charter of Values that discriminates against one group, Quebec has done it all.
Assuming this attack wasn’t a settling of scores within a community and was a hate crime, an attack because it was a mosque, who is to blame? Simply, we all are.
For years, we as a society, allowed our politicians to vilify burqua and Niquab wearing Muslims. We allowed our government to have commissions on reasonable accommodation, therefore creating a second class citizenship of a minority group. We allowed our government to convince us that all Muslims want to bring Sharia law to Quebec and that we are all in danger. We remained quiet while one minority group suffered discrimination. We should be ashamed.
So, after years of vilification and soft attacks from our government, why is anyone shocked that a Mosque was attacked? Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
It’s up to us to change the atmosphere in Quebec and embrace the Muslim community. They are the fastest growing community in the province. We have to accept our differences and teach our children to be understanding of different cultures.
While it’s true that we must always be vigilant, the Jewish community has been attacked numerous times, we can’t live in fear of ‘The Others’. Doing so breeds the atmosphere that allowed for this week’s attack and that is unacceptable.
(JTA) The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a moving account of his recent visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, saying the Nazi death camp “defies description”.
Archbishop Justin Welby toured the site as part of an Anglican delegation last week, wearing snow boots in freezing conditions, with temperatures dipping to -14 degrees.
Reflecting on the cold experienced by both his party and the camp’s inmates, he wrote on Facebook: “We had layers and layers of clothing, hats, gloves, scarves, yet it worked through and we were cold to the core. They wore the equivalent of pyjamas and clogs. We were there for five hours, they were out for 12. We were fed, they were starved.”
The senior leader of the Church of England said there were “so many statistics about Auschwitz-Birkenau, but it defies description,” later adding: “I’ve come away with too much to write, and no words to write it.”
Among the aspects he said would “stay with me” was “the way that the perpetrators at Auschwitz tried to dehumanise their victims… In a way that actually cost the humanity of both,” he wrote. “It worked to some extent. Prisoners killed others in order to live – and were then killed themselves.”
The visit, the first in a new programme designed for clergy to receive in-service training, prompted the delegation to reflect on the human capacity for evil, said Welby, and the need to both recognise and challenge this wherever it appears.
“We must protest to the limit against evil: before it occurs, as it happens, and in its aftermath,” he wrote. “But there is also a need for silent reflection – in which we honour the victims, mourn our capacity for evil, and learn to beware.”
(JTA) — A swastika was drawn in the snow on the front lawn of a columnist for a Canadian Jewish publication.
The swastika and a sexist slur were drawn on Saturday night at the home of B’nai Brith Canada columnist Sara McCleary, who frequently writes about anti-Semitism. McCleary lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which has a small Jewish population.
McCleary wrote in her column on the organization’s website Monday that at first she thought the drawn symbol was random, but then realized that she was being targeted.
“But the more I thought about it – and after seeking advice from a B’nai Brith professional who deals with hate crimes – the more I came to think that it was targeted at me,” she wrote. “I’ve said before in previous posts that I live in a small city with a tiny Jewish population. What are the odds that it would just so happen to be in my front yard, when my name and face is on the website of Canada’s foremost Jewish advocacy organization every week? No, this was clearly meant for me.”
Sault Ste. Marie police said Tuesday that they have opened an investigation into the incident. There are no suspects, a police spokesman said in a statement.
McCleary said she is angry and concerned.
“My main concern in all of this has been to protect my children and shield them from such actions,” she said. “Fortunately, they’re young enough that they aren’t aware of what’s happened, but one day they’ll be old enough to understand, and how do you explain to a child that people hate you just because of who your grandparents were or because of what you believe in and do behind closed doors? And the more I contemplate this question, the more I think of how many people have to have these conversations with their kids nowadays, and it breaks my heart.”
By The Sun Newspaper
A NOTORIOUS Nazi war criminal who invented mobile gas vans to kill Jews died in a miserable squalid cellar surviving on army rations after fleeing to Syria, it has been revealed.
The fate of Alois Brunner – who was Nazi hunters’ number one wanted war criminal – had remained a mystery after he fled Germany in 1953, evading capture.
But now three Syrian spies have revealed the evil Nazi – who tutored them in torture and clandestine police work – died in misery, squalor and agony in a grim basement in Damascus, aged 88.
The monster, who described Jews as “human garbage”, was personally responsible for rounding up at least 130,000 Jewish men, women and children in France – and having them shipped off for extermination.
The twisted killer’s fate was revealed by French magazine XXI this week, with veteran Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld saying the report was “highly credible”.
A diabolical Nazi, Brunner was the inventor of mobile “gas vans” – innocent looking lorries whose passenger compartments were sealed.
Exhaust gas from the engine of the trucks fed back into the van, killing all its occupants.
The vans operated outside of ghettos and concentration camps in eastern Europe before mass killing factories like Auschwitz were built.
He occupied the number one slot of most wanted war criminals on a list compiled by by the Simon Wiesdenthal Nazi-hunting organisation in America.
Brunner, who died in 2001, was the right-hand-man to Adolf Eichmann, the supreme logistician of the Holocaust of who plotted the transports across Europe to the extermination camps in occupied Poland.
He fled to Syria after the war where the Assad regime sheltered him for decades, but his notoriety meant he was practically kept as a prisoner.
Israeli agents managed to send him parcel bombs on two occasions, which wounded him but did not kill him.
Now three ex-members of the Syrian secret service who he tutored in torture and clandestine police work revealed his final years were spent in “miserable and squalid” conditions beneath an apartment block in Damascus.
One of his guards called Omar said Brunner, who went by the name of Abu Hussein, “suffered and cried a lot in his final years. Everyone heard him. In the end he couldn’t even wash himself.
“All he had to eat were army rations – awful stuff – and an egg or a potato. He had to choose one or the other.”
Nazi-hunter Mr Klarsfeld, whose father was murdered in Auschwitz, once flew to Damascus in the 1980s to plead with the Assad regime to give Brunner up for trial in the west.
“I am satisfied to learn that he lived badly rather than well in exile,” he said.
Brunner left Germany for Egypt in 1953 with a passport in the name of Georg Fischer and worked for a time as a gun-runner for Algerians fighting to throw off French colonial rule in their country.
Then he moved on to Damascus, where he taught secret service agents all the terrible interrogation and torture techniques which the Gestapo used during the Third Reich.
Convicted by French courts in absentia to death, he lost an eye and four fingers in the two Mossad bomb attacks, but nothing diminished his love of Nazism or his hatred of the Jews.
In a 1987 telephone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, he stated that he didn’t regret his part in the Holocaust.
“All of them deserved to die because they were the devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and I would do it again.”
According to XXI, Brunner was practically under house arrest in his apartment in the diplomatic quarter of Damascus from 1989 onwards.
He was moved into the basement by the Assad regime for unspecified “security reasons.”
“Once he was in the room, the door was closed and never opened again,” Omar told the magazine.
He claimed Brunner was buried secretly in accordance with Muslim rites in the city’s Al-Affif cemetery in December 2001.
“In a dictatorship like Syria, he was untouchable as long as the dictator didn’t want rid of him,” said Mr Klarsfeld.
“Until the end he kept his hatred of Jews intact, as well as his faith in National Socialism.
“He was someone who hated France as much as he hated Jews.”