Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Yes…BUT, What Anti-Semitism Is Like

I’ve written about my experiences with Anti-Semitism before, but just gave a little peak into what my world is like. I didn’t give you the whole story because it’s a difficult one to tell. Part of being Jewish is Anti-Semitism. It’s a fact. Part of being Jewish is also the BUTs that come along with the justification for Anti-Semitism. For example:

“I don’t hate all Jews BUT why does Israel insist on…”

“I support Jewish people – I have Jewish friends (always love that one) BUT what Israel is doing.”

“Oh – I didn’t think Jews had their own charities BUT why would they? All Jews are rich!”

“I’m not an Anti-Semite, I love Jews, BUT I am an Anti-Zionist. It’s not the same thing.”

Well, I’m afraid it is, and I’m tired of the buts and qualifications. When I support Black Lives Matter, I do it knowing that they are definitely not Pro-Israel because there are no buts with racism. It’s a because. I support Black Lives Matter, want to stop Asian hate, want Indigenous people to feel honoured and not held back BECAUSE it’s the right thing to do. People comment time and time again on the Israeli-Palestinian issue which is their absolute right. BUT understand that because I am a Zionist doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Palestinian. I am pro-Palestinian, but anti-Hamas and anti-Fatah. And yes, one can be a Zionist and be pro-Palestinian and feel a tremendous amount of sadness for innocent people on both sides. Zionism simply means the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our indigenous homeland – Israel. It isn’t more complicated than that. I also believe having spoken to both Palestinians and Israelis, there is nothing that both want more than peace.

This is not an essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is about what I see happening closer to home. There is too much history on the Middle East conflict for me to get into that now. What I see right now in Canada, though disturbs me to the core and the saddest part is that is largely going unreported or it is hidden below the fold on websites. In my lifetime, I have never seen Antisemitism to this extent. I’ve never heard so many BUTs about it. I’ve never seen so many people post anti-Jewish propaganda.

To give you some context – lets look at the TOTAL population of Jews around the world – it’s approximately 15.8 million – that is out of 7.64 billion people. Then let’s look at Canada where I live – it’s 392,000. Jewish Canadians are the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in the country, from a new study from Statistics Canada. Yes, that’s right, Statistics Canada is the source. A group that makes up around 1% of the population is targeted for more hate crimes than any other. Now let that settle in. Remember, your friend, neighbour or family member is a target.

For the first time in my lifetime, I’m seeing Jews beaten in the streets in Canada (again not speaking about the Middle East – I’m speaking about the True North Strong and Free?). A pregnant woman on Bathurst Street in Toronto had rocks thrown at her because she is Jewish. Residents of Thornhill were told not to walk alone after dark if they are Jewish. An older man was beaten up because he is Jewish. This isn’t right and it’s not being covered to the same extent as any other targeted group. If Jews truly owned the media, like we are accused of, don’t you think that there would be better coverage?

Personally, I’ve had people on Instagram where I have an open account send me direct messages that say things like “You play your Holocaust card to Justify the brutality you daily commit in Palestine.” Excuse me? My IG account is not that political. I’ve been called a Jew bitch for sharing Mayor John Tory’s post about Antisemitism not being tolerated. Several people started populating my Instagram page with Palestinian flags under posts of my late mother and sister. I asked one person what a photo for Mother’s Day had to do with anything and instead of a response, they deleted the comment. I will not have the memory of my mother and sister used in a political argument. EVER. And from now on, you want to leave me a trollish comment, I am not going to delete it.

This isn’t about Jews whining (which I’ve seen over and over again on social media and on online news reports). The fact is that it is an incredibly scary time to be a Jew. The statements coming out should be Antisemitism is wrong. No BUTs – no qualifying statements. There is no moral equivalence for racism of any kind. I want you to imagine if you aren’t Jewish, and you know me – really know me. You know that I cared for my mother and sister. You know that my mother, sister and father are all at the very same cemetery. Imagine how you would feel if graves at the very same cemetery were desecrated. I would be devastated. Completely devastated. And before you think I’m an alarmist, think about what I am saying – and know that this is a common happening at Jewish cemeteries. There are no buts.

I will continue to speak out against racism of any sort. BUT all I’m asking you to do for me is to include Antisemitism, the oldest form of racism in there too.


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It’s Not All Black and White

The events of the last week, namely the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and the incident in Central Park with Christian Cooper, a Harvard educated African American man who request for leashing a dog ended up with the threat of police action for no reason. Seeing these events unfold were horrifying. When George Floyd, gasping for breath called for his deceased Mama, my heart broke even more. I debated whether I wanted to watch the video, and in the end, I chose to. As horrible as it was, I felt it was important to see with my own eyes something that we can no longer turn away from.

There is a famous Latin quote, ‘Culpae poenae par esto. ‘ Let the punishment fit the crime. George Floyd’s was passing a counterfeit bill. Christian Cooper’s was being in the right place, at the wrong time, trying to enjoy his hobby – bird watching. Ahmaud Arbery’s crime was jogging. Two out of the three were guilty of nothing, and the third made a mistake that a white person would have just received a warning for. The punishment did not fit the crime and neither will the police officer with a charge of third degree murder. Anyone guilty of a hate crime, and let’s not kid ourselves, Arbery and Floyd’s deaths were hate crimes, should have also have that as part of their punishment and sentence.

Christian Cooper said something very interesting:

“Any of us can make — not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake,” Mr. Cooper said, “And to get that kind of tidal wave in such a compressed period of time, it’s got to hurt. It’s got to hurt.” He continued with:

“I’m not excusing the racism,” he said. “But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”

Forgiving words. We all have knee jerk reactions. My first reaction is that Amy Cooper got what she deserved. My friend, who like me, is part of a minority group, said the following about her firing:

“I think people like this should keep their jobs but be on permanent probation. They need to expected to be involved in multi-racial social projects and report back to their supervisors and the community with the hope that this can bring about a greater caring. While keeping their jobs donations will made from portions of their income to social projects. Firing has the potential to increase resentment and more trouble.”

It made me stop for a minute, and think, maybe there is more than one way to look at things. When someone who is racist looks at a black person, their knee-jerk reaction is to think criminal. If you are somewhat open-minded, your first reaction is that Amy Cooper should be fired. But, what if the right answer is somewhere in between? Remember that with anything in life, there is always going to be your version, my version, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Just food for thought.

Cityline host (a Canadian national lifestyle show) Tracy Moore happens to be a woman of colour. She was DM’d by people for speaking out about how white people can make life less frustrating for people of colour. She was told that she is a racist. She used a hashtag that I found interesting #allyisaverb. It’s true. A black person shouldn’t be comforting guilty white people right now, it’s not their job. Imagine if for 400 years, you were enslaved, then freed, then still not having full rights, you finally get some in the 1960s, only to see hatred and bigotry continue on. To see every step forward met with one step back. If you aren’t aware, read. If you don’t want to read a book, find an article. But, don’t make it their job to explain the issues to you. We live in a digital age, use the internet.

Canadians have to stop thinking that we are better than Americans. There are hate crimes here too. As a Jewish woman, I’ve seen so many reports of synagogue being desecrated I’ve lost count. Hate crimes against Jews are on the rise. I live in absolute fear, not that I will be harmed, but that the cemetery where my mother is will be desecrated. A non-minority person never has to even think of this. Imagine having to worry that in an instant, something that you poured your heart into could be destroyed by someone who hates you for how you were born.

There is a debate if Judaism is a nationality, race or religion. Many do not consider me white. That’s fine, I’ll take it. As a minority, I feel that it is my duty to speak out wherever it is possible. To realize that ally is a verb. To hope that our adage of “Never Again” applies not just to a second Holocaust for Jewish people, but for all victims of racism, sexism or hatred of any kind.


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Breaking News

In a one week period, there has been more breaking news in the USA than I have seen since 9/11.  Pipe bombs sent to public figures including two former Presidents, a former Secretary of State and CNN.  A grocery shooting in Kentucky, a hate crime that targeted African Americans resulted in the death of two people, one of whom was shielding his 12 year old grandson.  Megyn Kelly speaking about how dressing up in black face was acceptable as Halloween costumes when she was growing up and it is not such a big deal (huh?).  Finally, the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that resulted in the murder of 11 people with another 6 injured including, and this is important, 4 police officers.

This whole week saw President Trump acting anything but presidential.  He blamed the media, which is where I have worked for the last 20 years, for the domestic terrorism in the US that I referenced.  The media is made up of many people who work behind the scenes to make the news, morning shows, lifestyle shows and entertainment shows happen. The people that had the greatest potential for injury were the people in the mail room or the security guards, not the “fake media” that the President so loves to reference.  This very man did not even reference the shootings in Kentucky.  He managed to tweet about the World Series, but not even a word about this particular shooting.  I am not sure if it is because “only” two people died or if it is because the two victims were African American.

The President identifies himself as a nationalist.  Think about someone else that identified himself in the same way – Hitler.  Last year, it was shocking seeing to see the white supremacists march the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”.  People in the community held a counter-protest resulting in the death of a woman and the President said that was blame to be had on both sides.  While I do not believe that Trump alone is to blame for the environment of intolerance that I am seeing now, he has allowed people the platform to be open about their hatred.  He is also supported by the National Rifle Association (the NRA).  Here was his response to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh:

“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation,” Trump said. “They didn’t have protection. They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection. If there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him.  Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly,” Trump continued. “Isn’t it a shame that you have to think of that inside a temple or inside a church? But certainly, the result would have been far better.”

Can we please get real for 1 minute?  The shooting still would have happened, in fact, the armed guard would likely have been the first casualty.  More guns are not the answer to gun violence.  No one should have to be at a house of worship with armed guards regardless of your religion.  Armed guards just mean more bullets and more targets.  The answer is twofold – tolerance and gun control.  No one needs an automatic assault rifle to defend themselves.  We have strict gun laws in Canada – and yes, while shootings do happen, because if you really want to get a hold of a gun, you will, it is not a daily event. How many more mass shootings do there need to be?  How many more candle-light vigils and marches need to happen before current administration in the States gets a clue?  Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both tried to pass gun control laws.  It’s time to stop pandering to a gun lobby and show value for life.

What happened in Pittsburgh was so devastating.  I have written about my own experiences with Anti-Semitism before (https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/being-different-in-a-trump-sort-of-world/) I mentioned that in this article that when I do go to synagogue, that I often have to go to security before I am allowed in.  It is my normal, but imagine having to do that.  Imagine, for a moment, if you will, being a 97 year old Holocaust survivor going to Sabbath services in your adopted country.  Surviving the brutal death camps only to be shot and killed by an anti-Semite?  Imagine how this makes other survivors feel or children and grandchildren of survivors?  Imagine knowing that because you are a minority, that this could happen to you?  Imagine looking at social media today and seeing your Jewish friends send out messages of hope to the community of Pittsburgh, but only your Jewish friends?  I remember seeing so many London Strong/Paris Strong/Boston Strong/Istanbul Strong/New York Strong photo frames going up, but today, I see only a few Pittsburgh Strong frames.

We all have a duty to speak out against hatred.  I watched CNN this morning, for the first time in a long time, and Jake Tapper ended his panel with this quote from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

There are more good people than bad in the world, and I have seen these helpers first hand, but here is another quote from the very same man that spoke to me:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Be a hero – speak out against hatred and bigotry and intolerance, wherever you see it.  Don’t just like this post – act.  If someone around you spouts hatred of any kind towards any race or people of any sexual orientation, speak up and let them know that you will not tolerate this.  When Jews say confession on Yom Kippur to atone for our sins, we say it as a community, because if one of us is guilty, all of us are guilty.  We also believe that if you save one life, it is the same as saving all of mankind.  Think about that…if you speak out against one type of intolerance, you are speaking out against all types of intolerance.