A look back at the stories that made headlines this past year

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands in Davos, Switzerland, in 2018. (PMO Photo)

September 2017

On Sept. 17, Toronto’s City Shul, which was founded in 2012 as the first Reform congregation south of St Clair Avenue, moved from its original home on Harbord Street, to a building on Bloor Street that it shares with the Bloor Street United Church. The shul’s original chapel seated only 60 people, but it grew to about 250 members.

On Sept. 18, The Azrieli Heart Centre was inaugurated, following a $25-million donation from the Azrieli Foundation to the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

Less than a week after Canada’s National Holocaust Monument was inaugurated in Ottawa on Sept. 27, its dedication plaque was removed, because it made no mention of Jews. This was the second time in as many years that the government neglected Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The year before, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

October 2017

The Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) announced that it was be opening a cybersecurity office in Israel, making it the first Canadian bank to set up shop in the country. “With the Israeli office, TD will now have a more direct line into Israel’s cyber and technology talent ecosystem,” the bank said in a statement.

The Canadian Securities Administrators banned the sale of binary options, a financial instrument that scammers can use to extract money out of unsuspecting victims. As of October 2017, it was a $5- to $10-billion a year industry in Israel. In December 2016, Canadian businessman Fred Turbide killed himself, after losing most of his money to predatory binary options.

• In an Oct. 13 speech at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to kill the Iran deal if Congress didn’t amend it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump’s act brave and courageous in an interview with CBS two days later.

The United States announced on Oct. 12 that it would withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), citing financial considerations, the need for reform and the organization’s “continuing anti-Israel bias.” UNESCO declared the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank an endangered world heritage site. It also passed several resolutions ignoring Jewish ties to Jerusalem, which drew fury from Israeli officials.

On Oct. 18, Associated Hebrew Schools announced it would close its northern Toronto campus, which was home to its elementary school, and consolidate it with its middle school building in September 2019.

On Oct. 15, eight years after the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre in Toronto was torn down, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto broke ground on the expansion of the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre on the Sherman Campus. The new Sheff Family Building expansion is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019.

A change in the way Statistics Canada worded a question on the 2016 census led to a drastic undercounting of the country’s Jewish population, with numbers dropping from 309,650 in 2011, to 143,665 in 2016. That’s because “Jewish” wasn’t included on the list of suggested answers for the question on ethnicity in the 2016 census.

JNF reaches a compromise with the Israeli government over its tax-exempt status in November after several protests like this one. (Flash90 photo)

November 2017

Israelis attended a rally marking 22 years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Nov. 4. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli extremist, during a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv.

On Nov. 2, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration with Netanyahu at a gala in London. The Balfour Declaration was a public affirmation of Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland, in what was then known as Palestine.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which owns 13 per cent of the land in Israel, reached a compromise with the Israeli government, under which it will pay NIS1.8 billion ($640 million) over three years, to retain its tax-exempt status. The government originally wanted KKL-JNF to pay a lump sum of NIS2 billion.

On Nov. 3, Elie Wiesel Park was inaugurated at the northwest corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Kildare Road in Côte-St-Luc, Que., by municipal, provincial and federal officials, as well as Jewish community representatives, Holocaust survivors and schoolchildren.

In their quest to tighten parts of the Criminal Code, federal MPs were considering removing Section 176, which makes it illegal to disrupt religious services. But religious organizations and constituents spoke out, so MPs decided not to do away with the section.

A poll released on Nov. 16 by the Angus Reid Institute found that 20 per cent of Canadians see Judaism as providing benefits to Canada or Canadian society, whereas 12 per cent see it as damaging. Respondents were more likely to say that they found various streams of Christianity beneficial, but were also more likely to find Catholicism and evangelical Christianity damaging. Forty-six per cent of respondents said that Islam was damaging to Canada or Canadian society.

On Nov. 20, Jimmy Alexander, the campaign chair of the 2017 Combined Jewish Appeal campaign in Montreal, announced that the organization had raised a record of just under $52 million.

On Nov. 26, Netanyahu reached a deal with his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners to maintain the status quo with regard to observing Shabbat in Israel. This meant that the mini-markets in Tel Aviv would remain open on Shabbat and league soccer games would continue to be played. In return, the government passed an amendment to the country’s Basic Law, to allow Yaakov Litzman – who resigned as health minister earlier in the day to protest work that was being done on a railway line on Shabbat – to run the ministry as deputy minister, so he didn’t have to sit in cabinet.

• On Nov. 27, for the second time in 2017, the Jewish Defence League of Canada’s Facebook page was removed by the social media site. The page was taken down after an administrator posted a photo of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) and was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel by an Arab gunman in 1990. Kahane also founded Kach, a far-right Israeli political party, and its offshoot, Kahane Chai. Both groups were deemed terrorist organizations by Canada in 2005 and have been outlawed in Israel.

On Nov. 28, Statistics Canada released a document, which revealed that Jews were the most targeted victims of hate crimes in 2016, with 221 reported incidents. Black people were next on the list at 214 and 176 people were targeted for their sexual orientation.

On Nov. 29, 85-year-old June Avivi received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the province’s highest honour, at a ceremony in Regina. Avivi is a leader in Holocaust education in Saskatoon and an advocate for the mentally disabled.

Businessman Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were murdered in December.

December 2017

Around 300 people showed up to a menorah-making event held at a Home Depot location in Richmond, B.C., on Dec. 3. Families made menorahs out of materials supplied by the store. Chabad of Richmond also supplied bullet shell casings to hold the candles on the menorah, to symbolize turning weapons into a source of light and life.

On Dec. 21, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The vote was 128 in favour and nine against, with Canada and 34 other countries abstaining. The vote came after a similar resolution was considered by the UN Security Council, but vetoed by the United States. The council’s 14 other members voted in favour.

On Dec. 29, Governor General Julie Payette announced 125 new recipients of the Order of Canada. Among them were May Cohen, William Shatner, Molly Schoichet, Mark Breslin, Helen Burstyn, Lynn Factor, Saul Feldberg, Saul (Red) Fisher, Dale Lastman, Joseph and Wolf Lebovic, Karen Mock, Jay Switzer and Barry Sherman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visit the Taj Mahal in India on January 16, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO photo)

January 2018

The Corporation of Spanish & Portuguese Jews/Shearith Israel of Montreal turned 250 years old in 2018. It was founded in 1768 by Simon Levy and Aaron Hart, who were among the earliest Jewish settlers in Quebec. Approximately 15 to 20 members prayed there when it was first founded, but today it is home to around 750 families.

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Committee published a blacklist of BDS groups, including one Jewish group, whose members are now banned from entering the country. Rights groups, including Jewish ones who were not on the blacklist, expressed outrage over the move. They said Israel was trying to coerce opponents of the occupation, including American Jews, into silence, and that it was undemocratic.

The IDF released a series of year-end statistics on Jan. 7, showing a sharp year-over-year increase in rocket attacks from Gaza, alongside a substantial drop in the number of terrorist attacks from the West Bank.

Canada-Israel Experience, which organizes Birthright Israel trips from Canada, announced that a new program aimed at people aged 27 to 32 would be launched later in the year.

On Jan. 16, the United States announced that it would be cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). It would still provide $60 million, but withhold a further $65 million. In Canada, the former Conservative government cut UNRWA’s funding to $12 million, but the Liberals restored it to $25 million.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited the Taj Mahal on Jan. 16. They were on a week-long state visit to India.

It was announced that the $5-million Jewish Bukharian Centre that’s under construction in Vaughan, Ont., will house a state-of-the-art mikveh that will be the first wheelchair-accessible mikveh in the Greater Toronto Area and will cater to women with mobility issues and physical disabilities.

On Jan. 24, Netanyahu and Trudeau met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The two leaders discussed updating the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, as well as the security situation in the Middle East and other economic ties between the two countries.

At the Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, the late Leonard Cohen’s title track from his album, You Want it Darker, won the American music industry’s award for Best Rock Performance of the year. Sharing in that award was the choir of Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim synagogue, as well as its conductor, Roï Azoulay, and cantor, Gideon Zelermyer, who all worked or sang on the track.

African asylum seekers and human rights activists protest against deportation in front of the Rwandan Embassy in Herzeliya. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 photo)

February 2018

The Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with Prof. Robert Brym, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, and Rhonda Lenton, a sociologist and the president and vice-chancellor of York University, began a landmark study of Canadian Jewry, to gauge never-before explored areas, such as Jewish identity, religious practice, experience with discrimination and feelings toward Israel.

Canadian Young Judaea announced it would be launching a new overnight summer camp for LGBTQ Jewish campers called Machane Lev, the first of its kind in Canada. The week-long program  ran from Aug. 19-26.

On Feb. 4, Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority began serving deportation notices to Eritrean and Sudanese migrants and asylum seekers, saying they would send them to African countries with stable governments. Netanyahu later made a deal with the UN to send half the migrants to developed countries and assimilate the rest, but overturned that decision within 24 hours.

During a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa on Feb. 9, and another at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton on Feb. 20, Yad Vashem honoured the families of Canadians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. In Ottawa, Denis Lehotay stood with his brother, children and grandchildren, as his parents were honoured for saving Andrew Kun, who was also in attendance, as well as his mother and sister. In Edmonton, Hartgert van Engelen accepted a medal and a certificate of honour on his parents’ behalf, for sheltering a number of Jews in their home in Soest, Netherlands, including Ilse Jacobsohn, a German-Jewish refugee who fled the country after Kristallnacht in 1938.

The March of the Living announced that it would continue to tour Poland, despite some Jewish groups calling for the practice to stop. Earlier in February, Poland enacted a law that makes it illegal to accuse the country of complicity in the Holocaust.

On Feb. 13, Israeli police announced that they were recommending that Netanyahu be indicted on a series of corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and that they believed they had collected enough evidence to bring the cases to trial.

On Feb. 14, a shooter opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17. Among the Jewish victims were students Jaime Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff and Meadow Pollack, as well as Scott Beigel, a geography teacher who saved students’ lives by closing a door as he was shot.

In a closed-door session on Feb. 16, in the run-up to the NDP’s national convention, a pro-BDS resolution almost made it onto the agenda. The motion to bump the resolution was defeated 200-189. However, a resolution did pass that condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a Knesset committee hearing on Feb. 19, Rabbi Adam Scheier, the senior rabbi at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, blasted the so-called blacklist of rabbis from around the world that was compiled by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel – a list that he is included on. In July 2017, the chief rabbinate published a list of 160 overseas rabbis whose authority it refuses to recognize in certifying the Jewishness of anyone who wants to get married in Israel. Ten rabbis in Canada were included on the list.

On Feb. 22, Ontario Liberal MPPs Monte Kwinter and David Zimmer joined health-care and community officials in announcing the launch of the Neshama Hospice, Canada’s first Jewish hospice. It will welcome patients of all backgrounds, but will embrace such Jewish values as gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness) and bikur holim (visiting the sick).

A young Palestinian protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and holding the Palestinian flag looks on during clashes after Friday protests near the border with Israel in Gaza City. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90 photo)

March 2018

On March 8, Shalom Nethanel Ouanounou died after six months on life support. Ouanounou was at the centre of a legal dispute between the hospital, which wanted to remove him from life support after he was declared brain dead, and his family, who argued that as long as his heart was beating, he was still alive according to Jewish law. The dispute remained unsettled at the time of his death, but could still be decided by the courts.

March was a big month for kosher meat. No, really. First, a possible threat to the production of kosher meat in Canada was averted. The problem arose following changes to the “interpretation” of Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations concerning the prevention of animal suffering, which, according to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), could have ended shechitah (Jewish ritual slaughter). Then, on March 21, Ontario-produced kosher chickens hit the market, courtesy of Premier Kosher. It was the first time Ontario-produced kosher chickens were available, since Chai Poultry sold its quota to a halal producer in 2013.

On March 28, a bill to proclaim May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month passed its final reading in the House of Commons with a unanimous vote.

On March 30, the March of Return border riots began, in which Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip marched toward the border with Israel. Over 30,000 Palestinians marched on the first day and at least 15 of them were killed. Another nine were killed on April 6 and, on the deadliest day, May 14, 60 Palestinians were killed, 50 of whom were members of Hamas. The death toll led to criticism of Israel in the press, on social media and at the United Nations.

The legislative arm of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) decided that all of its new executives would be required to attend a session on anti-Semitism, following a recommendation by a committee that was created in the fall of 2017, after SSMU board member Noah Lew alleged that he was blocked from returning to the organization’s board of directors at its annual general meeting because he is Jewish.

Friends of Tzur Alfi mourn near his grave during his funeral in Mazkeret Batya on April 27, 2018. (Avi Dishi/Flash90 photo)

April 2018

• On April 2, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) released a statement about the violence in Gaza, in which it condemned Israel’s actions and called on Canada to do the same. Many Canadian journalists criticized the group for taking a political stance. Kevin Metcalfe, the CJFE’s communication co-ordinator, was fired over the affair. The CJFE walked back its statement a few days later, saying that it had overreached, but still condemned Israel for using deadly force against journalists and demonstrators.

• Opposing groups rallied outside the Israeli Consulate in Toronto on April 9. Around 80 people, led by the Jewish group IfNotNow, were protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza. The JDL organized a group of counter-protesters, who demonstrated across the street.

On April 9, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May released a statement condemning “the intentionality of the Israeli military” in “the shooting of unarmed civilians in a peaceful protest.” Similarly, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted that the Canadian government should chastise Israel and investigate its actions. Jewish organizations responded, saying that the politicians should have also criticized Hamas for its role in the conflict.

• The Niagara Muslim Family Conference, which was held on April, 14 dropped a speaker at the behest of B’nai Brith Canada and CIJA. Egyptian Imam Omar Abdelkafy was scheduled to speak, before the groups alerted the conference organizers of his history of anti-Semitism. Among other questionable statements, Abdelkafy accused Jews of planning 9/11 and of working with the Freemasons to corrupt the world.

Jews were again the most targeted group for hate crimes in Toronto in 2017, continuing a decade-long trend. Out of 186 hate crimes, Jews were the victims of 53. The vast majority of the crimes were mischief offences, such as graffiti, which represented 46 of the occurrences. There were also five incidents of uttering threats to cause bodily harm or threatening death and two involving the wilful promotion of hatred.

Three Canadian MPs called on Canada to press Hamas to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers. Liberal MP Michael Levitt, New Democrat MP Murray Rankin and Conservative MP David Sweet presented a petition in the House of Commons on April 23 that called on Ottawa to work with the United Nations to secure the release of the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul. Goldin, 23, and Shaul, 20, were killed in Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza.

On April 26, 10 young Israelis died in a flash flood, while hiking in the Judaean Desert. A rescuer said that they had been only 300 or 400 metres away from the end of their hike and they would have been safe if the flood had occurred even five minutes later. Thousands packed Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for a memorial service on April 28.

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, reveal a dedication plaque at the official opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 photo)

May 2018

• On May 1, Yair Szlak was named the new CEO of Federation CJA in Montreal, after 15 years with the organization, including acting as its director and chief development officer.

• On May 8, Trudeau announced that Canada would apologize for turning away the MS St. Louis, a ship filled with Jewish refugees that was refused entry into Cuba, the United States and Canada in 1939. Two hundred fifty-four of it passengers went on to perish in the Holocaust. Trudeau made the announcement in his keynote speech at a gala dinner marking the 30th anniversary of the March of the Living in Canada. But not everyone appreciated the apology. Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said that while she supports Trudeau’s decision to express regret for the St. Louis, the number of apologies he’s delivered diminishes his sincerity.

And retired York University professor Sally Zerker rejected the apology, saying, “It will whitewash a government that did nothing to help the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and ignored the type of anti-Semitism that was endemic in Canada until the 1970s. Ultimately, it is nothing but a shallow, empty, meaningless act.”

• Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal on May 8. Jewish groups in Canada agreed that the original deal was flawed, but many still believed that engaging in diplomacy with Iran was the best way forward.

On May 9, Toronto’s Jewish Family & Child hosted a gala to celebrate its 150th anniversary, which featured an interactive exhibit that told the story of the organization’s history, since its creation in 1868. Back then, it had a budget of a few hundred dollars, compared to over $24 million today.

On May 12, Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision contest with her song, Toy.

A cemetery in Woodbridge, Ont., called Beit Olam, opened to allow interfaith couples to be buried side-by-side. There is no biblical or talmudic prohibition against burying Jews and non-Jews together, said Rabbi Yael Splansky of Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple. However, she added, Jewish legal authorities who permit it call for “a clear perimeter to distinguish the section and to be sure that those who choose to be buried there know the makeup of the cemetery.”

The United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14. Canada’s diplomats were invited to one of the ceremonies marking the opening of the new embassy, but did not attend. Deborah Lyons, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, was back in Canada when the ceremonies were held on May 13 and 14. Her second-in-command, Deputy Head of Mission Anthony Hinton, was in Israel at the time, but did not attend the festivities. Former prime minister Stephen Harper said he agreed with the United States’ decision to move its embassy, as well as its decision to pull out of the Iran deal.

On May 16, Trudeau released a statement about the violence in Gaza that failed to mention the role that Hamas played in the situation. “Canada deplores and is gravely concerned by the violence in the Gaza Strip that has led to a tragic loss of life and injured countless people,” it read, before calling for an independent investigation. Netanyahu immediately called on Trudeau to reject that request and many Jewish groups panned the statement as not being sufficiently supportive of Israel.

Jewish-American author Philip Roth died on May 22. He was known for portraying the Jewish experience in his works, which included Portnoy’s Complaint and the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral.

On May 28, Canada and Israel announced the signing of a modernized free trade agreement at a press conference held at the Montreal headquarters of Stingray, a digital music company with strong ties to Israel. The update to the 21-year-old free-trade agreement purports to provide better access to each country’s market and includes provisions for gender equality and environmental protection.

Netta Barzilai returning home to Israel after winning the 2018 Eurovision song contest. Miri Regev said Israel should withdraw as Eurovision 2019 host if it’s not in Jerusalem. (Flash90 Photo)

June 2018

On June 3, Netanyahu ordered Israel to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA), because of fires that were started by incendiary kites and balloons flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Some critics pointed out that the PA does not control Gaza and is in a combative relationship with Hamas, which does control the strip, so penalizing the PA would likely not dissuade Hamas from launching such attacks. The decision came after June 2, when upwards of 740 acres of fields and parts of a nature reserve were burned.

Stephen Schacter, a former teacher at two Toronto-area Jewish day schools, was found guilty of possessing child pornography. He was arrested in December 2015, after he had viewed images on a public computer at the Lawrence Square employment and social services centre a few weeks earlier. Schacter faces separate charges of sexual assault, sexual interference, sexual exploitation and gross indecency. The charges relate to events that took place between the 1980s and the early 2000s.

The Progressive Conservative party won big in Jewish ridings in the Ontario provincial election on June 7, electing 76 MPPs to the 124-seat legislature, including three Jews: Gila Martow, Roman Baber and Andrea Khanjin. The NDP formed the official Opposition with 40 members, including Jewish MPP Rima Berns-McGown.

Over 250,000 people celebrated at Tel Aviv’s 20th Pride Parade on June 8, the biggest ever turnout in the event’s history. It topped the previous year’s attendance by 50,000.

Around 250,000 people participated in the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 8. (Miriam Alster/Flash90 Photo)

On June 10, Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted that he would end the Al-Quds Day rally. The tweet came three days after he was elected premier-designate and one day after the rally itself. Al-Quds Day was created by Iran in 1979 to advocate for Jerusalem’s liberation from Israeli control and is held annually in cities around the world. A report by the City of Toronto into how to stop the rally has been postponed multiple times, but is expected to be published next year.

In a 248-45 vote on June 12, parliamentarians approved a motion calling on the Canadian government to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations.” It also condemned Iran for sponsoring terrorism around the world, including in Gaza, as well as statements made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for genocide against the Jewish people.

Some Canadian Jewish groups criticized the Canadian government for not defending the Jewish state with enough force, after Canada abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning the violence in the Gaza Strip on June 13. Canada did, however, support a failed U.S. amendment that condemned Hamas for its actions.

Montreal synagogues rallied together to raise funds for firefighting equipment to donate to parts of Israel that were being targeted by incendiary kites. Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, Shaar Hashomayim, Beth Israel Beth Aaron, Shaare Zion, Beth Tikva and Adath Israel all worked on the fundraising effort.

On June 21, Sara Netanyahu was indicted for spending state money on gourmet meals – about $132,000 worth between 2010 and 2013.

On June 19, a campaign to raise $100,000 to develop curriculum materials for a program to teach genocide in Quebec schools was launched. The campaign is spearheaded by Heidi Berger, the child of two survivors, with input from the Jewish, Armenian and Rwandan communities.

On June 28, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted an American-Israeli teenager for making numerous bomb threats the year before. The 19-year-old Ashkelon native, whose name remains under a gag order in Israel, admitted to calling in some 2,000 fake bomb threats to hospitals, airlines, schools and various Jewish institutions, including Jewish community centres in Canada and the U.S., due to boredom. He was found guilty of hundreds of counts of extortion, publishing false information that caused panic, computer offences and money laundering, among other charges.

A libel suit against B’nai Brith Canada was dismissed on June 28. The judge cited Ontario’s recent legislation designed to limit SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation). The suit was brought by former Green party candidate Dimitiri Lascaris, after B’nai Brith said that he advocated for terrorists when he visited with the father of Bahaa Alayan, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli police during a stabbing attack that left three Israelis dead.

Rabbi Mordechai Green (Adalia Schweitzer photo)

July 2018

Kosher food importers say the retaliatory tariffs that Canada imposed on the United States will raise the price of some kosher foods by as much as 15 per cent. When the tariffs went into effect on July 1, kosher food consumers joined the rest of the Canadian public in facing higher prices on a variety of staples, including ketchup, mayonnaise, soup, soy sauce, pizza, nut purees, yogurt, tableware, kitchenware and paper.

On July 1, new guidelines went into effect in Quebec for how public bodies should deal with requests for accommodation on religious grounds. They make it harder for Jewish students and public-sector employees to, say, gain an exemption for a religious holiday, or be served a kosher meal. The guidelines, which were first published in May, follow on the passage of the contentious Bill 62, which is designed to foster adherence to state religious neutrality.

On July 5, Canadian student Michaela Lavis was arrested, along with other human rights activists who were conducting a “stand-in,” to try and stop bulldozers from demolishing the Palestinian-Bedouin village al-Ahmar. Lavis was released the next morning.

Thirty-three Canadian rabbis issued a public statement on July 11, calling on the federal government to suspend the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. Under the agreement, which was signed in 2004, people seeking refugee status must file their claim in the first safe country they arrive in, meaning that they cannot apply when entering through Canada’s southern border.

A trial began for two German-Canadian siblings in Munich, both of whom were charged with inciting hatred stemming from their denial of the Holocaust. Alfred Shaefer, 63, and his sister Monika, 59, produced and posted videos in which they denied the Holocaust. The Ontario Civil Liberties Association called on the Canadian government to help the siblings, angering many Jewish groups.

Rabbi Mordechai Green died in Israel on July 17. He served as the rabbi of the Adas Israel synagogue in Hamilton, Ont., for 60 years – 44 in the pulpit and 16 as rabbi emeritus.

Israel’s controversial nation-state bill was passed on July 19. It asserts that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, reduces the status of the Arabic language and alters Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora. Many Jewish organizations in the Diaspora criticized the bill, including JSpaceCanada, ARZA and the Jewish Federations of North America.

On July 21, graffiti was discovered in Toronto on a UJA sign that featured a picture of Holocaust survivor Max Eisen. The graffiti said “achtung,” which is German for “warning,” “danger” or “attention.”

Israel transported several hundred Syrian civil defence workers and their families from southwest Syria to Jordan on the night of July 21. According to Jordan’s state news outlet, the evacuees included 800 White Helmets personnel and their families. Canada pledged to take in some of the evacuees.

Tens of thousands of Israelis packed into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on July 22, to protest the exclusion of gay couples from a recently passed surrogacy law that does not extend surrogacy rights to homosexual fathers.

On July 29, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced that Canada will contribute over $50 million in new funding for Palestinians. Canadian Jewish groups warned that the funding should come with sufficient oversight, to ensure the money isn’t channelled to terrorist groups.

Act To End Violence Against Women, which has been working for decades to provide shelter, support and services to abused women and their children, announced that it was closing its doors. The organization provided full-service assistance for victims of domestic violence in the Toronto Jewish community. On July 31, the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada voted unanimously to take on two of its services: the Jewish Legal Information and Support program and a hotline that provides referrals.

In a statement on July 31, B’nai Brith Canada accused the Palestinian Postal Service Workers’ Union of supporting terrorism and “the elimination of Israel.” The statement came after the Canadian Union of Postal Workers announced in late May that it was working on a joint project with its Palestinian counterpart.

August 2018

Vivian Bercovici, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, launched a lawsuit against the federal government. She alleged that she was undermined in her post and is owed pension funds. The lawsuit seeks a total of $10 million in personal costs and damages, and nearly $32,000 in pension funds.

Meir Weinstein, the head of JDL Canada, received threats from the far-right Canadian Nationalist Front after he publicly opposed a rally in Toronto that was being planned by anti-Islamic and white nationalist groups.

Netanyahu angrily walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders on Aug. 2, when a prominent Druze activist and former IDF brigadier-general said that the controversial nation-state law threatened to turn Israel into an apartheid state.