Not easy to establish a museum

 In the article “Cash shortfall delays human rights museum” (Jan. 5), you note that the private sector’s fundraising goal for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was $150 million. When the federal government first expressed interest in making the museum a Crown corporation, it entered into an agreement in 2007 with the various stakeholders, including the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The Friends agreed to raise $105 million toward the construction and development costs. The commitment of the Friends was to deliver a cheque for $105 million by April 1, 2011. This is what the Friends did, so in fact, we met our goal of raising $105 million. Recently, when costs increased to $310 million, the museum asked the Friends to increase their goal from $105 million to $150 million. We have been steadily working on raising this amount and have raised an additional $25 million over our original goal, which in and of itself was viewed as quite ambitious. 

We will continue to seek support from the private sector so that this federal Crown corporation can open as soon as possible. Happily, our donors continue to show unwavering support and are rising to the challenge. As we have said to our supporters, no one said this would be easy, and it probably explains why this is the only new national museum established in more than 45 years. While it is definitely not for the faint of heart, the good that this museum can do definitely makes it worth the effort.

Gail Asper

National Campaign Chair

The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

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Pfefferkorn’s Holocaust memoir (1)

Eli Pfefferkorn’s powerful new Holocaust memoir, The Muselmann at the Water Cooler, tells the story of a life impacted by the Holocaust, a worldview shaped by its trauma, beyond detailing the horrors that have been painfully shared by others (“Memoir as literature,” Dec. 22). Reading it, I often felt that he concealed the terrible details of his experience, even as he openly shared his reflections on them and their relationship to our lives.

Some years ago, students at Or Chaim-Ulpanat Orot visited public and Catholic schools in Toronto and presented on the Holocaust. I asked Pfefferkorn to help guide us in creating the curriculum. Looking back, I see that the same themes that animate his writings were the very notions he encouraged the students to think about and confront – and which you raise in your column – as they thought about presenting to a non-Jewish audience. This vision added to the power and impact this program had.

Rafi Cashman


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Pfefferkorn’s Holocaust memoir (2)

You are to be commended for your extremely positive review of Eli Pfefferkorn’s book The Muselmann at the Watercooler (“Memoir as literature,” Dec. 22). However, at the end of your review, you left readers with the impression that the book is “hard reading.” Yes, the Holocaust is a difficult subject, but how can such a riveting account, one that draws in the reader from the very first page, be “hard reading”? After having read Pfefferkorn’s book, I would agree only insofar as it is a hard book to put down.

Vivian Felsen


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Misplaced nostalgia for BJCC

Although the new JCC will not be opening until 2016, it’s important to remember that the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto waited until a new, contemporary exercise facility was built before the old Bathurst Jewish Community Centre was demolished. It is currently operating on the same site (“Federation says new JCC to open in 2016,” Jan. 5). The article seems to make light of the fact that this facility is already operating at 80 per cent capacity. There seems to be a lot of misplaced nostalgia about the BJCC. The truth is that when I was using the facility as a member on numerous occasions, we never knew the temperature of the shower to expect, and we were often appalled by the rundown nature of the building. What is now available is a vast improvement over what was. 

Ed Rosenberg


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What is a Jew? (1)

Laurence M. Tanny, in his letter (Jan. 12), graciously comments on my letter, “What is a Jewish state?” (Dec. 15). This leads him to the question of “what is a Jew?” in the context of a Jewish state being subjected to the “restrictive views of the fundamentalists.” I would posit the following reply: a Jewish state should accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who has so been recognized by any one of the major streams of the Jewish religion – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist.

Sam Mitnick

Cote St. Luc, Que.

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What is a Jew? (2)

A Jew is someone who says “I am a Jew” and whose aim in life is to make the world a better place.

J. Wm. Corber

Westmount, Que.