About 70-80 people gathered for a vigil in Wolseley February 12 in response to a recent antisemitic incident that occurred in the neighborhood, as well as hate crimes that have occurred elsewhere, including the violent attack at a mosque in Quebec City.
On New Year’s Eve, a Jewish homeowner and her non-Jewish spouse on Camden street in Wolseley came home to find a rock with an anti-Semitic message written on it left near their front steps.The rock was inside a red gift bag tied with a red ribbon, and the words “Die Jew Bitch” written in red paint on one side, and a swastika the word "Einsatzgruppen" was painted on the other.The Einsatzgruppen were mobile Nazi death squads that killed Jews during the Holocaust.
Zev Rumstein, who was involved in the poster campaign, said that the idea for the vigil was that of a Wolsely woman Sally Papso. "She was the impetus for this specific event," which received press attention, including that of CTV and Global News. Karen Nast Kolb and Susan Atwell, who had who created the poster and distributed it were also part of organizing the vigil..
Sally Papso, a long time Wolseley resident was moved to “do something” when she learned about the rock with anti-Semitic messages. “A few of us got talking about this after the recent women’s march and since then after the killing of Muslim men praying at the Mosque in Quebec City. We felt we couldn’t just let these violent incidents go by without standing together as a community,” she said in a statement released before the vigil."
Rumstein estimated that about 18 people at the rally were Jewish neighbors of the couple targeted by the antisemitic incident. "Some are people I know from the Shalom Aleichem community," he said.
He noted that at the vigil mention was also made of the recent incident of last week where Chris Melnick, a former NDP MLA, found a swastika
drawn in the snow near Meadowood Drive and Ashworth Street in St Vital. Melnick wiped it out with her boot. Melnick told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that she would have been at the vigil but already had made a commitment to be a phone canvasser for the Jewish National Fund's Tu Bishvat telethon.
Rumstein, who attended the event with his wife and their two daughters spoke at the event, and told the Winnipeg Jewish Review he was pleased with the turnout and outpouring of support, given that the vigil had been organized in just a week and a half. He said that albeit the incident that had sparked the poster campaign and vigil was an antisemtiic one, it is important for people to understand that hate crimes are also directed at " Indigenous, Muslim, LBGTTQ, disabled, feminist or other commonly targeted people."
David Matas, a human rights lawyer and senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he saw value in both the poster campaign and the vigil. "I I think these actions help counter negative stereotypes and attitudes. It helps support victims and makes them feel they are not alone and that other people care about what's happening to them. It shows people aren't being passive."
Marianne Cerilli, a neighbour of the family targeted was also involved in organizing the vigil. "We like to think there are a lot of people in Wolseley who understand that we have to respond to hate events in solidarity, and that we can’t just hate the hater,” she said in a statement released before the event.
Rumstein said that the couple who were targeted by the antisemitic incident were not able to be at the vigil since they were not in town, but "they encouraged us to go ahead with it."
City Councillor for the area Cindy Gilroy spoke at the vigil. She said "I would like to thank the Wolseley community for coming together and the organizers for putting on this event. It is a great community, you put on lots of wonderful events like winter carnival and other community building events that bring neighbours together to get to know one another. Today, we speak with one voice, to stand up for each other in the face of these acts of ignorance. And that as a community it was important to work together to show the way forward through peace and understanding.”