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Shelley Faintuch Speaks about “Antisemitism Here and Now”

by Penny Jones Square,May 6, 2019


Winnipeg Friends of Israel and Temple Shalom’s presentation “Antisemitism Here and Now,” a lecture by Shelley Faintuch (former Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation and former representative of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) was very well attended, with close to eighty people in attendance on April 30, 2019.

Faintuch’s lecture was accompanied by a slide show to illustrate antisemitism’s long and harrowing history, opening with the recent New York Times (NYT) cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Trump, one so blatantly and alarmingly antisemitic that the NYT issued an apology and cut ties with the cartoon syndicate that supplied it.

Her visual representation of antisemitism’s unfathomable history contained shocking images from its origins, almost two thousand years ago, in early Christian antipathy to Judaism and the Jews to images of its various mutations over time—from the religious and economic antisemitism of the Middle Ages to the racial antisemitism of Nazism in the twentieth century. Faintuch also mentioned the New Antisemitism of anti-Zionism following the establishment of the State of Israel in the twentieth century.

Faintuch’s slide show—with its disturbing and delusional images of Jews as vipers, poisoners of wells, as devils with horns, as money lenders, and most obscene, images of the Judensau, depicting Jews eating and suckling from a pig—was a powerful portrayal of the terrifying spectre of antisemitism and its long stretch into the contemporary moment.

Faintuch presented conclusive evidence of a resurgence in antisemitism worldwide, citing the newly released 2018 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents by the League for Human Rights of B’Nai Brith Canada, which reported a 16.5 percent increase in antisemitic incidents over 2017 (an increase for the third consecutive year) as well as other alarming statistics indicating an increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S., France, Germany, and the UK. She summarized the current situation of Jews by quoting from Serge Klarsfeld, renowned Romanian-born French activist, writer, and Nazi hunter: “There is no safe place on earth right now for Jews,” adding “Anti-Jewish hate is consuming Europe at the present time.”

Remembering what happened after Kristallnacht, Faintuch concluded by reminding us: “Very few stood up and spoke out against the events. Few governments confronted the perpetrators. Few confronted the hatred expressed by the perpetrators. Few religious voices condemned the cruelty.” Therefore, what is required of us, as Faintuch put it, is to "let this week [of Holocaust remembrance] remind us of our responsibility to speak up to end the silence. We need to stand up in the face of violence. And when there is indifference, we need to shout.”

The Q & A was very animated with many expressing concern over the rise in antisemitism in the city. Moderator, Yolanda Papini-Pollock, co-founder and president of Winnipeg Friends of Israel, graciously intervened to remind everyone: "We are all on the same side here.” Sophie Gaulin, editor-in-chief of La Liberté, who moved to Winnipeg from France 16 years ago because antisemitism there had become “unbearable,” said she feels that “it has started” here and should not be disregarded. “It didn’t take long for antisemitism to become unbearable”; all it took was for people to ignore it and remain silent.

There was also concern expressed about the fallout from the BerMax incident, which Faintuch pointed out was serving to fuel existing antisemitism. And, of course, there was controversy over the recent appearance in Winnipeg of Linda Sarsour, adamant supporter of BDS and fervent Israel hater.

Thanks to Winnipeg Friends of Israel and Temple Shalom for hosting this important lecture and thanks to the many committed supporters of Israel for attending it.


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