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Rex Murphy with Top Donor Chair Larry Vickar, Tova Vickar and CJA Chair Gail Asper

A full house at Shaarey Zedek

Rex Murphy with Top Donor Chair Bob Silver and Kim Silver

Rex Murphy with Women’s Philanthropy Chairs Mira Narvey and Daniela Jacobsohn, Lion of Judah Chair Laurel Malkin, and YAD Campaign Chair Lindsay Sawyer Fay


by Rhonda Spivak October 1, 2013

Canadian commentator Rex Murphy delivered a very intelligent, sweeping, witty, and humourous address in which he intertwined biblical and modern Jewish history to formally launch the CJA Campaign before a large crowd of 550 people at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue which gave him a standing ovation.
Murphy a Catholic from Newfoundland whose education was in English literature, credited the Hebrew bible as profoundly influencing Western thought, values and philosophy and oll of Western literature.
"You (the Jewish people) have vastly enriched the human spirit and human mind," said Murphy who spoke of the "ancient testament", and the tradition of Rabbis and scholars who dealt with "words, language, text and the nature of existence."

 "Our ability to think comes out of these sources," he added, noting that " I cannot think of any other people that have carried with such great continuity, a culture,  a moral way of being" with cohesiveness for thousands of years.

Prior to Murphy's address Gail Asper, CJA chair gave an upbeat talk noting that our CJA campaign is among the most successful campaigns throughout North America when considering per capita giving. "We punch above our weight" in this regard Asper noted.

Already, the CJA has raised before the officially launch of the Campaign form "early bird" donors over $2.3 million. The 2012 campaign which raised $5, 617,000 saw a 5% increase from 2011. Asper joked that if you don't get a call for some reason, you can always call in your pledge and the CJA staff will be delighted to respond if they can overcome their shock from getting an unsolicited donation. She ended by saying the CJA slogan "Give As You Live"

Murphy, the voice of CBC Radio’s weekly national call-in program Cross Country Checkup, a weekly commentator on CBC Television’s The National and columnist for the National Post, joked with the crowd "I'm not entirely a useless person. There were a few years before my becoming a journalist."  He referred to David Suzuki as "Bishop Suzuki" and the CBC as his "shrine," with Murphy's job being to go downstairs to the shrine for  Suzuki in the CBC and "light the candles and spray the  incense."  

Murphy continued to extol the achievements of the Jewish people.

"Hermaneutics is a Jewish invention," Murphy said ( Editor's note: Hermaneutics is the theory of  interpretation of texts, especially biblical and philosophical texts), adding that "So much of  my inheritance is yours," and that "You have taught the best minds in the Western world how to think."
 "The greatest literature comes out of the text of the books," noted Murphy who said that he had recently while in his office at CBC read the Book of Jobe which is "truly amazing' and "astonishing" literature. Murphy also of how Keates had written a sonnet echoing  the biblical "story of Ruth"  written 300 years earlier. Referring to the epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608-1674), Murphy added "You cannot read Paradise Lost unless you have the most of the old testament at our fingertips."

He spoke of the Jewish people's aching connection to Jerusalem and the beauty of the phrase Psalm 137, "If I forget thee O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning.’

Murphy referred to the Holocaust as the event that "was a singularity in the moral history of the universe," and spoke of Israel as "the lifeboat for a people that was almost eradicated."  At a later point in his address he referred to Israel as "a candle in the wind. You [the Jewish people] have kept alive one of the essential ingredients of the Western world"

 Murphy, who was born in 1947, spoke of how despite the fact the cries of "Never Again"  after the Jewish people, were almost eradicated, why has it come to pass that the "only state on Earth that" that faces "eradication" is "that of the state of people who were almost eradicated."

In a talk he gave in Vancouver a couple of years ago to Hillel Students Murphy, explained the launching of Israel Apartheid Weeks on campuses was a turning point for him in motivating him  mind in defense of Israel. In that talk in Vancouver Murphy said, who referred to South Africa in the twentieth century, said “Even the Newfoundlander knows that, outside of the Nazi regime – I know the power of comparison – but outside of the Nazi regime, there was no more contemptible organization of society, than one built on the idea that a different colored skin made you either lesser a human being or not a human being at all. Apartheid, properly understood, is a mere twin of Nazism in its darkest days that decreed a genetic inheritance made you vermin. The human mind will not allow you to reach that conclusion ... and yet, here in the inherited enlightenment of the West, we have university campuses – these are the oases of reason, these are our last best hope, this is where we study from Plato and Aristotle to Schopenhauer to the present minute, this is where we train minds in judgment and discrimination and rationality, cause and effect, history, context. How can you possibly extend a cartoon of this ridiculousness and find major support among, not only the students of serious universities, but a good swath of what passes for the intelligentsia of two or three continents."

 In his talk here to launch the CJA campaign, Murphy focused on the hypocrisy of such Israel critics as the group "Queer's Against Israel Apartheid:"

"What kind of world is it where you criticize the state that would protect your kind while you make common cause with a state that would slaughter your own."

Referring to the hypocrisy of the world and the United Nations, who have done nothing to stop the slaughter in Syria with President Obama only thinking of doing something after "Assad trips a certain line that he (Obama) accidentally set."

 "I don't see the streets congested with protesting people as Assad slaughters 100,000 of his own," Murphy noted.

By way of comparison, he then compared this to the kind of scrutiny that Israel would come under. "If 100 people in Israel were killed by a prime Minister the United Nations would use teleportation to get people there."

Nearer the end of his address, Murphy spoke of how the Jewish people have preserved a commonality that is worth transmitting and   he referred to a Israel as "a candle in the wind. You [the Jewish people] have kept alive one of the essential ingredients of the mind and conscience of the Western world."

 [Editor's note: There are  two pithy statements  below that Murphy gave in his address in Vancouver as reported in the Vancouver Jewish Independent in regard to Israel and the Jewish people that   I want to leave readers with.

In that address, Murphy said of the Jewish people and Israel:

“You ended up, when it came to Israel, and the little spit of land that was given and, in 60 years, you produce a society that runs through Nobel prizes like other people get stuff out of popcorn boxes, you have medicines that you transport to the world, you are first in high-tech, you do things in agriculture, you do things in literature. There is no end and – my God, think of it – all the while, in my judgment, under threat of immediate war and, in some minds, wished-for extinction. In other words, you’re not doing it at summer camp.”

He concluded that address with a speculation that is really worth pondering.

“If tomorrow morning, every arm, every weapon, every thought of any contest in terms of blood and slaughter with Israel was laid aside completely, if every Palestinian everywhere, said, ‘No, that’s the end of it, not another bullet, not another rocket, not another stick, not another rock, and were going to ask Israel come in and do for us, in partnership, what you did for yourselves’ ... the answer is they would be over there in the afternoon with every piece of machinery and every piece of industry that they could possibly do. If it’s peace you want, we’ll stand side-by-side and we’ll build it,” Murphy said. “And then I asked what would happen if, tomorrow morning, Israel said, ‘Every gun, every jet, every bullet, everything we have, we’re throwing it out, we have nothing here to shoot and nothing here to defend us’ ... I won’t give the answer to this, but I’ll throw it up as a question. What would be the result of that experiment? The rational mind – I know I’m talking to a university audience – that is what finally came to me: that there are things going on in this world that are so hostile to the adjudication of a rational mind and a moral compass that it is intolerable to ignore it and it is demeaning to your own sense of moral well-being not to have some position on it.”]

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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