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Letter from Aviva Cohen To Adam Bronstone, Ceo of Jewish Federation Re: Tragedy in Har Nof and His Response

December 11, 2014
















Letter from Aviva Cohen To Adam Bronstone: Tragedy in Har Nof





Friday November, 2014





Dear Dr. Bronstone,







I felt it was important to send this message to you in order for you to be able to appreciate my feelings regarding the recent terror attacks in Israel, with the massacre in Har Nof only just befalling the Jewish people a few days ago.






I'm sure you know the facts. Two East Jerusalem Arab residents entered a shul in Har Nof, an uncontested area that is a peaceful community of Orthodox Jewish residents. These vile terrorists, shot, stabbed, beheaded, dismembered, maimed, wounded, and terrified a group of men and boys, all of whom were standing in silent devotion to Hashem, praying for peace, sanctifying Hashem's name.





In the course of the violent attack, four holy souls were murdered. More than two dozen children have been left fatherless. Four wives are in a state of shock and grief having lost their husbands, their life partners. A fearless defender of the people of Israel, a Druze police officer was slain, putting his life on the line to save the lives of others. This man paid the ultimate price, dying a hero and leaving behind a heartbroken wife and infant daughter who will never know him.




Many others were wounded, many critically. Lives for these people will never be the same. Some have brain damage from blows of an axe to the head. Others had body parts hacked away with cleavers. It was bloody and horrifying and traumatic. Men and boys who had witnessed the awful events of that day may never recover from the horrors that they can't unsee.




The tragedy of this day is overwhelming. To add to that is the carnage that the Jewish people have been subject to in the past several weeks. All over Israel, as well as abroad, completely innocent people have encountered such horrific acts that it pains me to detail them. A terrorist drove into a crowd of people at the light rail and killed a 3 month old baby who was brought to the Kotel that day for the first time. An off duty soldier was stabbed at a station in Tel Aviv while talking on the phone to his girlfriend. A young woman waiting at a bus stop was hit by a careening car and then, once down on the ground, the terrorist jumped out of his vehicle and stabbed her to death. The three teenagers in June were just yeshiva students waiting for a tremp. They were murdered in the back seat of a car carrying two terrorists who shot them point blank, in cold blood and then hid their bodies.






After these events that have reduced the strongest officers and first responders to tears and incomprable sadness, the insult was added to the injury by seeing biased, unsympathetic news reporting, the facts either sparse or blatantly incorrect. Some stories didn't merit reporting at all. The UN, The President of the United States, and many other representatives of countries around the world have remained silent or found it just to condemn Israel.



I'd like to know, where is the response to these events from our own community? Aside from a brief link on the Federation website, why has the Winnipeg Jewish Community remained silent while our homeland is under siege and our people are being terrorized? Has community wide tehillim been recited? Has a fundraiser been established for the widows and fatherless children who have an unsure future filled with hardship ahead of them?



I recall a vocal and visual response from the Winnipeg Jewish Community in regards to such things as tsunami relief or interfaith panels on coexistance in the past. I think it's wonderful to put forth a hand in helping and in comfort to other parts of the world in difficult times and I find it noble yet naive to believe that interfaith panel discussions with other world religions will bring forth any resolutions. The hate is out there. The anti-semitism is growing. The voices are louder and bolder than ever.



People hate us. The "free speech" on university campuses, the rantings of lunatics online. You don't have to go far to hear about hatred for the Jewish people. However, you have to search long and hard to hear the connection that we share with our own people in Israel or in other communities in Europe that are also targeted by terrorism. Where is our outcry? Our compassion? Our solidarity? Where is our commitment to speak out against blatant anti-semitism? Hate speech is just a step away from acting on it. No one is safe and playing to the cameras, making nice on stage or on missions with handshakes and camera ops will not bleach the hatred from their hearts.



The time for being nice and making friends is over. Judaism is our badge of honour and distinction in the world. We aren't supposed to blend in, we were meant to stand apart. This false preception of coexistance and the lack of Jewish education, the lack of Torah values, both taught and learned is what is diluting the ancient connection that we have with our people and our homeland. We should have heard outcry from our Jewish community leaders after each and every one of the acts of terror that we have suffered. We should be in tears. We should be in mourning.




Why is the Winnipeg Jewish community silent?



 Aviva Cohen














First, I want to let you know that, for whatever reasons, I did not directly receive this email of yours.  Had I received it (in my proper inbox) I of course would have responded to you as soon as possible. Having said that, I do hope that you received the email that I sent out a few days after the tragedy, which went to the entire community. Unlike the many official statements that came from our national organizations (all which expressed great sorrow, sympathy and solidarity in the light of the attack), my email was not a statement. It was a personal comment of grief for those who lost their lives in the attack, and for the families that have been left behind without their loved ones. It was personal, and at times when I wrote the email I was at a great loss for words after having watched the news for two days straight, and not being able to fully conjure up the proper words to say, to friends and my community. If you did not receive this email, I will forward it to you this week as soon as possible. In this email, I expressed great rage for the attacks that have taken place in Israel over a two week period, where we have also seen a three month old baby lose its life. In this email we led people to our website to see what our national bodies have said about these attacks, and to allow people to express their sense of loss through our website.  Having said that, we as a local federation follow the lead of our national bodies that have substantial representation on the ground in Israel. If there was an indication from our Israeli sources that there was the need to open up a 'mailbox' and receive funds for the families, it is something we would have strongly considered. No such request was made, and since most federations do not have direct Israeli contacts, we do follow the lead of our national bodies, that do have these links. Further, we did send out a request to our synagogues to hold prayers on behalf of those who have lost their lives as victims of terror, as a Shabbat of Solidarity.









Having said all of that, I want to speak to your larger issues. Yes, there is hate out there in our community, and throughout the world. Yes, there are lunatics spewing anti-Semitic rants on the internet, and in public spaces and universities and we, locally, nationally and internationally through our agencies, partners and allies are all working very hard, in front and behind the scenes to counter such hatred. This summer, as you may well know, the Federation held an outdoor/public rally in support of Israel downtown by the Human Rights Museum and another rally inside the Asper Campus. The former had over 150 people attending, waving Israeli flags and singing songs in support of Israel, and at the campus there were over 600 people from across the entire community. And, there were the voices of our non-Jewish friends, showing support both for us locally and Israel. And these friends come through the hard work of co-existence and inter-faith community relations engagement that allow us to show the 'haters' that we are not alone in our love of Israel, and they (the haters) will not defeat us - not now, and not in the future, because there are too many of us who do love Israel. And we are active on campus defending our Jewish students, and ensuring that they are safe and promoting our love of Israel to the entire university community. And we are, as always, planning missions to Israel so that we can show, on the ground, our support of Israel by being there, and contributing to the Israeli economy. We have not been silent in our defense and support of Israel, and we will continue to be loud in this support of Israel.







I want to thank you for your passion, energy and concern for Israel, and I assure you that we at the Federation are as concerned about the State of Israel and its people as you are, and are working every day to this end. As we chanted outside the museum - 'Am Israel Chai!





With thanks,


Adam Bronstone 





[Editor's note: Below is the e-blast Adam Bronstone sent to a Federation distribution list re the Har Nof murders on Nov 21, 2014] 






A Response to Terror in Israel

Description: Image removed by sender.

Dear Friends and Community Members,

Regardless of your personal, political, religious or other take on the state of the politics of the Middle East, we can all agree that over the course of the last few weeks we have been witness to the unfortunate loss of Israeli life through senseless acts of terror, culminating in a most brutal attack on a synagogue and its worshipers this week, leaving five Israelis dead and others injured. The sheer brutality of this act – in a house of prayer, while people were praying to G-d, and in a manner that simply defies humanity – has most of us shaking our heads and wondering how such an act of terror could take place, and when will it stop.

Both of our umbrella organizations – Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Federations of Canada – have publicly expressed the shock and horror that we all feel, and sent our collective sympathies to the loved ones of those who have been killed. Our federal government also has expressed similar thoughts, and we as the local federation whose mission is to engender a sense of ‘Klal Israel’ (“World Jewry”) between this Jewish community and Israel, want to go on record and also express our outrage at these attacks, and our heartfelt condolences to our brothers and sisters in Israel who are mourning the loss of their family members.

‘Kol Israel Arevim Ze L’Ze’ – ‘All Jews are responsible for one another’ – cannot simply be a slogan; it has to be how we as Jews around the world live. I encourage everyone who is as shocked at these events as I am to put our Israeli family in your thoughts and prayers, andexpress your support for our brothers and sisters through a variety of avenues:

  • Public statements of support for Israel and all Israelis can be found on the Federation website. This page will be updated on a regular basis, so please bookmark the link and return to it to be updated on Middle East-related news.
  • If you would like to express your thoughts on this issue, the Federation has created a blog for community members to post their sentiments of support. I ask everyone to be mindful of their comments.
  • Our national advocacy organization, The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, is encouraging synagogues across the country to make this Shabbat one of Solidarity. Information is being sent to our rabbinical partners across the city. Stay tuned for more information from your respective synagogue.
  • The Government of Canada has expressed its support for the State of Israel in the wake of this terror attack. Please contact your local MP to express your support of the Canadian Government’s position.
  • Keep up-to-date on this and other situations through the following news websites:
    The Jerusalem PostYnetnewsHaaretzIsrael 21CCanadian Jewish News.

Like all of you, I hope for a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbours, and long for the day when ‘…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ Isaiah 2:3-4

Adam Bronstone
Chief Executive Officer



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