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Speech by Gustavo Zentner, President of Jewish Federation, at Manitoba Legislative Building re: Manitoba Adoption of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Nov 4, 2022

Speech delivered by Mr. Gustavo Zentner
President, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
October 27, 2022 – Manitoba Legislative Building

 

Manitoba Adoption of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

 

 

Good afternoon,

My name is Gustavo Zentner, and I am the President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the representative body of Manitoba’s Jewish community.

 

I would like to begin by extending sincere appreciation on behalf of our community,  to Premier Stefanson for inviting us to the Manitoba Legislative Building to participate in today’s announcement.

We applaud the Premier, and the Province of Manitoba for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, commonly referred to as IHRA, was established in 1998 and, today, consists of 34 member countries, each of whom recognizes that international coordination is needed to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

In 2016, IHRA member-states throughout the world adopted by consensus a working definition of antisemitism, grounded in decades of collaborative research by global experts on antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

It is supported by the United Nations, European Union, and 30 countries including Israel, United States, and Canada. In 2019, the Government of Canada adopted the IHRA definition into its Anti-Racism Strategy. Today, Manitoba joins the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick in its adoption of the definition.

 

The first step in combating antisemitism is defining it in all its forms, both traditional and contemporary. Antisemitism, like a virus, has evolved over many centuries and has taken innumerable forms. The resurgence of antisemitism in recent years, internationally and in Canada, has caused significant alarm to Jewish people around the globe.

I do not believe that us, standing here on this day is a coincidence. 4 years ago, today, in a fatal act of antisemitism, 11 Jewish community members were murdered in cold blood at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Today, we remember them, as we continue to protect life everywhere against senseless acts of hatred.

All Canadians should be deeply concerned about the alarming rise of antisemitism – because, as history has shown, the hate that starts with Jews, never ends with Jews. It is my duty, as President of the Jewish Federation to openly recognize that there are other faith organizations and communities that have also fallen victim to discrimination and hatred.

Two months ago, in August of 2022, Statistics Canada released police-reported hate crime data for 2021 which revealed that Jews remain the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in Canada.

Taking a stand against antisemitism insulates all Canadians from the threat of hate, which is unfortunately on the rise nationwide. The number of police-reported hate crimes increased 27% to 3,360 incidents last year. Compared with 2019, hate crimes have increased a staggering 72% over just two years.

As evidenced by these reports, Jewish people are not alone in facing intolerance. By fighting antisemitism, we become more adept at fighting all other forms of hate. The IHRA definition of antisemitism serves as a model to be emulated in efforts to combat other forms of xenophobia, bigotry, and hatred. We are leading these efforts so other organizations may follow.

Antisemitism has a severe impact on Jewish life in Canada and affects the way Jews live their everyday lives. Many are fearful to express their Judaism in society, in fear of becoming a target. This is a very sad situation, and unacceptable – especially in a country where we place a high value on our constitutional right for religious freedom.

Jewish people of all ages are exposed to antisemitism, including our youth, who regularly face antisemitism in their classrooms, in their peer groups, or on social media, which is frequently used as a tool to propagate antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

We are gathered here today because we reject this. Societies that accept antisemitism, or allow to it propagate unchecked, leave the door open to other forms of violent bias and the undermining of our values and democratic institutions. And thus, the ties that bind our society together begin to fall apart.

The definition with its illustrative examples addresses a range of contemporary activities and rhetoric that amount to antisemitism.

It defines making demonizing, dehumanizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews, holding Jews collectively responsible for the wrongdoings of a single Jewish person, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying the scope or fact of the Holocaust as acts of antisemitism.          

We look forward to being consulted on the rollout and adoption of IHRA into various settings. We encourage all levels of educational institutions, ranging from school years to Universities, to use IHRA as a guide for defining antisemitism and applying it to inform anti-racism, bullying and harassment policies.

The Manitoba Jewish community has played a leading role and has partnered with Manitobans and others to make this a prosperous and welcoming Province for all.

By the Province adopting this definition, it has sent a clear message that it is willing to stand up for what is right, and to ensure the continued prosperity of our community. They have drawn a line in the sand to say that antisemitism cannot and will not be tolerated.

Such announcements are the result of a great deal of preparation, and I would be remiss if I did not thank those responsible for making it possible.

First, my sincere thanks to our Premier, The Honourable Heather Stefanson. During your tenure as MLA for Tuxedo and in your various ministerial roles, and now as Premier, you have been a strong ally and friend of Manitoba’s Jewish community.

Thank you again for demonstrating your unwavering support for our community.

 

In addition, our sincere gratitude To the Honourable Andrew Smith, Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage for recognizing the importance of having this definition adopted by the Province of Manitoba. Thank you to MLA Ron Schuler for emceeing today’s announcement and for his work and friendship with our community.

Today’s announcement would not have been possible without the tireless work of our staff. Thank you to the Federation’s CEO, Elaine Goldstine, and to Adam Levy, the Federation’s Public Relations and Communications Director, for their leadership, advocacy, and support. I would also like to thank my predecessors, the Presidents of the Jewish community in advancing this process and providing leadership to our community.

I would also like to recognize the presence of Belle Jarniewski, who as a member of Canada’s federally appointed delegation to the IHRA, elaborated the definition on antisemitism.

And a very special thank you to all of you for attending today’s announcement and for carrying this message and recognition to your communities and organizations. 

Please, join me in applauding Manitoba’s recognition of the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a fundamental step to allow civil society and government to work together in our shared goal of eliminating hatred for all Manitobans.

From all of us – thank you, merci, meegwetch, and todah rabah.

Speech delivered by Mr. Gustavo Zentner
President, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
October 27, 2022 – Manitoba Legislative Building

 

Manitoba Adoption of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

 

 

Good afternoon,

My name is Gustavo Zentner, and I am the President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the representative body of Manitoba’s Jewish community.

 

I would like to begin by extending sincere appreciation on behalf of our community,  to Premier Stefanson for inviting us to the Manitoba Legislative Building to participate in today’s announcement.

We applaud the Premier, and the Province of Manitoba for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, commonly referred to as IHRA, was established in 1998 and, today, consists of 34 member countries, each of whom recognizes that international coordination is needed to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

In 2016, IHRA member-states throughout the world adopted by consensus a working definition of antisemitism, grounded in decades of collaborative research by global experts on antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

It is supported by the United Nations, European Union, and 30 countries including Israel, United States, and Canada. In 2019, the Government of Canada adopted the IHRA definition into its Anti-Racism Strategy. Today, Manitoba joins the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick in its adoption of the definition.

 

The first step in combating antisemitism is defining it in all its forms, both traditional and contemporary. Antisemitism, like a virus, has evolved over many centuries and has taken innumerable forms. The resurgence of antisemitism in recent years, internationally and in Canada, has caused significant alarm to Jewish people around the globe.

I do not believe that us, standing here on this day is a coincidence. 4 years ago, today, in a fatal act of antisemitism, 11 Jewish community members were murdered in cold blood at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Today, we remember them, as we continue to protect life everywhere against senseless acts of hatred.

All Canadians should be deeply concerned about the alarming rise of antisemitism – because, as history has shown, the hate that starts with Jews, never ends with Jews. It is my duty, as President of the Jewish Federation to openly recognize that there are other faith organizations and communities that have also fallen victim to discrimination and hatred.

Two months ago, in August of 2022, Statistics Canada released police-reported hate crime data for 2021 which revealed that Jews remain the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in Canada.

Taking a stand against antisemitism insulates all Canadians from the threat of hate, which is unfortunately on the rise nationwide. The number of police-reported hate crimes increased 27% to 3,360 incidents last year. Compared with 2019, hate crimes have increased a staggering 72% over just two years.

As evidenced by these reports, Jewish people are not alone in facing intolerance. By fighting antisemitism, we become more adept at fighting all other forms of hate. The IHRA definition of antisemitism serves as a model to be emulated in efforts to combat other forms of xenophobia, bigotry, and hatred. We are leading these efforts so other organizations may follow.

Antisemitism has a severe impact on Jewish life in Canada and affects the way Jews live their everyday lives. Many are fearful to express their Judaism in society, in fear of becoming a target. This is a very sad situation, and unacceptable – especially in a country where we place a high value on our constitutional right for religious freedom.

Jewish people of all ages are exposed to antisemitism, including our youth, who regularly face antisemitism in their classrooms, in their peer groups, or on social media, which is frequently used as a tool to propagate antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

We are gathered here today because we reject this. Societies that accept antisemitism, or allow to it propagate unchecked, leave the door open to other forms of violent bias and the undermining of our values and democratic institutions. And thus, the ties that bind our society together begin to fall apart.

The definition with its illustrative examples addresses a range of contemporary activities and rhetoric that amount to antisemitism.

It defines making demonizing, dehumanizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews, holding Jews collectively responsible for the wrongdoings of a single Jewish person, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying the scope or fact of the Holocaust as acts of antisemitism.          

We look forward to being consulted on the rollout and adoption of IHRA into various settings. We encourage all levels of educational institutions, ranging from school years to Universities, to use IHRA as a guide for defining antisemitism and applying it to inform anti-racism, bullying and harassment policies.

The Manitoba Jewish community has played a leading role and has partnered with Manitobans and others to make this a prosperous and welcoming Province for all.

By the Province adopting this definition, it has sent a clear message that it is willing to stand up for what is right, and to ensure the continued prosperity of our community. They have drawn a line in the sand to say that antisemitism cannot and will not be tolerated.

Such announcements are the result of a great deal of preparation, and I would be remiss if I did not thank those responsible for making it possible.

First, my sincere thanks to our Premier, The Honourable Heather Stefanson. During your tenure as MLA for Tuxedo and in your various ministerial roles, and now as Premier, you have been a strong ally and friend of Manitoba’s Jewish community.

Thank you again for demonstrating your unwavering support for our community.

 

In addition, our sincere gratitude To the Honourable Andrew Smith, Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage for recognizing the importance of having this definition adopted by the Province of Manitoba. Thank you to MLA Ron Schuler for emceeing today’s announcement and for his work and friendship with our community.

Today’s announcement would not have been possible without the tireless work of our staff. Thank you to the Federation’s CEO, Elaine Goldstine, and to Adam Levy, the Federation’s Public Relations and Communications Director, for their leadership, advocacy, and support. I would also like to thank my predecessors, the Presidents of the Jewish community in advancing this process and providing leadership to our community.

I would also like to recognize the presence of Belle Jarniewski, who as a member of Canada’s federally appointed delegation to the IHRA, elaborated the definition on antisemitism.

And a very special thank you to all of you for attending today’s announcement and for carrying this message and recognition to your communities and organizations. 

Please, join me in applauding Manitoba’s recognition of the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a fundamental step to allow civil society and government to work together in our shared goal of eliminating hatred for all Manitobans.

From all of us – thank you, merci, meegwetch, and todah rabah.

 
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