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Dr. Gem Newman

Editorial: Benarroch Comments On Dr. Gem Newman's anti-Israel Tirade and Significant Questions That Arise

Newman's Social Media accounts show animus-Matthew Bzura Incoming PARIM President Lodges Formal Complaint, as do atleast two others

by Rhonda Spivak, May 26,2024

President of  U of M Michael Benarroch made a statement to a small group of community members on May 24,2024 that has been posted on May 27 on U of M News regarding Dr. Gem Newman's validectory speech.In this stetement which Benarroch criticized Newman's speech and said U of M had to do better. Benarroch wrote:

"I am and always have been a fierce defender of free speech. As the president of a university, I am keenly aware of my – our – obligation to protect this fundamental freedom.  But with that freedom comes responsibility, and it is critically important for free speech to coexist with the protection of human rights. I fear that the way one perspective is being expressed is resulting in another group experiencing hate.

Simply put, UM needs to do better."


Benarroch's full response of May 24 can be found at the end of this article.


In his valedictory speech on graduating from the Max Rady College of Medicine ,Newman accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and health care facilities in Gaza and causing famine and disease. He called for an immediate cease-fire, without calling for the release of the hostages held by Hamas, and referred to Israel’s actions as genocidal, without any mention whatsoever of Hamas as having any agency in the conflict.He did not at all even acknowledge the suffering or trauma of victims and survivors on the Israeli side of the equation

On Oct 12, Dr. Newman arguably showed animus towards Jews/Zionists  when he retweeted a post 5 days after the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust that said “I hate atrocities but I love atrocities in response to these atrocities.” Further, Dr. Newman also liked a post that trivialized Hamas raped Israeli Jews in its attacks on Oct 7. The post stated, “Israel clumsily weaponized rape claims, choosing to launch in the lead up to Int. Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. Its campaign was cringe worthy, led by fascist war mongers, heavy handed, a disservice to victims of rape everywhere."


All doctors have the duty to provide care and medical services to everyone in this province, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, religion or political belief. The question arises whether those who are Jewish, Israeli, or Zionist (in that they believe that the Jewish people have a right to self -determination in their ancestral homeland) may now reasonably fear that they will receive lesser care due to their background or political beliefs? 

If a Jewish person came to see Dr. Gem Newman wearing an "I love Israel” t-shirt, or a Star of David, or had an Israeli accent, or reported that they would be travelling to Israel or that they had a son in the IDF, would Dr. Gem Newman ’s anti-Israel views about the war in Gaza factor into the way he may deliver care to them? Would he behave as a  doctor first or an activist first? A Jew going to see him might well reasonably fear, for example, that he may be slower to order a needed diagnostic test, be impatient with them, be more hurried in examining them, not return their phone calls etc?

If a Zionist/Jewish woman came to Dr. Newman alleging she had been raped, how would Dr. Newman treat her, in light of his social media account suggesting he trivializes the plight of Israeli Jewish women who were raped in the Hamas attacks?

Dr. Newman also doubled down on what he did at convoation by writing on X on May 22, that "Every platform is an appropriate platform to call for an end to genocide." Does this extend to  patient consults, consults with colleagues, scientific papers ? Does this means if a Zionist/Jew comes to see him to get a vaccination before their trip to Israel, Newman would make them hear that Israel is committing genocide? Afterall, according to Newman's words, every platform is an appropriate platform for him to insert his views ?

On May 23, Matthew Bzura, a Polish-Canadian, who is incoming President of the Professional Association of Residents and Interns of Manitoba [PARIM] announced that he has submitted a formal complaint to the University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine Office of Professionalism against Dr. Newman alleging “ various policy breaches of: unprofessional behavior, inappropriate social media use, and ethnoreligious vilification.” (Bzura’s full statement on this matter can be read at the end of this article).   

It is also to be noted that Dr. Gem Newman used his valedictory speech not to speak out against the atrocities committed against the Ukrainians by Russia, for example, or focus on any other conflict which has caused massive civilian losses (such as the civil war in Syria, which has greatly affected Palestinians) but he chose only to single out Israel. Based on this, can we worry that he would single out for lesser care any supporter of Israel or anyone who identifies with Israel as part of their overall Jewish identity?


These questions are significant as Dr. Gem Newman’s views that Israel is committing genocide may well be shared by the majority of his graduating classmates many of whom gave him a standing ovation, and these views have now been heard via social media by virtually everyone who is now enrolled in medical school or will enrol in 2025. Dr. Newman’s views in this regard may well be mainstream in the medical profession going forward. The effects of the war in Gaza will be for felt for a long time and Israel’s conflict against Iranian proxies  in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah and Iran itself are not likely to end anytime soon. Will this mean that increasingly Jews/Israelis/Zionists will feel vulnerable and may reasonably fear that they could receive lesser medical care than others?


Of course it was foreseeable that Jews, Israelis and Zionists (both Jewish and non-Jewish) would feel disrespected by Dr. Newman's terribly unbalanced comments at the convocation. Half of the Jews in the world live in Israel, such that most Winnipeg Jews have family or friends in Israel who have been negatively impacted by Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks. Some have relatives who were murdered in the attacks, or who miraculously survived the Nova festival but will suffer from long term psychological harm. Others have family or friends that are serving in the IDF (since Israel has a people’s army) or are among the thousands who have been injured in battle, and will be permanently disabled. Others have family or friends who have been displaced from the Gaza envelope or northern Israel due to Hezbollah attacks and reasonably wonder if they will ever be able to go back to their homes. 


Dr. Newman didn’t mention Iran’s imperialistic drive for hegemony in the Middle East and against the West, even though experts say that in defiance of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, within the next couple weeks Iran could reach its goal of producing weapons grade uranium. It doesn't appear that Dr. Newman cares about this menacing development. 


At the convocation ceremony, the Max Rady College of Medicine conferred an honourary degree to Dr. Graham Sher (Order of Canada), who flew in from Ottawa to accept this honour. Dr. Sher is Jewish and a prominent member of the Ottawa Jewish community, but he was disrespected by having to hear Dr. Newman's diatribe. 


Dr. Gem Newman’s area of interest is in the field of robotics. Israel has had many innovations in this field. Will Dr.Newman in the future use any of  these technologies or collaborate with any Israelis in producing further innovations in the field of robotics? And ask yourself whether Dr. Newman would  encourage or discourage students in the medical field from going on exchange programs in Israel ?

The Jews in the Faculty of Medicine who graduated on May 16 have been disrespected by Dr. Newman's valedictory speech, even though these students had a right to celebrate their accomplishments, hard work and perseverance at their graduation without having the ceremony ruined by Dr. Newman misusing his podium to go on an anti-Israel rant. Newman's social media account from Oct 12 is hostile to Jews and arguably foments violence against them.  


It should also be noted that Dr. Newman in his valedictory speech called upon those listening to his speech "to oppose settler colonialism, both at home and abroad," in an attempt to link the plight of Palestinians to that of Indeginous peoples in North America, thereby tapping into our collective guilt and transferring this to the Middle East. It is not the case, however, that Israeli Jews/Zionists are colonizers, as Jews in fact are indigenous to the Holy Land and have lived there for  3000 years continously. Further, about 50% of Israeli Jews are refugees or descendants of refugees that were expelled forcefully from surrounding Arab countries, and are not even from Europe, let alone colonizers. Dr. Newman's comparison is thus a false one.


This episode with Dr. Newman has shocked many members of the Jewish community, but really given all the other anti-Israel discriminatory activity that has been occurring on U of M campus, we ought not to have been surprised.  Remember that the U of M Faculty of Nursing chose to throw the IHRA definition of antisemitism by the wayside and re-instate the Palestinian nursing student who compared Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis.


We might ask where was the voice of Itai Zutra, a lecturer in Judaic studies who opposed the speech by Mike Fegelman of Honest Reporting who delivered the Jewish Heritage Centre’s  Kanee Lecture since it would prevent “unity.”  How come Zutra has not condemned Dr. Gem Newman for using his podium to divide, not unify students graduating in medicine, enabling all of them to celebrate their accomplishments together as a class ? 


Ernest and Evelyn Rady donated 30 million dollars to the U of M, the largest gift in the history of the U of M, to establish the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Centre and to name the Collage of Medicine after Ernest's father, Maxwell Rady.  Ernest Rady’s letter to U of M taking Dr. Newman to task is reprinted in full at the end of this article. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Peter Nickerson’s statement indicating Newman's political speech was not appropriate for a valedictory speech is also at the end of this article.


Statement by UM president Michael Benarroch on May 24, 2024:

Last week, UM celebrated the convocation of 106 new physicians from the Max Rady College of Medicine. What should have been a joyous occasion for all graduating students was tarnished by the valedictorian’s address. Valedictory addresses should celebrate the accomplishments of the students in the class and provide inspiration to help motivate the graduates in their future careers.  The address should speak to all the students in the class.  Valedictory addresses are not political platforms for one student or a group of students to express their views, no matter how important or relevant the issue.  Universities, including the University of Manitoba, provide many platforms of expression and I believe this is why we have seen so much political activism on our campuses in the past few months.
As President, I have felt it important that our university maintains neutrality about the complex geopolitical situation in Israel and Gaza.  Universities are not monolithic institutions made up of groups of people sharing homogeneous perspectives and experiences.  This neutrality however should not be interpreted as inattention, nor should it be mistaken for an acceptance of antisemitism, or any other form of racism.  I have been carefully watching and listening to what has been happening on our campuses – and I am distressed by the escalation in both activity and rhetoric that is causing pain and harm in our community and not moving the world closer to peace in the middle east. 
Many universities, including UM, have long and painful histories of systemic antisemitism. You don’t have to look much further than our medical college’s notorious quota system – something our college’s very namesake, Max Rady, had to overcome to gain entry – to find an example. I am saddened to acknowledge that antisemitism continues to exist on our campuses today. I hear far too often from students and colleagues who do not feel UM’s campuses are safe for them.
I am and always have been a fierce defender of free speech. As the president of a university, I am keenly aware of my – our – obligation to protect this fundamental freedom.  But with that freedom comes responsibility, and it is critically important for free speech to coexist with the protection of human rights. I fear that the way one perspective is being expressed is resulting in another group experiencing hate.
Simply put, UM needs to do better.
What I have found shocking in the communications directed at UM in the aftermath of the valedictory speech, is how unaware people are of the systemic antisemitism that exists in the world. Israel is not above criticism, but the insidious nature of antisemitism is such that many cannot even recognize it for what it is.  As a university, we can and will bring our resources to bear to offer much-needed education to our students, faculty and staff.  I commit UM to develop additional anti-racism education resources including antisemitism training for our students, faculty and staff – an effort that is already underway. This training will be made mandatory for students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
I wish I could guarantee you that this type of occurrence will not happen again at our university Unfortunately, I fear that there will continue to be hard times ahead. 
I have heard from many people that they are questioning their association with UM in light of recent events.  While I fully understand why you might feel this way, now, more than ever, UM needs you. As President, I rely on UM alumni and friends to add to the rich diversity of thought and perspective that help us navigate challenging times as an institution. I realize there are many organizations and individuals who are hurt and angry, asking you to back off from your support for universities right now.  I’m asking you to lean in. With your voice at the table, we can be stronger, more inclusive, and more responsive. Your voice and the benefit of your wisdom and experience can help us effectively confront antisemitism and grow understanding.  
If you would like to discuss this, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I would welcome hearing from you.
Michael Benarroch, Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building
66 Chancellors Circle
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2




Like many others on May 16th I was taken aback, hurt, and ultimately disappointed in the words spoken by Dr. Gem Newman during the University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine valedictorian address. Dr. Newman’s words were inappropriate, divisive, and absent of nuanced contextual history as was his decision to use our collective home at the University of Manitoba as a political apparatus to incite ethnoreligious vilification and advance a prejudiced narrative. Freedom of expression does not equate to freedom from consequence.

In his recent public statements, Dr. Newman would have us believe that he holds moral authority urging us to “join the right side of history”. Yet, the families of innocent October 7th victims had not yet begun mourning their loved ones before Dr. Newman started engaging social media posts that mocked their peril. This, along with his engagement of a variety of other disrespectful, troubling, and harmful posts have uncloaked Dr. Newman’s failure of character, lack of authenticity, and disturbing personal interests. It is not my intention to cause undue harm to readers by reposting these examples, but instead to provide some context into the origins of Dr. Newman’s recent address.

During a time when we are seeing very public demonstrations of intimidation flavoured with covert and overt antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses across North America I am sincerely concerned about the safety and well-being of the Manitoban resident physician learners whom I will be representing in the coming year in my capacity as PARIM President. In his address, Dr. Newman sought to publicly shame and disrespect our well-intentioned and hard-working multi-faith medical community including the University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine, Canadian Medical Association, Doctors Manitoba, and the Professional Association of Resident and Interns of Manitoba (PARIM) – organizations through which resident physicians play a crucial role in caring for their patients and colleagues.

As a Polish-Canadian with deep roots to the atrocities of the second world war and holocaust, I have become far too familiar with the concept that “hatred retreats, but never dies”. Manitoba knows far too well the darkness of those words wherein an ethnoreligious quota system was established in the 1930s-40s to actively prevent admission of Jews, Poles, and Slavic peoples to the Faculty of Medicine. Ethnoreligious vilification will continue to recur if our complicity allows it to. There are those who have suggested that I remain silent, but I will not. It is up to well-meaning individuals, communities, and leaders from all walks of life to stand together and categorically denounce any and all actions that seek to divide and diminish us.

This is why I have submitted a formal complaint to the University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine Office of Professionalism against Dr. Newman for his various policy breaches of: unprofessional behavior, inappropriate social media use, and ethnoreligious vilification. To be clear, I do not wish ill will against Dr. Newman. On the contrary, my hope is that this experience and process may provide him and all of us with an opportunity for humility, healing, and growth. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic – and we’ll change the world.”


 Ernest Rady Letter Via Email May 20,2024

University of Manitoba
Dr. Michael Benarroch, President and Vice-Chancellor
Dr. Peter Nickerson, Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
Re: Max Rady College of Medicine Convocation Speech by Valedictorian
Michael and Peter:
I write to you today because I was both hurt and appalled by the remarks the valedictorian, Gem Newman, gave at last week’s Max Rady College of Medicine convocation, and I was extremely disappointed in the University’s inadequate response. I have been fortunate in my life to be able to support the causes close to my heart, including the University of Manitoba. As you know, when Evelyn and I donated $30 million to the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in 2016, that gift was in honor of my parents, and in particular, the gift to the College of Medicine was in honor of my father, Maxwell Rady. Newman’s speech not only dishonored the memory of my father, but also disrespected and disparaged Jewish people as a whole, including the Jewish students who were in attendance at that convocation – some of whom I’ve heard from.
My father, born Avraham (Hebrew for Abraham) Radiskevich, immigrated to Manitoba from Russia in 1893. He, like so many other Jews, fled religious persecution, seeking a better life in Canada. He was lucky. Millions of others – whether during the Russian pogroms, the Holocaust, or the countless other purges of my people throughout history – were not so fortunate. Those horrors were made possible because of a set of beliefs (stereotypes and tropes) so entrenched and pervasive as to be taken as fact.
That same set of beliefs allowed the University of Manitoba to justify its decision to impose admissions quotas to keep Jews out. Despite those quotas, my father was one of the very few of his faith to be admitted to the University’s medical school, which is now named in his honor.
And yet, the University allowed the Max Rady College of Medicine’s valedictorian to spew these hateful lies to a captive audience, and now posts that antisemitic rhetoric on its website for all to see. And the University’s only response is a lukewarm message posted elsewhere on its website about differing opinions and appropriateness of setting for expressing such “opinions.”
Having seen where this kind of speech (and the excuses made for it) have led in the past, I cannot be silent. When I make a gift to an institution, I do it because I believe in that institution and I trust its governing body to do important, significant, and good work with that money. I therefore make it a point not to intervene or tell an institution what it should or should not do. But in this instance, by remaining silent, I would be complicit. So I am speaking out now because I must. Because so many like Gem Newman and the students cheering in the audience and the University itself, whose response to what is happening on its campus has been inadequate, may not even realize all the realities of the situation. The issues are far too complex for a mere letter, and I should not have to be the one to point this out; nonetheless, apparently it bears emphasizing. It is very easy for individuals like Mr. Newman to spout slogans and quips like “settler colonialism” and “genocidal war,” but if they do not take the time to understand the very long, complex, and nuanced history behind what is happening in the world today, then not only are they intellectually dishonest, but they are perpetuating the same harms that have existed for centuries. Those words are not political opinion. They are hate speech and they are lies. They espouse the same age-old prejudices about Jewish omnipotence and thirst for domination that have been used for centuries to justify the atrocities committed against this religious group, which makes up less than 0.2% of the world’s population and 1.4% of Canada’s.
By failing to call out Gem Newton’s words for what they are, the University is no better.
Having failed to vet the valedictorian’s speech in advance (despite the patent risk that something like this would likely occur, given what has happened at other universities), I beg that the University of Manitoba step up and finally do the right thing. Take down the convocation video and do not repost it unless the valedictorian’s entire speech is removed. Post a revised letter from the dean, not only on UM News, but on the same page as the edited video. Condemn, in no uncertain terms, Gem Newman’s remarks. Acknowledge that they were not only inaccurate, but flat-out lies, that they were hurtful to the University’s Jewish students and all people of the Jewish faith, and that the remarks do not have a place in any setting at the University. Denounce antisemitism in all forms it takes, even in its latest iteration as espoused by your valedictorian.
Advocating for the protection of one group of people, while in the same breath calling for the destruction and elimination of another, is not advocacy. It is hate. It is the very opposite of the words that your graduates spoke last week when they recited the Physician’s Pledge, vowing not to permit considerations of creed and ethnic origin to intervene between their duty and their patient.
Be as bold as you tell your students to be. Do the right thing: Speak out unequivocally. Take action. Do not be like all of those who came before you, acquiescing to prejudice and hatred because you do not want to ruffle feathers, or worse, because you believe it is justified.
Ernest Rady
Cc: Anne Mahon, Chancellor

Max Rady College of Medicine statement on valedictorian addressMay 17, 2024 — 

Yesterday, we celebrated the convocation of 106 new physicians. We came together with our friends and family to celebrate a diverse group of individuals who are beginning their career as doctors.

Part of our convocation tradition in the Max Rady College of Medicine is to hear an address from the class valedictorian. This has historically been an encouraging, congratulatory message and not a political platform. The speech is an honour and is meant to highlight, showcase and celebrate the academic excellence, resiliency and determination of every student, no matter their background.

I have heard from individuals who were present yesterday and who were disappointed and alarmed by the political message in the valedictorian’s address. I share these concerns. I, too, am disappointed that the address was delivered in a way that didn’t represent all students and that was disrespectful to some audience members who were there to celebrate and be celebrated. This isn’t the purpose of a valedictorian address and the speech should have better reflected shared experiences, successes and a commitment to serve all communities.

The valedictorian was expressing his own views, and this was not a message vetted or endorsed in any way by the College.

The University of Manitoba is steadfast in its commitment to freedom of expression; both speech and counter-speech are equally protected. However, freedom of expression has limits and comes with responsibilities. It is my view as Dean that a convocation address is different than a classroom setting, different than an opinion piece in a newspaper – it is an academic celebration for a diverse community. Statements made in this address were divisive and inflammatory. They should be taken as the views of one student, and do not reflect the views of the College nor the diverse perspectives of its students.

As we continue our convocation events, may we be mindful of the diversity of our community, our common humanity, and the purpose of these celebrations.

Dr. Peter Nickerson
Vice-Provost (Health Sciences)
Dean, Max Rady College of Medicine
Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba 



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