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Avi Posen to discuss “Engaging the Next Generation of Jews Through Media” at Limmud

Avi & Illana Posen,
with newborn Lielle

By BERNIE BELLAN In 2019 former Gray Academy educator Avi Posen, along with his wife, the former Illana Minuk, made aliyah to Israel, where Avi began working for an organization know as “Open Dor Media” and Illana began a four year medical program at the Technion in Haifa. (You can read about Avi’s work with Open Dor Media at http://jewishpostandnews.ca/15-news/the-cms/537-how-former-gray-academy-instructor-avi-posen-came-to-take-a-central-role-in-offering-online-education-for-jewish-schools.)

On March 6, Avi will be one of the presenters during Limmud, which will once again be held completely online
Recently we sent Avi a series of questions about his upcoming presentation. Following are the questions and Avi’s answers:
JP&N: Are you still working for “Open Dor Media”?
Avi: Absolutely!

JP&N:  If so, are you still involved with “Unpacked for Educators”?
Avi: More than ever! My main role within our organization is working on our Unpacked for Educators website which includes the building of curriculum and educational resources as well as liaising with our educator community around the world. This year I’m facilitating our partner school program in partnership with Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools in which we have 70 partner schools from 11 countries from across the religious and political spectrum. I run monthly webinars for the educators, we offer coaching sessions and help them incorporate our content into their teaching.

JP&N: I wrote a fairly detailed story about what you were doing back in August 2020. At the time everything was online. Now that in person learning has resumed, has that made any difference to how you engage with students?
Avi: Back when everything was online, educators were looking for resources and media that they could use in their virtual classrooms. We’re grateful that they found us and since returning to the classroom, the number of educators and educational institutions using our content has only grown. Good education is good education and our videos, articles, podcasts and wide array of educational resources about Israel, Jewish history and Jewish identity fill a need in the Jewish educational community whether virtually or in person. In the last couple of years we have pumped out a plethora of new content: podcasts, video series about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, antisemitism, the Shoah, the Power of Judaism and more. Last year, we ran our 2nd year of Israel Pursuit, the Israeli history and culture version of the International Bible Quiz in which we had over 12,000 students register from 13 countries. We held a live finals event with Jewish and Israeli celebrities asking questions on Zoom with 10 regional finalists from around the world – and a Canadian won first place!

JP&N: Your presentation is billed as “engaging the next generation of Jews through media”. I assume by media you’re referring to online media. I doubt that anyone under 30 ever reads a print publication. Which forms of media do you find most effective in reaching the younger generation?e.g., Tik tok, Instagram, etc.?
Avi: Exactly, in fact 85% of teenagers are on YouTube, 72% on Instagram and 69% on TikTok, according to a study from 2021, so the best way to educate them is to reach them where they are in their own language. In the last year we’ve expanded to all of the different social media platforms in a big way.

JP&N: When you give your presentation what kinds of media will you be using? Will you employ videos?
Avi:
I will definitely be showing 1 or 2 of our videos.

JP&N: With everything that’s gone on with Covid, how interested do you think young people are with Israel? I myself have no idea. Maybe they’re more interested…I just don’t know. I’d be interested to get your take.
Avi: I think the events of May 2021 really lit the Jewish world on fire – the social media firestorm, the rise in antisemitism – in some ways it pushed some Jews away from engaging in their identity but I’ve found that in an incredible way, it worked to really ignite the younger generation to connect to their identity, their people and homeland like I haven’t seen for a long time.

JP&N: Anything else you want to say?
Avi:  Looking forward to being a part of Limmud Winnipeg!

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University of Toronto doctors will stop acknowledging their affiliation with the medical school over its ‘failure’ to protect Jewish students and faculty

Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

By ALEX ROSE (CJN) Over 100 Jewish doctors who are faculty members at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) will stop acknowledging their affiliation with the school in response to what they see as a failure to protect Jewish students and faculty. 

The doctors will continue to perform all of their regular roles and responsibilities. However, in instances when they would have noted their relationship to UofT, they will now decline to do so. That includes publications, presentations and professional correspondence. 

“We are not refusing to do any of our academic activities. This is really a symbolic gesture that we’re doing,” said Dr. Jerry Teitel a hematologist who works at St. Michael’s Hospital and as a professor of medicine at UofT.

“So if I give a talk to a group of trainees… as I’ll be doing in a couple of weeks, on my title slide, instead of putting as my affiliations, ‘St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto,’ I’ll leave out the University of Toronto.” 

The decision, which was announced by Doctors Against Racism and Antisemitism (DARA) on June 6, comes amidst a campus climate that discriminates against Jews, as the doctors see it. In fact, most of the doctors who have decided to refrain from acknowledging their relationship with the school are declining to make their names public, for fear of reprisal. 

Teitel is near the end of his career so doesn’t fear the repercussions in the same way, but he understands why his colleagues choose to remain anonymous, especially given the recent experiences of Jewish faculty and students. 

“If you are a junior faculty or if you’re a student, I think you’re going to be more in the line of fire… We realized, you know, if we ask people to sign the letter and put their name out there, they’re at risk of being doxxed on social media, it’s going to come back and hurt them,” he said. “That we wanted people to express themselves, but anonymously, shows you how the degree of intimidation has affected us.”

Doxxing is the act of publishing an individual’s personal details on the internet so that people can target them outside of just online spaces.

“If I were early career, if I were a student, I would say, if I were active on social media, I wouldn’t want to live in an environment where I knew that I was going to be a personal target of hatred,” Teitel said.

In DARA’s press release announcing the action, they gave many examples of the kind of behaviour that they say is indicative of the school and medical faculty’s “failure” to defend Jewish learners and professors. 

The examples include certain TFOM faculty speaking at rallies calling for an intifada and posting vile messages on social media, and issues at or near the pro-Palestinian encampment on the school’s King’s College Circle such as physical confrontations and calls for Jews to return to Europe. Jewish medical students were even offered the option to have their classes moved online in an acknowledgement of unsafe conditions. 

“As long as UofT fails to act, the UofT affiliation under the signature of the Jewish physician faculty tarnishes these faculty members’ reputation,” the DARA press release reads. “This protest against UofT’s failure to protect Jews on campus will continue until UofT institutes bona fide measures to provide a welcoming and safe environment for Jews.” 

A spokesperson for the TFOM sent a statement to The CJN in response to the DARA announcement. 

“We are saddened that in this time of global and local crisis, many of our faculty at Temerty Medicine are experiencing pain and distress as a result of antisemitism on campus and beyond,” read the statement. “We remain committed to combatting antisemitism through education and will continue to address all incidents of antisemitism and other forms of discrimination that are brought to our attention, within the context of our institutional policies and processes, and the law. 

“We acknowledge and accept that faculty members may choose to express their criticism of the University and its actions in different ways, under the university’s Statement of Institutional Purpose and Statement on Freedom of Speech. This includes the right by faculty members to choose whether to continue their affiliation with UofT. President Meric Gertler has explained the University’s commitment to free speech.” 

Dr. Ted Rosenberg, a Vancouver-based geriatrician who resigned from his faculty position at the University of British Columbia (UBC) earlier this year, understands why the UofT doctors are taking this step. The situation is not unique to just his former school or UofT, either. Rosenberg says it is being experienced by every Jewish doctor who sympathizes with Israel, a number he put at approximately 80 percent according to polling. 

“This has been happening at every single university across Canada and every single medical school. I’m in touch with doctors across the country and they’re all saying the same thing. ‘We have been marginalized. We’ve been delegitimized. We are exposed to this demonizing hatred and we’re exposed to this double standard. We do not feel part of the Canadian tapestry and we do not feel part of our universities anywhere,’” Rosenberg said. 

“UofT now is starting to stand up after, like us in UBC, trying to work with administration and being rebuffed and marginalized. They’re saying enough is enough.” 

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Israeli representative in Canada Sarah Mali talks about October 7 heroes

By MYRON LOVE Conflict often produces acts of heroism – but it is not only warriors who become heroes.  As Sarah Mali noted, heroism can come in many forms.  
 
Mali, the Director General of JFC-UIA Canada in Israel, made a stop in our community on Thursday, May 30, on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, during which she did a presentation at the Berney Theatre providing an update on the situation in the Jewish State from her perspective as  an Israeli – with a  focus on the different faces of heroism..
The British-born Mali made Aliyah in 2000 after earning a degree from the London School of Economics.  She also has degrees from the Hebrew University and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  The mother of four – the older two currently serving in the Israel Defence Forces – was the Director of Israel Engagement for the Jewish Federation of Toronto from 2007 to 2012. She returned to Israel to undertake her current assignment in 2012 and now lives in Jerusalem.
Mali is an accomplished writer and public speaker who was named one of “50 of Our Favorite Women Right Now” by ”Future of Judaism” in 2022.
Mali was introduced by Paula Parks, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s President.  She presented her stories of heroism through a series of photographs. She began by recalling the first time in Israel that she heard sirens going off.  “I was in the car with one of my daughters,” she recounted.  “We weren’t quite sure what to do at first. But we got out of the car and did what all Israelis do.
“These past eight months, sirens have been sounded almost daily. Just recently, there was renewed rocket fire toward Tel Aviv.” 
 
The first group of heroes that Mali highlighted was the group of 14 young female soldiers who were kidnapped from their IDF base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz – near the Gaza border – which was overrun on October 7.
She spoke of the 60,000 residents of Israel’s north who were forced to leave their homes because of the danger from Hezbollah in the north and the heroic way that their fellow Israelis throughout the country have opened their homes and hearts to these internally displaced refugees, along with survivors of the attacks by Hamas in the south.
While Mali noted that she and her family are safe – living in the centre of the country – she described a recurring nightmare of loss. 
She told the story of Avitel Aladjem from Kibbutz Holit.  When the kibbutz was attacked, Aladjem was tasked by her neighbor, Canadian-born Adi Vital Kaploun, with looking after the latter’s two children – a three year old boy and a baby. Kaploun was murdered and Aladjem and the children were put on bicycles and driven to the Gaza border. For some strange and miraculous reason, the terrorist left the threesome at the border.  So Aladjem put the baby in a sling, picked up the three-year-old boy and carried both children back to safety.

Mali further praised the courage of the Magen David Adom medics who unhesitatingly put themselves in danger in those early desperate hours to save lives – and have continued saving lives throughout the war.  She recounted one story about an Israeli soldier who was shot in the neck and pronounced dead.  One medic, however, noticed that he was wearing a wedding band.
The medic noted that meant someone was waiting for the soldier at home and suggested the first responders should check him again  for any vital signs.  They found a pulse and had him evacuated by helicopter right away.  He was able to make a full recovery.
(Mali also noted that more than 15,000 Israeli soldiers have been wounded in the current conflict.)
One of the photos that Mali put on screen was the rescuer visiting the recovering soldier in hospital.
She spoke of the tremendous efforts of Israeli mental health professionals who have been having to deal with tens of thousands of traumatized Israeli of all ages.
She noted the miracle of her own daughter recently giving birth – bringing a new life into a world gone mad.
Another photo she posted was of a letter from a seven-year-old girl in Toronto who wanted to donate $23 to Israel to help with food, clothing and housing.
Mali’s final paean was to all the Jewish communities in the Diaspora – including our own – that have raised tremendous sums of money (over $4 million alone from our community), have staged rallies in support of our Israeli brethren, and many of whom have travelled to Israel, not only to show their support, but also to volunteer to help in many ways. 
“You are all heroes,” Mali told her audience.
Following her presentation, Mali took several questions from the audience.  One question concerned the ongoing conflict with Hezbollah in the north. “My head tells me that the IDF has to end Hezbollah,” Mali responded.  “But, as a mother with children serving in the IDF, I would be terrified.”
In answer to a second question about what some view as Israel’s poor public relations record, Mali pointed out that a major problem is that the Western media see the conflict – and the world –  in terms of victims and oppressors, and the Palestiniand in this worldview are ever the victims – and therefore, can do no wrong – while the Israelis are the oppressors whose every actions are judged as criminal or evil.
In concluding, Mali described the strong sense of determination and solidarity among most Israelis – an attitude exemplified by her own 17-year-old son who is impatient to join the IDF and take up the fight.
She added that “We Israelis want you to come to Israel, hear our stories and share them back in your communities.
 “Israel is a strong country with a strong army,” she observed.  “We are fighting not just for our own people but also for all Jews – and we are fighting against evil. This is our moment.”

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New York-based choreographer Josh Assor returning to hometown and Rainbow Stage for upcoming “Mary Poppins” production

By MYRON LOVE Josh Assor has a lengthy history, both with “Mary Poppins” and Rainbow Stage. So it would seem to be a no-brainer for Canada’s only summer theatre to invite the former Winnipegger-turned New York-based choreographer to return to his home town to choreograph this summer’s Rainbow Stage production of Mary Poppins (August 15-September 1).
Assor’s first experience with the beloved musical came just a short time into his stage career.  In 2011, the son of Hanania and Leslie Assor was cast in a touring production as Neleus, the statue who is brought to life by Mary.  In February 2012, he was elevated to the Broadway production in the same role.  In 2018, having transitioned from acting to choreography, he was tasked with choreographing a production of “Mary Poppins” at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Missouri.  (He was invited back to Arrow Rock in 2019 to choreograph “Cinderella”).
“It is always nice to come back to Winnipeg where I started my career,” Assor says.
When it comes to musical theatre, Josh Assor has written a story of great success.  He was attracted to theatre and acting from a very young age. He actually began with some television roles, followed by stage work.  Some of the shows that he appeared in at Rainbow Stage were: “Peter Pan”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat” and “The Little Mermaid”.
Along the way, the young performer began taking dancing lessons.  “I started training rather later in life in dance,” he recalls. “I enrolled in Ken Peter Dance Express when I was 15.  Originally, I was most interested in hip hop.  I then followed with tap and, a couple of years later, I began studying all forms of dance, including jazz, ballet and musical theatre.  By the time I was 17, I had decided to seriously pursue a career in the theatre.”
Assor attended Gray Academy to the end of Grade 9, then moved to Grant Park High School for Grades 10-12 to take the school’s well-known performing arts program. 
The budding performer left Winnipeg after graduation for Los Angeles where he had scored a scholarship to study at the prestigious EDGE Performing Arts Center.  He then moved to Toronto – at age 19 – to begin the next phase of his career.
“I signed with an agent in Toronto,” he said in an earlier interview with the Jewish Post. “Toronto is where most of the auditions take place.  I did some television but mostly worked on the stage.”
His first major role was in a production of “West Side Story” at the Stratford Festival in 2008, he recounts.
While he may have been based in Toronto over a period of three years, he notes, he spent a year in Montreal and the rest of the time in touring productions, which continued after his move to New York in 2010. 
In addition to touring with “Mary Poppins,”  he also toured as a  member of the cast of “The Wizard of Oz” and Disney’s first national tour of “Newsies” (in which he was the assistant dance captain).
After more than two years in ‘”Newsies,” Assor explained in that earlier interview, he was ready for a change of pace.  “From day one, to become a choreographer was always my goal,” he noted.   “I am happiest when I can be at my most creative.  I felt that I had had a good run as a performer.  I accomplished what I had wanted.  It was time to focus on my development as a choreographer.”
Back in New York,  his goal was to become a member of the faculty of the world-renowned Broadway Dance Centre.  He started as a substitute teacher, became a guest instructor and, for the past several years, has been a member of the faculty, focusing on musical theatre.
“People come from all over the world to study with us,” Assor said.
In addition to his teaching, Assor has continued to work professionally as a choreographer. Choreographic credits include: New York Fashion Week, the New York City Knicks, Audi, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Modos Furniture, Hard Rock Hotel, and Soho House, as well as regional productions of “Mary Poppins,” “Anastasia,” “Fiddler On The Roof,” “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” “Cinderella,” “Newsies,” and the world premiere of “Medicine the Musical,” which ran off-Broadway. He also choreographed Cedar Point (Ohio) Amusement Park’s 150th Anniversary Spectacular ,as well as the series ‘DJ Burnt Bannock,’ produced by Eagle Vision. He was the associate choreographer for the “Saturday Night Fever” National Tour as well as the Canadian Premier of “Newsies.”
In March 2020,  due to the pandemic lockdowns, Assor came home to Winnipeg for a while and, once here, he got a job with Eagle Vision, working with them for almost a year behind the scenes on a number of large scale television and film projects, such as “Burden Of Truth” and “Esther”.
Assor is currently choreographing a production of “Fiddler On The Roof” that just opened at a theatre in the Boston Area called North Shore Music Theater. He reports that he will also be choreographing “Fiddler” again in Connecticut in early 2025.
He adds that he has a new show that he choreographed – titled “Retrospect” – that will be mounted in various theme parks across the US.  Also coming up is a  week-long dance retreat at the End of August – which he co-owns with Orielle Marcus – titled “The Reset Dance Retreat”. 

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