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These days a single complaint can lead to silencing pro-Israel voices

By BERNIE BELLAN As the war in Gaza drags on Jews are finding themselves coming under regular threats in a myriad of locations around the world.

Every day seems to bring a new report – either of pro-Palestinian protesters disrupting an event or of actual clashes between pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis.

Just this past week we heard about pro-Palestinian protesters in Toronto forcing the cancellation of a dinner on March 2 at the Art Gallery of Ontario where Prime Minister Trudeau was supposed to have hosted an event for visiting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

According to the Globe & Mail, “The event was called off abruptly after several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the venue, blocking doorways and making it difficult for guests to enter.”

Then, on the evening of March 4 – this time in Montreal, pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the main entrance to the Jewish Federation building in that city – trapping employees inside, and forcing them to escape through a back entrance.

As a result of that event, according to an article written by Judy Maltz in Haaretz, “A number of key Jewish organizations and institutions in Montreal have obtained a court injunction that prevents anti-Israel groups from holding protests outside their premises.”

Those are just two of the most recent events that followed upon other similar events where pro-Palestinian protesters have engaged in threatening behaviour.

There has been a constant flow of reports of Jewish students being harassed, often physically threatened – both on university campuses and high schools throughout the world, even in younger grades, as early as Grade Two in some cases.

Although I have written previously that Winnipeg Jews shouldn’t think that the level of danger for Jews is as high in our own community as it certainly appears to be in cities such as Toronto or Montreal, anyone following reports of Jews being harassed – and occasionally physically attacked in cities around the world, can be forgiven for wondering about the possibility of that also occurring in Winnipeg.

It’s for that reason that I chose to focus an article on the event at the University of Manitoba on February 26 that led to the banning of a pro-Israel organization known as Students Supporting Israel.

Regardless what the guest speaker at that event may have had to say about Islam, the notion that the University of Manitoba Students Union was quick to suspend that Jewish organization says volumes about where we’re at these days in terms of Jews being put on the defensive.

In my article about the event and the subsequent suspension of Students Supporting Israel by UMSU I referred to something called a “trigger warning” – without going into any detail what a trigger warning actually is. Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary defines trigger warning: “A statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).”

While it may be totally acceptable for a Muslim student to claim that they have been upset by something said at an event – such as the event held at the U of M, the corollary certainly doesn’t hold for Jewish students.

Thus, when a group of eight University of Winnipeg teachers held that notorious hatefest on Israeli “imperialism, colonialism, and genocide” on November 24, and many individuals – both from within and without the Jewish community here, complained that holding such an event would be extremely distressing for members of the Jewish community, especially students at the U of W, did anyone from the U of W administration take steps to have that event cancelled?

Of course not. When it comes to moving to protect the rights of university students to feel safe on campuses, it’s a one-way street: A Muslim student at the U of M complained that she felt unsafe as a result of comments made on February 26 by a speaker at the university who himself was a Muslim – and UMSU took immediate steps in reaction to that complaint in what I would hold, any reasonable person would argue was a totally unjustified overreaction.

As the CBC report of what happened notes, Bassim Eid, the speaker at the event, made some critical comments about Islam, including that “When it comes to ideology, the Muslims are blind,” and the ideology of Muslims is ‘a major problem,’ saying they aren’t ready for change.”

But, “Belkis Elmoudi, a Muslim student at the university who attended the event, says she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

” ‘I knew I had to get out of there, because I did not feel safe,’ she told CBC News on Thursday” (February 29).

” ‘I mean not only were those comments made, [but] no one stood up and said anything, so it just made me feel very isolated, alone and scared.’ “

Omigod – someone says something negative about Muslims at an event sponsored by a pro-Israel organization and, whether or not those comments were justifiable, the pro-Israel organization is suspended from being allowed to be active on campus.

We know that the pendulum has swung so far in one direction that anyone saying they were offended by a comment made by someone who was pro-Israeli can expect to have their complaint acted upon almost immediately.

Yet, I am not advocating that Jewish students should also be able to suppress in advance any comments that they would regard as threatening their safety. Tolerance of ideas that we may find uncomfortable has long been an intrinsic element of what those of us who consider ourselves liberal would defend.

But, as the atmosphere surrounding discussion of Israel’s war in Gaza has become poisonous for anyone wanting to defend Israel, intimidation tactics of the type used by Belkis Elmondi – along with the strong and immediate support she received from the president of UMSU, is only likely to be repeated any time that someone tries to mount a defence of Israel on a university campus anywhere there are Muslim students.

One of the great ironies of this entire conundrum is that a great many Jews in the diaspora are themselves deeply critical of Israeli government policies, including what’s happening in Gaza, but because of the virulence – often accompanied by threats of physical violence and actual acts of physical violence, we keep the level of criticism of Israel relatively muted.

Instead we talk among ourselves at how badly Israel is doing in the court of public opinion – and then react with dismay when anti-Israel demonstrators engage in the worst sort of intimidation tactics.

As diaspora Jews, we’re sort of shell shocked by what we’re seeing – and when one student’s complaint gets an entire organization suspended, we simply shake our heads and wonder what’s next when it comes to intimidating pro-Israel supporters?

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Past President of Doctors Manitoba reflects on Manitoba’s severe doctor shortage

Past President of Doctors Manitoba Dr. Michael Boroditsky

By BERNIE BELLAN As president of Doctors Manitoba for the past year, Dr. Michael Boroditsky maintained a high profile within the media, often being called upon to react to various issues, especially the pronounced shortage of doctors within Manitoba.
Doctors Manitoba is an advocacy group for the more than 4,000 physicians in Manitoba – both active and non-active, engaging in policy development. As Dr. Boroditsky, now the Past President of Doctors Manitoba, said, “We’re more of an advocacy group than a union.
“Our main mission is to strengthen and support doctors in Manitoba,” although not just in the area of “renumeration,”, he explained.
According to its website, Doctors Manitoba “advocates for our physicians, so that they can stay focused on providing exceptional care to Manitobans.
“We strive to work collaboratively with partners to help develop a better health care system for Manitobans. We work to improve health policy so patients have better access to physicians across Manitoba, and so physicians have the supports they need to meet their patients’ needs.
“We regularly connect with the provincial government, Shared Health, regional health authorities and other organizations to ensure the physicians’ voices are heard and have an impact on decision-making.”
On Thursday, May 23, Dr. Boroditsky, who started in practice 25 years ago as an obstetrician gynaecologist, spoke to over 40 attendees at the weekly Remis speakers luncheon group at the Gwen Secter Centre. The focus of his talk was the “physician shortage” in Manitoba.
Using a series of slides that showed graphs detailing just how much Manitoba has slid almost to the bottom of all Canadian provinces when it comes to the number of physicians per capita (only Prince Edward Island has a worse ratio), Dr. Boroditsky was candid in describing the challenges that Manitobans face when it comes to finding doctors.
While the total number of physicians in Manitoba has grown by 21% in Manitoba over the past 20 years, this is actually the lowest growth of any province. Dr. Boroditsky explained that growth hasn’t kept pace with the growth in Manitoba’s population, nor has the number of physicians here per 100,000 (215) kept pace with the national average, which is 247/100,000.
To give an idea how far Manitoba has fallen in terms of physicians per capita, in 2002, we had the fourth highest ratio of physicians/100,000 population, while in 2023 we had fallen to ninth. Manitoba needs 445 more doctors just to get to the Canadian average.
To add even more gloom to the picture, Dr. Boroditsky said that, in a 2023 poll of physicians here, to which one third of active physicians responded, 12% of physicians said they were likely to retire within the next three years; 14% said they were likely to leave Manitoba; and 26% said they were likely to reduce their hours.
He did offer a glimmer of hope though, when he said that preliminary results from the 2024 Annual Physician Survey showed a slight improvement with physicians intending to stay in practice here in Manitoba.
Dr. Boroditsky cited six different reasons that doctors gave in explaining why they were either thinking of retiring or leaving the province. They included: frustrated by the “system”; feeling “burned out” or “distressed:”; don’t feel “valued”; “personal reasons”; “red tape”; or too heavy a “workload”.
While “burnout and distress are still high,” Dr. Boroditsky observed, the situation is “improving.”
“We’re seeing a different tone in government.”
Yet, in another moment of candour, Dr. Boroditsky said, “News flash: It’s hard to recruit (physicians) here in Manitoba.”
When it comes to physician retention, he described the number of years a physician needs to put in before they can begin practising as a doctor (beginning with three years of pre-med studies): For a family physician – nine years; for a specialist – 12 years; and for someone who undertakes a fellowship – 15 years.
Dr. Boroditsky touched upon the area of immigrant doctors – and why doesn’t Manitoba allow more of them?
There are two types of International Medical Graduates (IMGs), he explained: Canadians who have gone overseas for their medical education, to such jurisdictions as Ireland or Australia; and physicians from abroad looking to relocate to Canada.
Until now, the Manitoba government has only offered 20 training spaces for IMGs each year, Dr. Boroditsky explained, but that figure will double to 40 this year. Unfortunately, we need to add 445 doctors here altogether even if we were just to meet the national average, so adding 20 more IMGs to the total isn’t enough on its own to fix the shortage.
Still, there was some good news in the area of physician retention. The average net gain in doctors in Manitoba over the past five years has been 60 a year, Dr. Boroditsky noted. Putting some more flesh on that figure, he said that, on average, 213 new doctors have begun practice here each of the past five years, but 153 have either retired or left the province. This year, however, of the UM medical school graduating class, 79 have committed to doing their residencies in Manitoba, he said. (Manitoba does not have mandatory residency requirements for graduating medical students, he added.)
Turning to other areas where there has been much-needed change to the system, Dr. Boroditsky noted that “cloud storage” now allows doctors anywhere in the province to access the results of blood tests and imaging sessions e.g., CAT scans, MRIs. The one crucial area that still remains to be accessible by doctors, however, remain “clinical notes,” but that’s coming, he predicted.
In the question and answer session that followed, I asked Dr. Boroditsky about a recent Maclean’s Magazine article which analyzed in some detail the dire state of the Canadian medical system. That article noted the increasing privatization of medical services, the proliferation of nurse practitioners in many areas where there are severe doctor shortages, and the advent of what is known as “virtual medicine,” especially in areas where patients find it difficult to see a doctor in person. (I had written an article about a service that began in Manitoba in 2022 known as QDoc, which describes how successful a foray into “virtual medicine” by two Winnipeggers, Dr. Norm Silver, and Dave Berkowits, had been. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/qdoc-a-new-venture-that-promises-to-change-the-way-patients-interact-with-doctors/)
I asked Dr. Boroditsky whether Doctors Manitoba had a problem with the expanded use of nurse practitioners and what he thought of virtual medicine?
He said there’s been a “significant increase” in nurse practitioners (who are allowed to see patients, diagnose and prescribe in certain limited areas) and fully agreed “that team-based care with providers working with physicians is the way to move forward.” As for “virtual medicine,” Dr. Boroditsky said, “its’ a game changer.”
It was toward the end of his talk that Dr. Boroditsky talked about the heightened antisemitism of which many Jewish doctors have expressed deep concern. His comments can be read in another article on our home page at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/

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President of University of Manitoba Michael Benarroch responds to criticisms levelled at university over controversial valedictorian speech

UM President Michael Benarroch

UM president Michael Benarroch issued the following statement 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.
  
Sincerely,
Michael
 
 Michael Benarroch, Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building
66 Chancellors Circle
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2
Phone:  204-474-9345
Email:  m.benarroch@umanitoba.ca

To read the remarks by the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class of the UM medical school, along with subsequent reactions from the medical school’s dean, and Ernest Rady, who donated $30 to the UM in 2016, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/valedictory-speech-delivered-to-graduating-medical-students-sets-off-storm-of-controversy/

To read letters from a graduate of this year’s medical school class along with an alumnus of that school, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/reaction-to-the-valedictory-address-at-the-medical-school-convocation-ceremony/

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Jewish physicians in Manitoba form association in response to antisemitism

Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 23

By BERNIE BELLAN (first posted May 24, 2024, updated May 27) Jewish physicians in Manitoba have been in the process of organizing as an official organization since October 7 and its aftermath, stemming from the huge upsurge in antisemitism.
According to Doctors Manitoba Immediate Past President Dr. Michael Boroditsky, who has also been actively involved in organizing Jewish physicians here into a group, The Jewish Physicians of Manitoba “will be passing bylaws and electing an executive this weekend” (May 25-26).
Dr. Boroditsky spoke about the Jewish Physicians’ Association at the tail end of a question and answer session following a talk he had given to member of the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre on Thursday, May 23.
In response to a question about the controversy surrounding the convocation ceremony at the U of M medical school on Thursday, May 16, Dr. Boroditsky noted that Jewish physicians in cities across Canada and the U.S. have been forming formal associations in response to heightened antisemitism following the Hamas massacre of October 7.

With reference to the policy adopted by so many institutions of higher learning across Canada and the U.S. to promote EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), Dr. Boroditsky said: “Our belief is that EDI at the University of Manitoba applies to everybody but Jews.”

On May 27 we were informed that a first meeting of the Jewish Physicians of Manitoba had been held at the Etz Chayim Synagogue Sunday evening, May 26, with 120 Jewish physicians in attendance. (One hundred eighty physicians have signed up to join up the association so far.) A board consisting of ten members was formed


In an article in the Montreal Gazette on April 1 this year, that paper referred to the formation of “the Association des médecins juifs du Québec” this past November. According to the Gazette article, “Founded in November, the association counts some 400 members across Quebec.”


British Columbia has also seen the recent formation of a Jewish physicians association. According to information on the internet, “The Jewish Medical Association of British Columbia was started by family physician Dr. Larry Barzelai in November 2023 as an attempt to get Jewish physicians together to support one another, especially in the current situation of increased antisemitism. The group has almost 300 members.”

Toronto, in contrast, had had a long history of Jewish physicians forming an association. There has been a Toronto Jewish Medical Association since 1925.

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