By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Nov. 9) The Multipurpose Room in the Asper Campus was supposed to have been filled last night by members of the community wanting to hear from representatives of the Winnipeg Police Service in an event billed as “Responding to Hate: Safety and Security Presentation.”
But there were many empty chairs. Attendees had been required to register in advance – and registration was cut off at 200. Apparently many of those 200 who had registered decided not to come – which was a terrible shame, since many others who had wanted to attend had been told there was no room for them.
What ensued Wednesday evening beginning at 7:10 pm, Wednesday evening, November 8, in the Multipurpose Room of the Campus was a somewhat disorganized series of presentations by various members of the WPS, followed by what became at times a quite heated, often emotional question and answer session.
Here are the major takeaways from the event:
Jewish Federation President Gustavo Zentner introduced eight different members of the WPS to the audience. He said that “this is a community dedicated to the rule of law. We are extremely concerned when we see people burning Israeli flags and when we see police standing by them when they are chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Dave Dalal, Superintendent, Uniform Operations, WPS, told the audience that, on October 26, the WPS had asked representatives from both the pro-Palestine and pro-Israel communities not to hold counter protests when the other side was holding a rally. Since that date, both sides had respected the WPS’s request, Dalal said.
Dalal asked that anyone who has information or a complaint about what might be considered a hate crime should call the police non-emergency line: 204-986-6222, and press 8 on the dial pad.
In addition to information given by Dalal, there was also interesting information given by Gord Perrier, Director of Campus Security at the University of Manitoba.
Responses that Dalal and Perrier gave to questions from the audience provided greater insight into the thinking of senior police officers than one might have expected. Dalal especially was quite defensive when he was accused of allowing hate speech to occur at various pro-Palestinian rallies that have taken place in recent weeks. When Dalal (and other members of the WPS who were present) claimed that nothing that had been heard at any of those rallies would have constituted a “hate crime,” local pro-Israel organizer Ron East challenged members of the WPS, asking them whether they had anyone on the force who spoke Arabic?
East claimed that some of what had been said at some of those rallies – in Arabic – would have qualified as hate speech. In response, Dalal did say that the WPS does have members on the force who speak Arabic. He also said that there are Jewish members in the WPS.
Another audience member said he has audio evidence of hate speech in Arabic that was said at one of those rallies. Dalal asked that audience member to give that evidence to the WPS.
Another WPS representative, Bonnie Emerson (Community Engagement) gave a fairly lengthy presentation on how hate speech is defined in the criminal code.
In response to a question why pro-Palestinian protesters were allowed to block off Portage and Main, Emerson said, “It’s complex – and we’re dealing with a crowd environment. We have to be deliberate and careful when we take action.”
With reference to whether something is “hate speech,” Emerson said “It’s not clear what is hate speech. For the Jewish community it may be hate speech, but to other communities it may not be. The criminal code is not specific. Unless there is case law backing up that it’s hate speech, it’s not illegal.”
In response, Gustavo Zentner suggested that “part of the (angry) reaction from the back (where some people had been interrupting Emerson’s remarks) is people take it as an endorsement by inaction.”
Gord Perrier, Director of Campus Security (who was also a 25-year veteran of the WPS) was not at the front of the room when the eight members of the WPS gave various presentations to the audience. Dalal referred to his presence, however and, in response to a direct question from a member of the audience who said they were concerned about the safety of Jewish students at the University of Manitoba, Dalal asked Perrier whether he could answer the question.
Perrier spoke about a “vigil” that was held by pro-Palestinian students at the U of M on October 13. He said there had been consultation with organizers of the vigil prior to the event. The organizers were told there could be “no chanting” and “no flags on staffs.” (According to Perrier, flag staffs could be considered weapons.)
When chanting did begin, one of the organizers attempted to have the chanting stopped, Perrier said, but he was ignored to start with. Also, a flagstaff did appear.
Perrier also addressed the question of hate speech – and why no one has been charged with a hate crime yet in Manitoba since October 7. (To provide some context, many members of the audience were angry that pro-Palestinian demonstrators are continually allowed to chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”)
Perrier explained that a charge of hate speech has to be approved by the attorney general of the province in which the hate speech has allegedly occurred.
He admitted though, that despite the campus police at the U of M having “increased physical security on campus… a lot of the staff don’t have historical knowledge” of what’s led up to the heated atmosphere between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel students. “There’s a lot of training going on,” Perrier noted.
“We reach out to every organizer of a rally telling them it has to be respectful and safe,” he suggested.
Another audience member referred to what is apparently a very tense situation at St. Johns Ravenscourt school, saying “I have kids at SJR and we’re seeing a lot of conflict between Arab and Jewish kids.”
That person said his kid had been told “We’re going to finish you.”
At one point Gustavo Zentner referred to something that is being planned for “November 13,” but he didn’t immediately explain what he was talking about. It was only after a while that he said there is some sort of walkout being planned for high schools in Winnipeg that day. (We contacted Ruth Ashrafi, Regional Director, B’nai Brith Canada, to ask whether she knew what Gustavo was talking about. Ruth sent us a picture of a poster that’s circulating on social media by a group known as “Queers for Palestine,” which in itself is a ridiculous name as queers are persecuted in Palestinian areas – often killed – thrown off rooftops by Hamas, for instance, and often flee to Israel where they’re safe, but let’s leave aside one of the many contradictions associated with pro-Palestinian groups.)
An audience member asked Superintendent Dalal, “What would you do if it was your family being threatened?”
Dalal responded: “We are bound by the rule of law. We have Jewish officers. We also have officers who wish and hope that their neighbours don’t know they’re police officers.”
Someone else asked: “How do we make our kids feel safe when they’re in a school where they know other kids hate them?”
Part of the answer that was given was “There are many people in the MIddle Eastern community here who are opposed to antisemitism.”
To Israelis in the audience – Gustavo Zentner had this to say: “Everyone of us who was either born in Israel or moved there – we are mindful of your concerns.”
And, in addressing the often heated criticism levelled at the WPS during what turned into a very emotional evening for some members of the audience, Jewish Federation President Jeff Lieberman said, “We’ve been in constant touch with the WPS since October 7 and we appreciate that the moment we asked you (WPS) whether you would come out and meet with us tonight – you agreed.”
Congregation Etz Chayim says good bye to 123 Matheson Ave.
By BERNIE BELLAN After 71 years of serving as the home for first the Rosh Pina Synagogue, then for the past 21 years as the home for what was the merger of three different congregations – Rosh Pina’s, along with the Bnay Abraham and Beth Israel, the Etz Chayim Congregation held its final service on Wednesday, November 29.
You can read the story by CJN writer John Longhurst elsewhere on this site (https://jewishpostandnews.ca/rss/congregation-etz-chayim-in-winnipeg-says-a-bittersweet-farewell-to-their-old-building-as-they-prepare-to-move/) along with our earlier story about the sale of the building to an Eritrean Church (https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/former-congregation-etz-chayim-synagogue-building-to-become-eritrean-orthodox-church/), but here are some pictures from the final service.
(Photos courtesy of Keith Levit)
Israel report by former Winnipegger Bruce Brown
By BRUCE BROWN (posted Nov. 28/23) Was driving home from work the other day. Pre-ceasefire. Left the office early to reduce driving time in the evening hours. Hamas likes their 6PM missile barrage and I’m honing my missile-avoidance routine.
Was listening to talk-radio… but kind of had enough of the news. Too much war talk and its getting a bit overwhelming. So switched to Spotify and up popped Supertramp – the Logical Song. For sure how ‘wonderful, beautiful, magical’ life once felt. Before Oct 7th. Before Hamas.
Then, as if on cue. I gaze towards the sky. And saw missiles flying overhead. At first it didn’t really click. And then. Yikes! I quickly switched back to the news. Where, in a very calming voice, they were announcing areas under missile attack. Which is another reason to listen to the radio while driving during war – real-time information. Lesson learned.
Suddenly my smartphone’s flashlight started flashing. Which was pretty darn cool! And there I was, on Star Trek. Standing on the bridge. Even recalled the vessel number – NCC-1701. There I was with Captain Kirk. No! I was Captain Kirk. Dr. McCoy by my side. Sulu and Chekov at the controls. The Klingons were attacking. And Mr. Spock -standing to the side- was calmy advising the attack coordinates. No Wait! That was the radio announcer. Seriously. This all took place within a split second in my over-active imagination.
The flashing continued. Then I realized my cellphone was communicating with me. Warning of danger. I have the Home Front Command application which sounds an amazingly loud alarm during a missile attack in my area. But changing between the radio and Spotify prevented the siren from going off. So instead, the phone activated my flashlight. Sending out an S.O.S. Now how neat is that! In a geeky sort of way. Like for someone who imagines himself on Star Trek during a real-life missile attack.
Then. Reality set in. There were Home Front Command instructions to follow. Momentary-panic set in. Where was my wife. To tell me what to do. Like she always does…but that’s another story. This time I wanted her there, instructing me.
All these thoughts racing through my mind in milliseconds. As I calmly slowed the car and veered to the shoulder. Like other cars around me. I put on the blinkers. More flashing lights but the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise now a distant thought. Looking both ways I left the car and hopped over the road- barrier. Moving away from the car. Although probably not far enough. Because there was a steep decline just below. It was getting dark and, suffering from poor night vision, I didn’t want to trip and hurt myself. I heard my son laughing at me. “Nerd!” he called out. But that was just my imagination.
I should have laid flat. Prostrating myself for maximum protection. But it rained earlier that day, the ground was wet and I didn’t want to get muddy. ‘”Nerd!” This time it was my daughter in my mind’s eye. “Okay,” I said to no one in particular. “I’ll squat.” Good enough…but not really.
The family in the car ahead were huddling together but too close to their vehicle. I shouted for them to move further away. But they didn’t react. Probably didn’t understand me, especially given my still heavily accented Canadian Hebrew. This time I heard both my kids. Teasing me – thirty years and still talk like an immigrant! “Hey, they just don’t hear me.” I said to the darkness. Otherwise it was very moving seeing the father crouching down on top of his brood, in a protective sort of way. “Isn’t that touching.” I said to my wife. “For sure.” She said somewhat sarcastically in the back of my mind, “I know you’d do the same.”
Then it was over. The sky went quiet. People returned to their cars. The nestled family broke apart and entered theirs. We should have stayed in place several more minutes. Ten minutes is the recommended time. But it was dark. Getting late. Also a bit cold. I just wanted to get home. Back to the real chiding of my kids and to my wife… somehow longing for her ordering me about.
A few minutes later my wife called. Making sure I was safe. And then routine set in. “Don’t forget to pick up some milk and bread from the corner store.” She instructed me.
Um Israel Chai
Bruce Brown. A Canadian. And an Israeli. Bruce made Aliyah…a long time ago. He works in Israel’s hi-tech sector by day and, in spurts, is a somewhat inspired writer by night. Bruce is the winner of the 2019 American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Award for excellence in writing. And wrote the 1998 satire, An Israeli is…. Bruce’s reflects on life in Israel – political, social, economic and personal. With lots of biting, contrarian, sardonic and irreverent insight.
Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg held a rally in support of Israel on Saturday evening, November 25.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.
Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg
Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed
Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs