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Lisa Raber
By GERRY POSNER

We live in a new, yet old, reality. It is antisemitism which has resurfaced (though it was never really absent) in more ways and places, more than any of us could have imagined. There is an ongoing and constant battle waged against the forces that spew hatred against Jews, be it in a direct physical manner or often in the propaganda and educational format. The result is that Jews and Jewish organizations are mounting their own campaigns to resist and counter attack this vile prejudice.

 

 

One such organization in the forefront of fighting antisemitism is called F.A.S.T., which stands for Fighting Antisemitism Together. F.A.S.T is a non-profit group based out of Toronto with operations right across Canada. It includes many non- Jews in the business and general community who felt the message against hate had to come from more than just Jewish people alone. The lady who is at the head of  F.A.S.T. in Alberta and the North West Territories, located in Calgary, is  Lisa Raber, formerly Lisa Wilder of Winnipeg, the daughter of Sam and Wendy Wilder. I had a chance to meet Lisa recently in Calgary and she shared with me the measures that F.A.S.T. is using to deal with racism.

What Lisa told me is that this organization attacks antisemitism where the work can have the most impact: inschools. In 2015, a resource was launched, called Voices Into Action for high schools ( Grades 9-12) across Canada. This educational tool encompassed over one million students. The idea is to give teachers the resources including lesson plans in order for these teachers to spread the message in the classrooms of the harm and dangers of intolerance.
One does not have to go back too far to recall that it was right in the province of Alberta that  Jim Keegstra, a teacher in a high school in Eckville, Alberta, was ultimately barred from teaching in that  high school because  of his antisemitic teachings, including denying the Holocaust. And just what was Keegstra teaching? A large part of what emanated from his mouth were words describing Jews as “ treacherous, sadistic, subversive, money-loving, power hungry and child killers.” That is a huge hurdle to overcome when dealing with young minds.

Interestingly enough, it was the Keegstra incident that launched Lisa into her present position, though it might be difficult to connect the dots. Back then, when Lisa was 13 years of age and a camper at B’nai Brith Camp at Pine Lake Alberta - the very year the Keegstra had been terminated as a high school teacher due to his antisemitic teaching, that same high school in Eckville sent a bus load of  students to the camp for the express purpose to meet with Jewish children. It was there and then that Lisa became painfully aware of the way others had been taught about Jews as in “ you really don’t have horns.” Although it was many years before Lisa became immersed in the world of fighting this learned prejudice, the experience of meeting with students who had such gross misconceptions about Jews, stuck with her and clearly has influenced her career path.

It was not a straight line for Lisa to this kind of work. She began work as a teller at TD Bank, graduated from Seneca College in Toronto in business, worked as a management consultant, later in an administrative role for a printing company, and even later as a Senior Lending Officer for a bank in Phoenix where she had moved. But, with the changes in her life, and even with a couple kids along the way, and a move to Calgary with her husband Earl Raber (also a familiar Winnipeg name), what remained firm in her heart was a desire to give back to a community which had welcomed and embraced her. Thus, when the opportunity came along to become involved in an organization that was tackling the ever present and growing issue of antisemitism, Lisa was all in for this kind of work. Her view is that since children spend the majority of their time in school, what better place to teach them? The hope is that these lessons will be so inculcated in the students that they will carry the message home where they sometimes have received the wrong lessons.
With what is happening in the world today with respect to Jews everywhere, I wish there were more Lisa Rabers around to lead the charge.