Connect with us

Features

As the U.S. General Election Looms, How Will American Jews Vote?

By HENRY SREBRNIK May 5, 2024 First of all, before I go any further, we should get something straight: this whole so-called debate about anti-Zionism vs antisemitism is nonsense on stilts. 

Sure, especially before the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, many Jews were dubious about or even ideologically or theologically opposed to the Zionist project of recreating a Jewish state in the land of Israel. These groups ranged from various socialists on the left, such as the supporters of the Jewish Labour Bund, to haredim like the Satmar Hasidim. The latter still are, but no one thinks of them as “antisemites.”

All of this has virtually nothing to do with today’s so-called “anti-Zionists,” almost all of whom are non-Jewish antisemites making use of a word to confuse people about their desire to destroy a modern sovereign Jewish state, now more than 75 years old. (Yes, there are some misguided Jewish students involved, and the media loves them, but this is mainly a matter of ignorance and “Stockholm Syndrome.”)

Do you remember, not so long ago, that when right-wing Republicans and/or supporters of Donald Trump, made even mild criticisms of one or another Jewish politician or Jewish organization, leftwingers immediately said these were “dog whistles,” implying that this was code for antisemitism.  

Now, though, when protestors parade around proudly with placards reading “F—k Zionism,” or ask Jewish students whether they are “Zionists,” this has nothing to do with wondering whether they are a member of a Zionist organization or a person who subscribes to the Jewish nationalist ideology centered on the Land of Israel. They are asking whether these people are Jewish, pure and simple. 

“Zionist” has simply become a derogatory slur or abusive term for “Jew,” used by Jew-haters as a synonym, and not all that different from earlier, now archaic, versions such as “kike,” “sheeny,” or “Yid.” The animus is also directed at Hillels, synagogues, and other institutions which are Jewish, not technically “Zionist” as such. Is this really that hard to understand? And we Jews should not play their games by arguing the point.

After all, the word “antisemitism” is itself a euphemism, coined by a German Jew-hater in the 19th century, so as to appear a more “scientific” word for hating Jews. It’s not even accurate – as we know, Arabs and other peoples are also Semites, and no one who hates Jews has them in mind. Judeophobia would be a more accurate term, and we should make more use of it.

Anyhow, we also must stop trying to be “even handed” by trying to equate old-style Jew-hatred on the right with today’s versions, which are coming overwhelmingly from the left, under the rubric of “anti-Zionism.” Remember, anti-Israel demonstrations began the very next days after the Oct.7 massacres, and almost three weeks before Israel even launched its counterattack.

All this is by way of a segue to a very important matter coming our way this November: For whom will American Jews turn out in the forthcoming presidential election? We all know the statistics: For almost a century, a large majority of Jews have voted for the Democratic candidate, beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. No Republican, including those who were victorious, came even close to capturing a majority of Jewish voters. Over the past several decades, according to data from the Pew Research Center, an average of 70 per cent of Jewish Americans consistently voted for the Democratic Party.

But October 7 has been a genuine zeitgeist shift. Even Jews blinded by an almost-religious loyalty to the party understand that it is being quite quickly captured by its far-left wing. Joe Biden may even be the last “pro-Israel” Democratic president (and he hasn’t exactly shone in that regard of late). The president himself has been unable to really condemn unequivocally and without moral relativism the outrages taking place on campuses.

I have for a long time thought that Israel shouldn’t have put all its defence needs in the U.S. basket. America is changing, demographically and ideologically, in a manner detrimental to Israel. The Democratic Party post-Biden will sooner or later be in the hands of the left-wing Congressional representatives known as the “Squad.” The protesters on the American university campuses should be called “Young Squadniks!”

The Hamas onslaught has left a mark on how Diaspora Jews look at their identity, especially in the United States. A recent survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee found that 78 per cent feel less safe since Hamas attacked Israel. “We are seeing an awakening, a heightened sense of consciousness among Jewish Americans,” asserted Steven Windmueller, professor emeritus of Jewish Communal Studies at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.

They now have seen how elite university campuses like Harvard, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, many of which are heavily funded by Jewish donors, have been breeding and spreading a climate of antisemitic hate.

As apparently some 100 university campuses across the United States are aflame with anti-Israel and “anti-Zionist” fervor, and Jew-hatred has now become mainstream in Democratic politics, Jews are reconsidering many of their basic assumptions about their position in America generally and the Democratic Party specifically.

Many liberal Jewish Americans also feel betrayed by some of their alleged allies, those whose causes they had supported throughout the years, from the Civil Rights movement to Black Lives Matter activists. The left doesn’t care about antisemitism if they deem it inconvenient to their cause. They just call it “anti-Zionism” and carry on.

A few weeks ago, a sermon by Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, the senior rabbi at the Steven Wise Free Synagogue in New York delivered a stern warning to the Democrats. “Do not take American Jews for granted.”

Hirsch explained, “I have spoken to many American Jews in the past few months who have surprised me with their anxiety about developments in the Democratic Party, and their perception that it is becoming increasingly hostile to Israel, and tolerant of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in its own ranks.”

Jewish Democratic voters who never considered voting for Republicans have been announcing that they are voting for Trump, or will stay home or vote for independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., but will never vote for Biden.

It is true that New York and California have the largest Jewish communities, and they remain firmly in the Democratic column, even if not a single Jew were to vote for them. The Jewish vote for Biden will decrease, and in the very blue states where Jews live, like California and New York, it doesn’t really matter. But four swing states –Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona — may well be decided by their large Jewish communities. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Pennsylvania, the swing state with the largest Jewish population – about 300,000 voting-age Jews — in a state President Joe Biden won by roughly 80,000 votes in 2020. (We are U.S. citizens who vote absentee ballot in Pennsylvania.)

I’m guessing that many Jews will sit it out. Of those voting, it will be hard for a lot of them to vote for Trump, constantly vilified day after day, but it may still reach 40 per cent. Still others who do vote may just leave the presidential line blank, and vote for Republicans for House and Senate seats.

I think there will be an almost perfect correlation between Jews who feel a deep attachment to the Jewish people — be it religiously, culturally, ethnically, or whatever –and voting Republican this year. For those who are Jewish mainly by “biology and genealogy” and for whom being Jewish is relatively unimportant, they are far more concerned with universal matters that now come under the rubric of terms like social justice, liberalism, diversity, inclusion, and so forth. They will come in at about 85 per cent for the Democrats. But as we don’t know the relative percentages of these two groups of Jews, predicting the overall Jewish vote for each of the two parties is difficult.

Addendum (added May 9):

Since writing this article, there have been two important developments. President Biden has said that he will in effect impose a partial arms embargo on Israel should the IDF complete the defeat of Hamas by capturing Rafah.  Secondly, a number of American websites report that they have found evidence that many of the campus protests currently underway in the United States have been funded by foundations and non-profits whose money comes from wealthy donors who are supporters of Biden and numerous Democratic campaigns.
Given this, I’d revise my estimates of Jewish votes in November to predict that the overall vote for Republican candidates might exceed, for the first time in a century, 50 per cent. Even liberal Jews, typically reliable Democrats, will break at only about 75-25 per cent for Biden.

Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

Continue Reading

Features

Reflections on 2 Winnipeg synagogues: While one is being radically transformed, one is just trying to stave off closure

Shaarey Zedek (top)/ House of Ashkenazie (bottom)

By BERNIE BELLAN My reports on this website about wo different Winnipeg synagogues and how they’re both attempting to change with the times might serve as a reminder to readers how much of a vital role synagogues used to play in the lives of Winnipeg Jews.
In December 2021 I wrote about a proposal to repurpose the Ashkenazie synagogue into a synagogue/museum. Writing that story got me to thinking about the history of Winnipeg synagogues in general, so I also wrote an article in which I listed all the synagogues that ever existed north of the CPR tracks.
There were 34 of them! (You can read both stories in our Dec. 8, 2021 issue. Simply enter the words Dec. 8, 2021 in our “search archive” searchbox.)

Now, while various synagogues either completely folded or merged with other synagogues over the years, there can be no doubt that it was the synagogue that played the central role in the lives of most Jewish Winnipeggers for years in this city.
I don’t think I have to tell you that the situation is completely different these days. There are very few synagogues left in Winnipeg and what few synagogues we do have are clamouring for members.
There’s nothing particularly surprising about that, given that churches, as well, have seen a huge decrease in popularity in recent years. (Mosques, on the other hand, are showing robust growth – in Winnipeg, as well as other areas in Canada.)

We’ve recently seen the relocation of the Etz Chayim congregation to new south end quarters and, while the assessment of most members with whom I’ve talked is that it’s a very nice building, it doesn’t quite have the feel of a synagogue.
As for the Shaarey Zedek, it’s a huge unknown whether the renovation project that is slated to be completed in August (according to congregation president Neil Duboff, but perhaps a little bit later, as there are always unforeseen delays in an undertaking as massive as the complete overhaul of Winnipeg’s largest synagogue entails), will lead to a rush of new members joining the Shaarey Zedek congregation. Or, to be more realistic: Will it lead to many of those who have abandoned the Shaarey Zedek, especially since Covid, rejoining?

The demographics of Winnipeg’s Jewish community don’t portend a large increase in synagogue membership going forward. Our community isn’t growing and, by and large, new arrivals to Winnipeg’s Jewish community haven’t shown much interest in becoming synagogue members. (I do note that the Etz Chayim has been somewhat successful in attracting new immigrant families, but the numbers are relatively small as a proportion of our overall Jewish community.)
As I note in my article about the Shaarey Zedek, one would expect that there will be an initial flurry of interest in seeing what the renovated synagogue is like – and with a gorgeous new event centre it is likely to become the go-to venue once again for life cycle events, such as weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs, at least for the first year. Many of those celebrations have been occurring outside of a synagogue setting, however, and it’s hard to see how, other than the Shaarey Zedek becoming the “in” venue for a period of time, that initial rush of event bookings that are likely to occur there will continue in the long run. There is just too much interest in trying to make a life cycle event unique that will work against any one venue becoming the favoured destination for more than a short period of time, especially as people compete with one another for inventiveness.

But, what of the rather interesting proposal I’ve also written about in my article on the home page here, about the proposal to turn the Ashkenazie synagogue into a combination synagogue/museum?
In theory, it’s a great idea – but realistically, how many people are going to be willing to head down to a part of town that is, to put it euphemistically, not as safe as one might like? I’ve generally shied away from dwelling on how scary whole parts of Winnipeg are now in which to venture forth. I’ll leave it for the Winnipeg Free Press to scare the bejesus out of most of us with its daily reports of break-ins, stabbings, assaults – and all too frequent murders, in this lovely city. I don’t need to add to your fear – unless you’re like many readers who have informed me they simply stopped taking the Free Press – and shy away completely from established media sources. (I’m always curious which news sources those readers now rely upon? I hope that it’s not simply the internet because, for all its faults, the Free Press is still by far the best news source in this town.)

I recall going on a Jane’s Walk a few years back, led by Zach Fleisher, that was made up of visits to some north end hallmarks that once played – and in some cases, still do play vital roles within our Jewish community.
It began at the site of the old CPR train station, which is where so many of our ancestors first arrived when they came to Winnipeg. We then proceeded to Joe Zuken Park in Point Douglas (which has no particular significance for the Jewish community other than it is located in an area that was once teeming with new Jewish arrivals), then on to the Chesed Shel Emes, Gunn’s Bakery, the Ashkenazie synagogue, and finally the former Talmud Torah on Charles Street.

Ashkenazie interior


Ever since then I’ve wanted to revisit that particular walk. At each point along the way we learned so much about our community’s history. And, as someone who hadn’t often been back to the Ashkenazie since my childhood, I marvelled at how beautiful it still was. It was because of that visit to the Ashkenzie, where the late Saul Spitz gave us such an interesting description of the synagogue’s history, that I would love to see Dr. Yosel Minuk’s imaginative proposal for redeveloping that grand old building at least be given the opportunity to move beyond total dismissal by the powers that be. All that it would take is a few former members of the Ashkenazie who may have moved elsewhere (or perhaps their children or grandchildren), and who might have the means to help in the synagogue’s redevelopment brought to life for that proposal to have a chance of succeeding.

And isn’t that how so many projects within our Jewish community have attained their goals? Perhaps the most vivid example in recent memory was BB Camp’s capital campaign, which succeeded in raising over $6 million five and a half years ago – largely as a result of BB Camp alumni from all over North America contributing to the cause.
While the Ashkenazie might have relatively very few former members left around the world, I know that when former Winnipeggers return to Winnipeg for a visit, very often they check out their former haunts in the North End. There is still a huge sentimental attachment to the North End on the part of so many ex-Winnipeggers (which they have often passed on to their children and grandchildren). Perhaps if they were to realize how perilous the situation is for the Ashkenazie they might step up to help preserve that grand old edifice. After all – they’ve lost Kelekis Restaurant and the North End Sals. What other shrines do they have left to visit on the way to check out the homes where they (or their parents) grew up?

One final note – and this has to do with Israel’s war in Gaza – a recent article in Haaretz delves into Netanyahu’s long, complicated, and “symbiotic” relationship with Hamas, according to the author of a new book about that relationship. (In one of the most surprising aspects of that article, it says that Yahya Sinwar, Israel’s arch enemy and the one man almost every Israeli would like to see dead, sent a note to Netanyahu in 2022 “that read ‘calculated risk’ – in Hebrew.” By the way, the author of the book doesn’t pretend to understand what exactly Sinwar meant by that cryptic note.)
One other part of that article, however, does more to explain how so many Israelis who might have considered themselves leftists or centrists prior to October 7 have now swung so far in the opposite direction to the point perhaps that we in the diaspora might now fully appreciate how hell bent so many Israelis are on wiping out Hamas.
The author of the book referred to in the Haaretz article is someone by the name of Adam Raz. According to information given about him at the beginning of the article, Raz is determinedly leftist in his political viewpoint – and so, apparently, was his mother – until October 7.
Here’s how Raz describes an encounter he had with his mother the day of October 7: “The day of the horrific events of October 7,Israeli political historian and author Adam Raz had a big fight with his mother. A longtime leftist and devoted Meretz voter, she surprised him with her harsh reaction. ‘She said: “They should pour gasoline all over Gaza and blow it up,” ‘ recounts Raz, whose work deals with political theory, the Israeli-Arab conflict and the nuclear arms race. ‘I realized that I needed to delve into the psyche that made even left-wing Israelis think this way.’
I wonder, more than seven months after the October 7 massacre, how many Israelis still hold that attitude? I ask that, not because I think I know the answer, but because I honestly don’t – yet it’s never really explored in all the analyses of what’s happening in Israel, is it? And it is crucial to understanding why so many Israelis say “to hell with the rest of the world. If we have to, we’ll go it alone.”

Continue Reading

Features

Women’s Endowment Fund celebrates 50 years of giving

Women who spoke at the Jewish Foundation Women's Endowment evening (Read the names of all the speakers in the article.)

By MYRON LOVE For the past 30 years, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba’s Women’s Endowment Fund (WEF) has been giving back to the community.  It has been the tradition of the foundation over these last many years to host an annual fundraising luncheon in the spring.
This year, however, in a departure from past practice – and in celebration of this most significant anniversary –  the foundation – instead of a lunch, decided to give back to the givers by hosting a social evening for the founders, long time supporters, former and current  committee members of the Women’s Endowment Fund.
On Thursday, May 9, about 100 women gathered at the Pavillion at Assiniboine Park for a short program of speeches and an evening of shmoozing and reminiscing over a light meal and refreshments.

Speakers at the Jewish Foundation Womern’s Endowment evening
front row (l-r): Katie Hall Hursh – Board Member, Health Sciences Centre Foundation, Lt. Governor Anita Neville, Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud – CEO, Siloam Mission
back row (l-r): Dr. Sharon Goszer-Tritt – JFM Board Member, Chair of the Women’s Endowment Fund Grants Committee, Chloë McComb – JFM Board Member, Former Chair of the Women’s Endowment Fund Grants Committee, Women’s Endowment Fund Builder (2013), Karyn Lazareck – Former JFM Board Member, Women’s Endowment Fund Founder (1994) and Builder (2013), Leah Leibl – Emcee, Women’s Endowment Fund Grants Committee Member, Becky Chisick – Executive Director, Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre


The formal part of the evening began with congratulations and comments from Lieutenant-Governor, Anita Neville, a long time Jewish Foundation supporter, who commented on the impact of the WEF on women and girls across Canada. 
“The power of giving is so important,” she said.  ‘The Women’s Endowment Fund brings together women in our Jewish community with a  shared passion for giving back.  Congratulations to all of you who continue to contribute to our community.”
Karyn Lazareck was among the founding members of the Women’s Endowment Fund.   “As we mark the 30th anniversary, I am reminded of the incredible journey that we have embarked upon,” she said.
“Back in1994, when we first conceived of the Women’s Endowment Fund,  we were driven by a desire to make a difference,” she recalled.  “We were inspired by the words of former Winnipegger Susan Weidman Schneider, the editor of Lilith Magazine, who challenged us to confront the historical lack of collective support among women for women’s causes. We set out to reshape the philanthropic landscape in Manitoba.”
Lazareck described “a diverse group of volunteers, from various organizations, united by a common goal to develop a space where women could make their own philanthropic choices.
“With the support of the Jewish Foundation,” she continued, “we paved a pathway to independence, establishing a women’s endowment fund driven entirely by women for women.”
The first challenge, she recalled, was raising the initial $5,000.  The initial requirement for the 50 founding members was $100 donation.
“We exceeded our target,” she recounted. “We were able to launch our endowment with $21,000 from 148 women.
“It took time for the concept of building an endowment to gain traction, but we persisted, buoyed by the unwavering support of the foundation and our growing community of women.”   
As to the state of the fund today, Dr. Sharon Goszer-Tritt, the Chair of the Women’s Endowment Fund grants committee, reported that the fund currently stands at over $2.2 million  “That $1,000 in grants that we were able to distribute in our first year has now reached more than  $101,000 a year,” she noted. “Our new goal is to grow the fund to $3 million and, from what we have seen already, I feel optimistic that we will do so.”
In illustrating the range of organizations – both in the Jewish and general communities, that the fund contributes to, Goszer-Tritt introduced  representatives of three of those recipient organizations to speak about the impact the WEF donations have had on their operations.  Among the three were: The Jewish Post’s new publisher, Becky Chisick, in her concurrent  role as executive director of the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre;  Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud,  Siloam Mission’s Chief Executive Officer; and Katie Hall Hursh,  a member of the board of directors of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation.
Hursh spoke at some length spoke about the HSC’s  new laparoscopic surgery  capabilitiy – partially funded by a grant from the Women’s Endowment Fund – which allows for much more rapid recovery from surgeries such as treatment for endometriosis, which effects the uterus – causing pain and making it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. The laparoscopic equipment is one benefit of the HSCF current campaign to acquire new technology and state-of-the-art equipment to use in emergency gynecological surgeries at the Women’s Hospital.
Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud spoke of the work of Siloam Mission in building social housing. She also thanked the Women’s Endowment Fund for a grant to Siloam to buy new women’s undergarments and feminine hygiene products.
Becky Chisick related that the Gwen Secter Centre received a grant from the fund to pay for CPR and First Aid courses designed especially for older women.
She also spoke about the positive impact of Gwen Secter programming on seniors in our community.
Representing the younger generation of Women’s Endowment fund committee members was Chloe McComb, daughter-in-law of founder Karyn Lazareck.  McComb, who is also now also a member of the Jewish Foundation’s Board of Directors, spoke about how inspiring she has found it to be a part of the community of female philanthropists – and of being a witness to the “remarkable growth and impact” of the Women’s Endowment Fund.  
McComb noted that, from her perspective as a member of the grants committee, she has seen firsthand the persistent need for funding. “One common challenge that we have come across has been the need for funding for ongoing initiatives,” she said.  “In particular, small non-profits with very specific needs were not able to apply for funding because the WEF, like many other granting agencies, only provide one-time funding.
“I am happy tonight to share that we have changed our granting criteria to ensure that support remains available for those who need it. By allowing organizations to apply for grants for ongoing programs, we ensure that organizations in Manitoba supporting women and girls always have a place to go.”
The final word went to Karyn Lazareck.
“The Women’s Endowment Fund,” she observed,” symbolizes a shift in mindset, a departure from the status quo.  And, as we look to the future, let us remember that the fund is inclusive of all women.  While it may have been initiated by a group of Jewish women, its scope knows no bounds.  It is a place for all women who seek to give back to their community and uplift the lives of women and children.
“Our Fund is a testament to the power of collective action and a beacon of hope for future generations of women in Manitoba.”

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News