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COVID crisis forces annual Mishpatim program online

Prof. Bryan Schwartz

Ten years ago, University of Manitoba Law Professor Bryan Schwartz, in conjunction with the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University, introduced Mishpatim, now known as the Asper International Law Program on Israeli Law and Society – a program whose goal was to introduce the State of Israel to University of Manitoba Law students through direct exposure to Israeli scholarship and society.

“Mishpatim is a way to show some of our students what Israel and Jewish civilization is all about and come to their own conclusions,” says Schwartz, who was a long time board member of the former Winnipeg chapter of the CFHU. “Our program focuses on the nature of the Israeli legal system and how Israel applies its constitutional and regulatory framework to its social and economic challenges compared to the Canadian experience.”
Over the past few years, about 40 students a year joined Schwartz in Israel for two weeks in May. (While the program is open to law students from across Canada, most participants are U. of M. students.)
“We were really excited about this – our tenth year,” Schwartz says. “We had a record number of students enrolled and a huge international conference planned.”
And then the COVID epidemic hit.
Undeterred, Schwartz has created a new course to replace Mishpatim this summer. If he and his students were unable to travel to Israel, he would bring Israel to the students in the form of interactive Zoom sessions with leading scholars drawn from the faculties of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Schwartz notes that he has spent the past three months putting together the new online curriculum with the help of Dr. Daniel Ohana, Schwartz’s Canadian-born Israeli partner in Mishpatim for the past eight years.

The new four-week program, “Decision Making During Crises: Strategic Thinking in Times of Peril and Uncertainty”, began on July 6. Schwartz reports that more than 40 students are participating in the two-hour daily Zoom sessions Monday through Thursday in the mornings.
The first part of the course, which was led by Schwartz, focused on the Canadian and American legal frameworks for emergency powers of government (e.g., Canada’s War Measures Act) and the wider question of how individuals, groups and societies make decisions in times of crises. This part of the program included presentations by Israeli experts in Game Theory, Behavioural Economics, Group Psychology, Recognition-Primed Decisions and Rhetoric: Theories of Decision Making in Emergencies. Students were also exposed to how Jewish civilization as well as modern Israel has adapted to crisis.
“Israel locked down quickly,” Schwartz notes. “What can we learn from the Israel experience? What is the trade-off in Israel between human rights and security?

The second part of the new Mishpatim – led by the Hebrew University’s Ohana, will be examining: the functioning of the Israeli court system; Israel as the “Start-Up Nation” – also Palestinian entrepreneurship in Jerusalem; law enforcement; intercommunal tensions and co-operation through the COVID outbreak; the current situations of both refugees and illegal immigrants; the role of international law with regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and on decision-making at a time of crisis such as this.
“For a new start-up venture, our Mishpatim online is going very well,” Schwartz comments. “I am excited about the number of great presenters that Daniel has recruited.”

Schwartz also expresses his heart-felt appreciation for the continued support of the Asper Foundation. The Foundation has been a major sponsor throughout and, this year, repurposed its contribution to provide subsidies for the students participating in the Zoom seminars.
And, Schwartz adds that he is “thrilled” at being able to continue working with the people at the Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School as well as Daniel Ohana and his HU colleagues. “Any association with the university of Albert Einstein is a special honour,” Schwartz says. “The co-operation that we have had from the Hebrew University has been terrific. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

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Our New Jewish Reality

Indigo bookstore in Toronto defaced

By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead

Jewish Post & News file photo

Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.

To read the full story on the CBC website, go to

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Israeli show satirizing students in the US who give blind support to Hamas

If you want to take a break from the tension that comes with following every bit of news associated with Israel’s war on Hamas watch this hilarious video satirizing the stupidity of US college kids who give unqualified support to Hamas:

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