Theatre critic, author and actor Jerry Wasserman is the winner of this year’s Max Wyman Award in Critical Writing.
The annual award celebrates critical commentary on the visual, performing and literary arts in the province of British Columbia. It is intended to honour informed and compelling writing that stimulates critical thinking, fosters ongoing discussion about the role of arts and culture in contemporary society and demonstrates the value of creative commentary in our understanding of the world around us.
The winner receives a prize of $5,000 and a gold and emerald pin designed by Vancouver artist Robert Chaplin. A mentee, named by the laureate, receives a $1,000 prize. This year’s mentee is Angie Rico, an emerging writer and media artist.
The award was established in 2017 by philanthropist Yosef Wosk to honour the career and lifetime contributions of the Vancouver author, arts critic and commentator Max Wyman. It recognizes writers who have amassed a significant body of work. Eligible subjects of criticism include the visual arts, architecture and design, theatre, literature, dance, music, film and television, as well as more general cultural commentary.
Wasserman began working as a theatre critic on CBC national radio in the mid-1980s and broadcast weekly reviews on Vancouver’s The Afternoon Show from 1987 to 2003. He has since served as theatre critic for the Province and, currently, the Vancouver Sun. About 400 of his articles and reviews have appeared in those papers; since 2004, his website, vancouverplays.com, has received more than 1.6 million visits. He taught English and theatre at the University of British Columbia for more than four decades and served as head of the department of theatre and film from 2007 to 2012. His acting resumé includes stage appearances for the Arts Club, Playhouse, City Stage, Westcoast Actors, New Play Centre, United Players and Western Gold Theatre, and more than 200 film and TV appearances, from The X-Files, Look Who’s Talking and Alive to I, Robot, Watchmen and The Last of Us.
The jury citation reads: “Jerry Wasserman’s remarkable career in many ways embodies the aims of this award. His decades as a teacher and as a performer give his writing about the theatre a sympathetic and thoughtful understanding that is expressed in language that is lively, direct and deeply informed. The jury was unanimous in its appreciation of the way he has encouraged and enhanced a wider appreciation of the richness of the Vancouver arts scene and the talents of those who make that richness possible – both through his print and media reviews and through his website, which is a consistent source of information and critical context on all things theatre in Vancouver.”
Wosk commented: “Jerry Wasserman’s voice has been a steady and trusted source of information and context about the Vancouver theatre scene for decades. He treats criticism and commentary as an integral part of the cultural fabric, and sees the role of the critic not as an antagonist to the performer and creator but as a collaborator. I am delighted that he is to receive this award.”
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Brighton Feldman has been named to the U-18 Canadian National Rugby Team for a tour in the Netherlands this summer. At the school-based age group, however, team members have to pay all their own travel expenses, so Feldman has started a GoFundMe page.
“Ever since I started playing rugby, I’ve wanted to wear the leaf on my chest,” he writes. “Now that I have that opportunity, I need a little help to get me there. I promise to work my butt off and come away with some wins. Any support is appreciated.”
Feldman is the son of Steve Feldman and Kristen Sandborn of Victoria, and grandson of Pearl Feldman of South Surrey, B.C. He is a graduate of Congregation Emanu-El Hebrew School and is completing Grade 12 at Royal Bay Secondary School in Victoria. He plays basketball and rugby for his school teams, as well as playing rugby for the WestshoreFC and, now, for Team Canada. He has previously played and captained the B.C. Bears provincial rugby team.
Next year, Feldman will be attending the University of Victoria, working towards a degree in physical and health education. At UVic, he will compete as a member of the Vikes Rugby Team.
On May 30, the Global Reporting Centre’s Peter Klein will give the talk Disinformation and Democracy. (photo from VST)
Emmy Award-winning journalist Peter Klein will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Making Meaning in a Time of Media Polarization conference, organized by the Vancouver School of Theology (VST). Klein’s talk on the evening of May 30 – titled Disinformation and Democracy – is free and open to the public.
Klein, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Journalism, Writing and Media, also heads the Global Reporting Centre, an independent news organization based at UBC that focuses on innovating global journalism. His lecture will explore the role that disinformation plays in both confusing the public and in undermining journalism.
“Open information is central to democracy,” said Klein. “There is no open society without open dialogue. In the past, the challenge was simply to restrict governments from curtailing the media. That was a challenge in itself, but, today, there are so many forces of propaganda and disinformation, many much more subtle than dictators arresting journalists.”
The origins of disinformation go back a long way, Klein noted. He referred to a Jan. 24, 2018, message on World Communications Day from Pope Francis who spoke of the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis that created “fake news” to lure Adam and Even to “original sin.”
Klein will focus his talk on more contemporary efforts to lead people astray – from Germany’s Hitler to the Russian newspaper Pravda to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. He will first look at disinformation from a North American context, then provide several international examples.
The Global Reporting Centre recently competed a study on disinformation attacks on journalists, or what he refers to as a “special subset of disinformation.”
“Attacking the messenger is an old trick that people in power have traditionally used, but social media has made it so much easier to undermine the authority of journalists,” said Klein, who has served as a producer for 60 Minutes, created video projects for the New York Times and written columns for the Globe and Mail, among other publications.
“Publish a critical story about a politician or business leader, and there’s a chance they or their supporters will come after you any way they can,” said Klein. “What we found in our study is that those wanting to undermine media do so by attacking on basis of race, gender and a number of other factors, which vary geographically.”
Though social media is what Klein calls “the pointy end of the stick,” mainstream media has, sometimes through disinformation, become polarized, too, he said. The Dominion Voting Systems case against Fox News, ending in April when the network paid a $787 million US settlement, is a clear example. Fox had falsely claimed that Dominion manipulated the results of the 2020 American presidential election.
“Fox had to pay for this, but they’re still standing, and I don’t necessarily see much change at the network,” Klein said.
The latter part of Klein’s talk will examine ways to combat disinformation. A key element of lessening the problem comes down to “public sophistication,” said Klein.
“We’re awash in fake news, not just political but calls to your cellphone that the RCMP is going to arrest you because of unpaid taxes, ads for incredible deals on household goods that just need a small deposit to hold the item, and the classic Nigerian prince scheme. I think we’re getting better at spotting that kind of fake information, although people still fall for it on a regular basis – including me recently, when looking for a deep freezer. As the public gets more sophisticated, so do the scammers.”
The same holds true for disinformation, according to Klein, and people need to improve their ability to identify falsehoods. He spoke about the visit a few years ago to the Global Reporting Centre by a journalist who exposed that torture was being committed by Iraqi special forces fighting ISIS. Following the visit, an Iraqi graduate student arrived at Klein’s office and presented a video that portrayed the journalist as a fabulist and a torturer himself.
“It turned out this video was part of a disinformation campaign in Iraq meant to undermine his embarrassing reporting, but she fell for it. We’re all susceptible, but if we can be better educated about disinformation and better equipped to spot it, we have a chance to combat it,” Klein said.
“In many ways, we’re more powerful than those who are combating traditional heavy-handed censorship and attacks on media. My parents fled Soviet-controlled Hungary, where public dialogue that was not in line with the state narrative could get you tossed in jail. We have the agency to combat it,” he said.
Making Meaning in a Time of Media Polarization, which will be held May 30-June 1, will be VST’s eighth annual inter-religious conference on public life. Its participants will seek answers on how spiritual and religious leaders might proceed at a time when social media, politicians and some news organizations sow polarization and cultivate outrage.
“Under COVID restrictions, our society’s stress points started to crack. We saw bad actors use media and social media to divide people, and we saw innocent, well-meaning people get drawn in,” said Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan, director of Inter-Religious Studies and professor of Jewish studies at VST, who is the conference director.
“Ideally, in spiritual communities, people learn how to live a meaningful life with others. So, we started to think about how religious communities might respond to a crisis in public discourse,” she said. “We designed a conference where media experts can help us understand the crisis, and religious teachers can help us respond.”
Canadian Michael Starr, who joined the Jerusalem Post in 2021, started a new position last month: that of legal correspondent.
Starr was born and raised in Toronto, but has a B.C. connection. His parents, Steven Starr and Iris Green-Starr, both doctors, moved the family to Victoria, where they still live, “because it is a lovely place and there is more nature there.” It was in Victoria that Starr attended high school.
Starr made aliyah at the age of 18 and joined the Israel Defence Forces later in the year, at the age of 19, serving in the infantry from 2009 to 2012.
“I grew up in a religious and Zionist household, and Israel was a large part of my cultural heritage,” he told the Independent about why he made aliyah. “My grandmother was born in Israel and my grandfather served in the Haganah and IDF. Further, there comes a time in every young man’s life in which he needs to leave his father’s home and put himself in a new environment to truly allow him to become himself.”
His brother, Joseph, came in 2012 and served in the Israeli army; today, he is in the Canadian military. Starr’s younger brother, Sam, is currently part of the IDF’s Golani Brigade.
Starr received a bachelor’s degree, majoring in government studies, and a master’s in terrorism and counterterrorism operations from Reichman University in Herzliya. (Reichman is Israel’s first and only private university, founded in 1994 as the IDC or Interdisciplinary Centre, a private college, before being rebranded in 2021.)
When a friend mentioned that there was a job opening at the Jerusalem Post, he applied and got the job.
“I never set out to be a journalist,” he said. “My interests are security and diplomacy.”
In March of 2021, he started writing for the Jerusalem Post magazine and the Post itself. From March 2020 through December of last year, he was on the breaking news desk.
“When the legal affairs correspondent position opened up, the end of November, I accepted because I wanted to be a journalist and it was a promotion, a step up,” he said. “I also like writing and this would be an opportunity to do more.”
On Jan. 1, Starr started that new position, “where I am reporting on the judicial reforms, which are not just one proposal but many different provisions. It was lucky I studied international law; this is a new field for me.”
Although Starr admits, “I’m a bit of a workaholic,” he runs for enjoyment and takes long walks.
Sybil Kaplan is a Jerusalem-based journalist and author. She wrote Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel, set against the history of Israel in the 1970s, and Hatzaad Harishon, A “First Step” Love Story, relating her experiences as the first youth leader of the first black Jewish youth group in New York. She has edited/compiled nine kosher cookbooks and is a food writer for North American Jewish publications.
Leamore Cohen (photo by Efrat Gal-Or Nucleus Photography)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s inclusion services program is one of the recipients of the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Awards, in the category of visual arts. This one-time honour, marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, recognizes organizations like the JCC that have excelled in fostering wide community engagement through a robust spectrum of arts and culture programs. Most important: the award emphasizes the JCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
It all began with a passionate letter of nomination by Chaia Schneid, whose daughter, Sarah Halpern, discovered “a previously untapped creative passion” in the Art Hive and Theatre Lab classes she attended, among other programs run through the JCC’s inclusion services. Writing to the Hon. Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Schneid stated: “The quality of the arts and culture programs is unlike anything we have found elsewhere. They are professionally delivered and of the highest calibre, and yet individualized to meet the special needs of the diverse participants.” In particular, Schneid praised the JCC’s annual Jewish Disability and Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Schneid also praised current program director and inclusion services coordinator Leamore Cohen, calling her a “rare individual.”
Shelley Rivkin, vice-president, local and global engagement, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver wrote a letter of support for the nomination. In it, she highlighted several inclusion services arts and social programs, and Cohen’s leadership.
“Leamore Cohen is the driving force behind these programs and her compassion, creativity and commitment to inclusion shine through in all aspects of the program,” wrote Rivkin. “She is always generating new ways and ideas for participants to engage with the arts and to create to the best of their abilities. These programs break new ground by offering meaningful educational and recreational opportunities for people with diverse needs. Having had the opportunity to attend some events, I have seen firsthand the joy that participants feel in being able to express themselves in a variety of mediums and the pride that their parents and family members experience when they see the creativity and talent of their loved ones.”
For a growing number of Vancouverites from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, and across all ages and abilities, the calibre and range of the JCC’s work is well-known. A schedule of performing and fine arts programs coincides with an array of sport, leisure and fitness options inside a facility that houses a theatre, library, gymnasium and pool. The JCC is also widely known for its annual Jewish Book and Chutzpah! festivals – both occupying a key place in the city’s cultural calendar – alongside community services including preschool and toddler daycare.
“While the arts programming is the centrepiece of what is being offered,” wrote Rivkin, “other inclusion programming for adults includes free memberships and access to all the fitness and wellness facilities at the Jewish community centre along with two virtual classes offered five days a week that are designed to be sensitive to the sensory stimulation needs of participants.”
Noting that activities continued throughout the pandemic, Rivkin concluded, “the program demonstrates its dedication to equity and inclusion daily by the range of programs embedded in the arts that have been opened up to this population and, of course, commitment, both on the part of Leamore Cohen, who dedicates so much time and thought to designing these programs, and to the participants themselves, who have remained active and involved despite their personal barriers and the COVID restrictions.”
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On June 18, Annette Whitehead was awarded a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pin by MP Joyce Murray. Whitehead was nominated for the honour by Kitsilano Community Centre for her outstanding commitment and dedication to her community. She also received a certificate as a sign of gratitude for all the wonderful and hard work she does for her constituency.
June 2022 marked the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. To commemorate this milestone, Murray was issued a number of Platinum Jubilee pins, which she decided would be best used to celebrate and thank those who volunteer in Vancouver Quadra. The ceremony took place at Trimble Park.
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On July 7, the National Audubon Society announced the winners of its 13th annual Audubon Photography Awards. This year, judges awarded eight prizes across five divisions from a pool of 2,416 entrants from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and seven Canadian provinces and territories.
Local Jewish community member Liron Gertsman won three awards:
Professional Award Winner for his photo of a white-tailed ptarmigan,
Professional Honourable Mention for his photo of a sharp-tailed grouse, and
Video Award Winner for his sharp-tailed grouse video.
In a July 7 Facebook post, Gertsman writes about his wins: “Getting a chance to shine some light on these often under-appreciated birds brings a big smile to my face!”
He also writes about the white-tailed ptarmigan:
“Perfectly adapted to harsh alpine conditions, they spend most of their time foraging on small plant matter in the tundra, insulated from the wind and cold by their warm layers of feathers. Ptarmigan are also famous for changing their feathers to match their snowy surroundings in the winter, and their rocky surroundings in the summer. This mastery of camouflage makes them very difficult to find, and I’ve spent countless hikes searching for them, to no avail. On this particular day, after hiking in the alpine for a couple of hours, I stumbled right into my target bird! This individual was part of a small group of ptarmigan that were so well camouflaged, I didn’t notice them until some movement caught my eye just a few yards from where I was standing. Wanting to capture these remarkable birds within the context of their spectacular mountain domain, I put on a wider lens and sat down. The birds continued to forage at close range, and I captured this image as this individual walked over a rock, posing in front of the stunning mountains of Jasper National Park.”
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At the Rockower Awards banquet, held in conjunction with the American Jewish Press Association’s annual conference, June 27, 2022, in Atlanta, Ga., the Jewish Independent received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. These awards honoured achievements in Jewish media published in 2021 and there was a record-breaking 1,100-plus entries from AJPA members.
In the news story category, in the division of weekly and biweekly newspapers, the ˆI took second place for Kevin Keystone’s article “What constitutes recruiting?” The piece explored the allegation by a coalition of foreign policy and Palestinian solidarity organizations that Canadians are being recruited for the Israel Defence Forces.
For excellence in editorial writing, in which all member papers competed, the JI editorial board of Pat Johnson, Basya Laye and Cynthia Ramsay received an honourable mention, or third place. “Strong reasoning and writing, relevant to Jewish audience,” wrote the judges about the trio of articles submitted. The submission included “Ideas worth the fight,” about university campuses and the need to keep “engaging in the battle of ideas, however daunting and hopeless the fight might appear”; “Tragedy and cruelty,” about the response to the catastrophe at Mount Meron on Lag b’Omer in 2021; and “Antisemitism unleashed,” about how the violence in Israel in May 2021 year spilled out into the world with a spike in antisemitic incidents.
Myriam Steinberg’s Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of Infertility, with illustrations by Christache, has won two gold medals for best graphic novel. The first was the Independent Publishers (IPPY) Awards, and the second is the Foreword Indies Award. This is after having won the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature last fall.
“This book was not only a labour of love, but also a call-out to the world to recognize and acknowledge the very real experience of so many people,” wrote Steinberg in an email. “Pregnancy loss and/or infertility touch almost everyone in some way or other. It affects those who are trying to conceive the most, but it also touches (often unbeknownst to them) their children, friends, family and colleagues.”
To celebrate the honours, Steinberg is offering a 20% discount on books bought directly from her (shipping extra). To order, email [email protected].
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The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and the VSO School of Music (VSO SoM) are excited to recognize the appointment of Ben Mink, CM, as a Member of the Order of Canada. On June 29, 2022, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon announced that Ben Mink, who is a member of the board of directors for both the VSO and VSO SoM, has received the distinction “for his sustained contributions to Canadian music as a producer, multi-instrumentalist and writer.”
Mink has amassed a critically acclaimed body of work spanning decades, styles and genres as an international musical force. His influence is tangible and enduring in the widest range of musical styles and directions, and his imprint can be found in countless recordings, film scores and television programs. As a producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Mink has brought his signature style and approach to major musical artists and productions. He has an impressive list of recording collaborations that include k.d. lang, Rush, Daniel Lanois, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Alison Krauss, Heart, Feist, the Klezmatics, Wynona Judd, Method Man, James Hetfield (Metallica), and many more.
He has been nominated for nine Grammies, winning twice for his work with k.d. lang. The song “Constant Craving,” which he co-wrote and produced with lang, won her a Grammy for best female pop performance and has been used in several TV shows.
In 2007, he was co-nominated for his work on Feist’s Grammy-nominated “1234,” which gained global popularity in the roll out campaign for the iPod Nano. His recent collaborations with Heart were Billboard hits. Mink’s work helped set new and significant directions in Canadian popular music, and his writing and producing has been recognized with seven Juno nominations (three wins) and the SOCAN Wm. Harold Moon Award for international recognition.
Reesa Steele and family have the absolute pleasure to announce the upcoming marriage of Talia Magder and Weston Steele on Sunday, July 24, 2022, under the chuppah in front of family and friends in Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Nicole and Philip Magder of Montreal and Reesa Steele and David Steele of Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Talia and Weston. May this be the first of many simchas ♥
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Emmy nominee Molly Leikin is the author of Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting in the Digital Age, published by Permuted Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, in July 2022. It is Molly’s eighth book.
Ellin Bessner in the field reporting, October 2021, for her podcast, called The CJN Daily. (photo from Ellin Bessner)
Ellin Bessner is the host of The CJN Daily, one of several new podcasts featured on thecjn.ca, the Canadian Jewish News’ recently revamped website.
A veteran journalist, Bessner caught the reporting bug early in life.
“I have been a journalist since I was 10 years old – even though I didn’t know I was at the time. I was like the fictional character Harriet the Spy, writing notes about my parents’ friends,” she said of her first recollections as an aspiring member of the press.
These days, she hunts around for and discovers stories throughout the country that others might miss – all with the objective of depicting “what Jewish Canada ‘sounds’ like.”
“I read a lot, I scour the internet. There are literally stories everywhere. I don’t have enough time or enough podcasts to do [them all],” Bessner said, as The CJN Daily nears its first anniversary.
Bessner has broadcast stories on people as diverse as Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the Montreal-born chief rabbi of the United Arab Emirates; Ashley Waxman Bakshi, a Canadian Israeli social media influencer; and Rabbi Arnold Noteh Glogauer, the first Canadian Jewish chaplain to set sail with the Royal Canadian Navy.
She also attempts to present all sides of contentious issues. During the February blockades in Ottawa, for example, she interviewed Jews who were involved in counter-protests against the truckers and two Jews (both vaccinated) who supported the convoy.
The CJN Daily has done several British Columbia stories, as well. To date, the show has aired a discussion with Aaron Levy, an Abbotsford disc jockey broadcasting about the November floods; a dispatch from a Jewish woman in Kamloops on her experience this summer in the path of British Columbia’s largest wildfire; an interview with Bernard Pinsky on security at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver; a talk with environmental activist Seth Klein after COP26, the climate change conference in Glasgow; reflections on high school graduation from King David High School’s Class of 2021; a look at the number of people converting to Judaism in Kelowna; and a report about Jews in Kamloops and their reaction to the discovery of hundreds of Indigenous child graves in their community.
“British Columbia really had a terrible year,” said Bessner. “You had drought, forest fires, smoke, Indigenous issues … security issues and hunger. There is room for a B.C. story every single day. I really try to do as many as I can.”
CJN reinvents itself
In April 2020, a month into the pandemic, the CJN closed for the second time. The first time, in 2013, it returned after several months. This latest closure ended in December 2020, with a new CJN that is mainly a digital periodical.
“They chose to close after the Pesach issue in 2020. There was no revenue coming in and they decided to shut down,” explained Bessner. “A few months later, everyone thought that was CJN’s demise. Other websites came in to fill the gap. Meanwhile, those associated with CJN had decided to pivot to digital.
“It was a good opportunity to do that while everyone was at home and Zooming,” she said. “They re-launched digitally on Facebook only and got rid of the old website. Eventually, more money came in. The CJN doesn’t have the same look as before. We are doing it in a more modern way. These are the times and we have to be with the times.”
That said, for those who want to have a more traditional copy of the paper, the CJN still offers a printable weekly digest of stories every Friday (available on its website) and The CJ Magazine, a quarterly that will have its first issue later this year.
As for The CJN Daily, its start last spring did not go off according to script, Bessner recalled. “The podcast was launched on May 3, right when the Mount Meron tragedy occurred on Lag b’Omer,” she said. “All our planned interviews on Jewish Heritage Month were rescheduled. And then Israel had a war.”
The CJN Daily provides Monday to Thursday updates on the Canadian Jewish scene, from coast to coast to coast. The show can be heard on Spotify, Apple and other podcast platforms, as well as on the CJN website. There are also extended versions of Bessner’s interviews on the CJN’s YouTube channel.
Other podcasts on the CJN roster include Bonjour Chai, a weekly current affairs show; Yehupetzville, a look at Jewish life across Canada; Rivush, interviews with Jews of Colour hosted by Rivka Campbell; Menschwarmers, “the world’s most popular Jewish sports podcast”; and A Few of My Favourite Jews, with comedian Laura Leibow.
Bessner has worked for the Canadian Press, CTV News, CBC News and JazzFM. As a correspondent, she has reported from across Canada, Europe and Africa. As a professor, she has taught journalism at Ryerson University, Seneca College and, most recently, at Centennial College.
She is the author of Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military and World War II (2018) and a contributor to Northern Lights: A Canadian Jewish History (2020). In 2019, thanks to her efforts, Veterans Affairs Canada created a section on its website recognizing the contributions of Jewish men and women who served in the Canadian military during the Second World War.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Bret Stephens (photo from harrywalker.com/speakers/bret-stephens)
Western media have got the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wrong, says Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor and columnist who is an opinion writer for the New York Times. But, for a journalist to diverge from that entrenched storyline is almost impossible.
Stephens, a former editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal and managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, recalled when he first started covering the region, in 2000.
“I went out there purely wearing my journalist’s hat and saw a story that was very different from the story that was being reported by many of my colleagues in the mainstream press,” said Stephens in a Sept. 23 webinar hosted by Honest Reporting Canada.
“I think lots of the Western press have continued to get much of the story dead wrong, most of all on that fundamental question: who is the aggressor?”
An example of media’s inability to diverge from a predetermined storyline came in 2019, he said, when residents of Gaza were protesting against the oppression and economic deprivation brought on by the Hamas regime that governs the seaside enclave. The global media, which tends to focus disproportionately on Palestinian concerns, almost entirely ignored the anti-Hamas activism, Stephens said.
“They wanted the world to believe that Palestinians in Gaza had one problem,” Stephens said, “and the name of that problem was Israel.”
Accurate reporting from Palestine is also a challenge because Western media hire freelancers, or “stringers,” in Gaza and the West Bank who do not operate with the same freedoms that reporters in Israel enjoy.
“They have colleagues in Gaza, where the pressure is not-so-subtle for those stringers to toe a particular ideological line, to not report stories that would be inconvenient for the Hamas narrative,” he said.
Winning the battle of ideas, Stephens said, is a priority for Hamas.
“The field of combat is not the battle they know they’re ultimately going to lose against Israel, but the one they think they’re going to win in the realm of public opinion,” he said.
Stephens clarified that he is a columnist, paid to have opinions. But too many journalists today, he said, either view themselves as activists or cannot differentiate their own opinions from straightforward reporting.
The broader context of societal understanding of what were once considered verifiable truths does not bode well for Jews, he added.
“Race is replacing ethnicity as the defining marker of group and personal identification,” he said. “Now we have this new kind of racialism that is dividing people into people of colour and white people. So Jews find themselves, or the majority who are not Jews of colour find themselves, shunted into a racial classification that they don’t recognize as their own.
“I don’t think of myself as a white guy,” he said. “I don’t feel like I have participated in any system of white supremacy. I am the son of a woman who was a hidden child in the Holocaust. She was hunted down for not being white. A Jew. To somehow pair me in this new scheme with the white mask is an injustice to millions of Jews who feel deeply discomfited by this new racialism.”
He added: “Jews have never, never done well when racialist dogma becomes a defining feature of society.”
Other social trends should alarm Jewish people, said Stephens, a conservative writer who calls himself a “never-Trump Republican.”
“The concept of personal success is now being called privilege,” he said. “There are all kinds of Jews who came to these shores in North America with nothing, or next to nothing, and who achieved, by virtue of hard work, effort, ingenuity, good luck, whatever. But now success is being called privilege and privilege is being seen as a product not of individual merit, but as a system of oppression.”
Further, he said, independent thinkers are now being treated as heretics, “and Jews have a long tradition of independent thinking.”
The widespread acceptance of outlandish lies, exemplified by the so-called “Pizzagate” theory, the group QAnon and the idea that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was unjustly stolen from Donald Trump, are an indication of fringe ideas seeping into the body politic, he said.
“We now have come to a place where, increasingly, we are a nation that can bring ourselves to believe anything and a nation that can bring itself to believe anything … sooner or later, is going to have no problem believing the worst about Jews. This is the moment that we’re in.
“Conspiracy thinking has gone mainstream and there is no bigger conspiracy theory in the world than antisemitism,” he said.
Stephens challenged the rote assertion that “anti-Zionism is not antisemitism” by making a stark comparison.
“What is antisemitism?” he asked. “It is a belief, born in the 19th century, that Jews were imposters and swindlers. They were imposters because they were pretending to be Europeans, whether German or French or Italians or whatever, but they were really Semites; that they are not from Europe, they are from the Middle East. And, it said further, these imposters are swindlers because they are trying to swindle real Europeans out of their financial wealth and culture and heritage or whatever. Now, think of what anti-Zionism has shown us. Anti-Zionism is the view that Jews are imposters and swindlers, that they claim to have a Middle Eastern descent but there is no Jewish connection to the land of Israel – that’s the line. And they’re swindlers – they’re swindling Palestinians out of their land.”
Stephens said he supports a two-state solution, “just not now.”
“In theory, a two-state solution is the ideal outcome,” he said. “We should labour towards that, while knowing that it could take 10 or 50 years.
“The prospect of a Palestinian state today isn’t about where you draw the borders. It’s about whether a self-governing Palestinian state can have enough pluralism, liberalism, democracy, tolerance and, above all, a willingness to live in an enduring peace with its neighbours … because the last thing Israel needs is re-creating what the Gaza Strip has become in the West Bank.”
Demanding Palestinian self-determination now, he said, is like inducing a baby in the 20th week of pregnancy.
“It’s going to result in tragedy. Let’s be mindful of what the long-term goal is, but let’s be practical and thoughtful and sensible about how we get to it.”
Honest Reporting Canada describes itself as an independent grassroots organization promoting fairness and accuracy in Canadian media coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The webinar is available for viewing at honestreporting.ca.
Jonas Noreika, who was executed by the Soviets in 1947, has been revered in his native Lithuania and by its expatriate community as a national hero and an anti-communist patriot.
This vaunted hero, however, has come under intense scrutiny of late, largely as a result of the findings of his own granddaughter, Silvia Foti. Her research has revealed that Noreika, whose nom de guerre was “General Storm,” was in fact a Nazi collaborator, responsible for the murder of thousands of Lithuanian Jews – sometimes, on his own initiative.
In her new book, The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal (Regnery Publishing, 2021), Foti documents her path from hearing stories about his almost legendary stature to her discovery of the disturbing truth.
The book, the writing of which had been undertaken to fulfil Foti’s mother’s (Noreika’s daughter’s) dying wish, was intended as a tribute. Foti succeeded in assembling hundreds of documents related to Noreika’s life, including an antisemitic pamphlet that he authored in 1933, and KGB transcripts of his prison interrogations.
At first, Foti did not want to believe the story that was emerging from the various written sources, finding it “too scary, too painful, too shameful.” Nonetheless, as a journalist, she could not ignore the rumours that she encountered during her investigative trips to Lithuania. She pursued the matter, in the hope that an examination of her grandfather’s acts during the Second World War would exonerate him. Ultimately, she found so much evidence about his role in killing Jews that it was impossible to act as though it did not exist.
“I wanted to throw the manuscript away so many times, to just drop the whole project. I kept asking myself, Why me? Why am I the one to discover all this? I finally came to realize that, because I am the granddaughter, I would most likely get the most attention,” Foti told the Independent. “I am a practising Catholic, and I pray over this story constantly. My strength came from believing that this is the truth, and the truth needs to prevail, no matter the cost to me.”
What started out as a journey of discovery has now been the recipient of international attention. Foti’s story has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the BBC, among others.
“So much seemed accidental, inadvertent. I didn’t mean to discover that my grandfather was a Holocaust perpetrator. I didn’t mean to discover that the government of Lithuania refuses to acknowledge his role in the Holocaust and, instead, has declared him a hero,” Foti said.
In 2018, when she was 18 years into her project and believing it was nearing completion, she learned of a lawsuit by Grant Gochin, who lost 100 relatives in the Holocaust, against the Genocide Research and Resistance Centre of Lithuania. They compared notes and joined forces in getting the story out to the international community.
The revelations about Noreika were, to say the least, not easy for many Lithuanians to accept.
“Today, now that the book is out, I face anger, fear and resentment from many Lithuanians who are still in denial over Lithuanians’ role in the Holocaust. I get hate email and death threats, accusations that I work for the Russians, that I’m a traitor to Lithuania, even that someone else wrote the book instead of me. So many Lithuanians think Grant wrote the book,” Foti recounted.
“Grant has an accounting degree and I have two writing degrees and yet, for Lithuanians, it’s easier for them to think Grant hypnotized me and wrote the book,” Foti added. “Lithuanians still have a lot of superstitions concerning Jews. They just can’t believe a Lithuanian would accuse her own grandfather of such horrors. In some ways though, I understand them, because I was there about 20 years ago – minus the superstitions.”
Foti believes, at present, that Lithuania has backed itself into a corner and needs to admit that the Genocide Centre, “its great arbiter” of what took place in the country during the Holocaust, has made a grave error in deeming Noreika a hero. Nevertheless, she does not think such an about-face will happen anytime soon.
“It would be a hari-kari move that would necessitate that the Genocide Centre fall on its sword. How could a mere granddaughter in Chicago uncover so much information about Jonas Noreika, and how could the nation’s legions of historians under the government’s payroll not?” she asked.
“This was Lithuania’s last graceful chance to own up to its role in the Holocaust,” she said. “It could have saved face if its legal system did its due diligence. Unfortunately, the court systems there have a reputation for being corrupt; holdovers from the Soviet era. Because Grant Gochin has exhausted all legal avenues in Lithuania, he now is able to take it to the European Union’s International Court of Human Rights.”
The Nazi’s Granddaughter was edited by Lisa Ferdman of Vancouver.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
On the dock where they officiated the conversion ceremony are, left to right, Rabbi Alan Bright (Montreal), Rabbi Tom Samuels (Kelowna), Rabbi Jeremy Parnes (Regina) and Cantor Russell Jayne (Calgary). (photo from Steven Finkleman)
The Okanagan Jewish community in Kelowna recently completed a formal conversion ceremony.
Ten months of formal study, with weekly Tuesday evening Zooms, culminated in a long weekend of events July 14-17. There was a bet din (rabbinical court) and mikvah (ritual bath) in Lake Okanagan and the Shabbaton weekend included Friday night and Saturday morning services. Each of the students participated in the Torah service on Shabbat.
The dedication of these students who have chosen Judaism as their faith was remarkable, as was the dedication of the clergy during the teaching process.
Twelve people participated in the course, run as a Conservative conversion under the directorship of Rabbi Alan Bright of Shaare Zedek Synagogue in Montreal; Rabbi Jeremy Parnes of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Regina and Cantor Russell Jayne of Beth Tzedek Congregation in Calgary joined in the teaching. The OJC was so lucky to have all three clergy in Kelowna for the conversion ceremony, as well as Elizabeth Bright, who officiated at the women’s mikvah, along with the OJC’s Rabbi Tom Samuels. The occasion was the first time ever that four clergy were present in the OJC sanctuary at the same time.
Thank you to all the students and teachers who were involved in this event. Further information can be found at ojcc.ca.
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Sixteen people will be appointed to the Order of British Columbia, the province’s highest form of recognition, Lt. Gov. Janet Austin, chancellor of the order, recently announced. Among them is Jewish community member Fran Belzberg.
Since arriving in British Columbia more than 40 years ago, Belzberg has championed numerous causes, from health care and medical research to education and nurturing the next generation of Canadian leaders. After her husband of 68 years, Samuel, z”l, died in 2018, Belzberg continued their family’s lifelong legacy of community leadership. Now in her mid-90s, her commitment remains unwavering.
In 1976, Belzberg co-founded the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF), with the mission to advance research, promote awareness and support the well-being of those affected by the disease. Forty-five years later, she is still actively involved in the foundation.
In the early 1990s, Belzberg was instrumental in the establishment of the Think Aids Society to advance research and funding, and raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. In 1995, she was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her numerous achievements. In 2003, the Government of Canada partnered with the Belzberg family to create Action Canada, a joint initiative to inspire and support young Canadians and future public policy influencers.
As a champion of education, Belzberg and family have made transformational impacts to the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. In 2016, Frances and Samuel Belzberg were honoured by SFU with the President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award “for their many years of philanthropy and commitment to education, leadership and equality.”
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Bonnie Sherr Klein’s children’s book, Beep Beep Bubbie, illustrated by Élisabeth Eudes-Pascal and published by Tradewind Books, has been selected to be a PJ Library choice in 2022. PJ Library is a philanthropy that sends free, award-winning books that celebrate Jewish values and culture to families with children from birth through 12 years old. Now, many of these families will meet a grandma who introduces her grandchildren to the adventures they can share in a scooter, including an intergenerational march for the climate. (See jewishindependent.ca/shabbat-with-bubbie.)
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The American Jewish Press Association’s annual conference took place virtually in June. Its 40th Annual Simon Rockower Awards, recognizing excellence in Jewish journalism, took place virtually as well, on June 24. The Jewish Independent took away three honours this year, for work done in 2020.
In its division – weekly and biweekly newspapers – the JI once again won first place for its coverage of Zionism, aliyah and Israel. The three-part series by Kevin Keystone – “Hike challenges one’s views” (Sept. 11), “Seeking to understand views” (Sept. 25) and “Contemplating walls” (Oct. 9) – recounts some of Keystone’s experiences on Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil, the Path of Abraham the Friend, in the West Bank, which he visited in 2019.
In most categories, awards were given out in each of three divisions: weekly and biweekly newspapers; monthly newspapers and magazines; and web-based outlets. However, for excellence in editorial writing, all entries (which comprise three articles each) competed as one large group, and the JI editorial board – Basya Laye, Pat Johnson and Cynthia Ramsay – came in second. The JI won for the set of editorials “Blessings in bad times” (Aug. 28), “Racism is a Jewish issue” (June 12) and “When is never again?” (Jan. 31). The first is about the communications technologies that have made COVID restrictions less isolating; the second asks our community to consider our complacency and complicity in upholding racist systems; and the third reflects on the fragility of democracy and civil order.
Another award that was considered as one large division was that of general excellence – best newspaper. In this category, the JI received an honourable mention (or third place). The judges commented about the paper: “Diverse content, from news to cultural writing, including unique reporting on Jewish media in Canada. Fun and easy to read.”
All of these articles and other award-winning content can be found at jewishindependent.ca. Thank you to all of our readers and advertisers for your support – we are proud to share these honours with you.
Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh knows firsthand that foreign correspondents routinely send back reports that are wildly prejudicial against Israel. He spoke to HonestReporting Canada cofounder and chairman Jonas Prince in an April 25 webinar. (screenshot)
Western reporters “parachute” into Israel and routinely send back reports that are wildly biased against Israel, while ignoring panoramic human rights violations and corruption in the Palestinian territories. This is the firsthand observation of an Arab Israeli journalist with decades of experience shepherding foreign reporters around the region.
Khaled Abu Toameh is a senior distinguished fellow at the Gatestone Institute. For almost two decades, he has been a reporter on Palestinian affairs for the Jerusalem Post. He spoke to a Canadian audience April 25, in a webinar presented by HonestReporting Canada, an organization promoting fairness and accuracy in Canadian media coverage of Israel and the Middle East. He was interviewed by the organization’s cofounder and chairman, Jonas Prince.
“It’s not about being pro-Israel or pro-Palestine,” Toameh said. “It’s about telling the truth. Being able to … portray a balanced picture to your readers.”
Toameh has worked with hundreds of international reporters and journalists, helping guide them around the complexities of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But, he said, complexity is not something for which many journalists are looking.
“I would say that most of them, the majority, they look at this conflict as a conflict between good guys and bad guys,” he said. “The good guys are the poor Palestinians and the bad guys are Israel…. Some of them come to this part of the world already with this perception and it’s like, Khaled, please don’t confuse us with the facts.”
Many of these journalists wake up in the morning and search for any story that reflects negatively on Israel, he said.
“Why is it that many of these journalists turn a blind eye to corruption in the Palestinian Authority, to lack of freedom of speech under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and under Hamas in Gaza? These are questions that we need to ask,” he said.
If, during the Oslo process, Western media had more broadly reported the misuse of billions in foreign aid to Palestine, Toameh said, Western governments might have been pressured to hold Yasser Arafat and other leaders to account.
“Only a few journalists did,” he said. “Yasser Arafat got away with the corruption. He deprived his people of the international aid. That played into the hands of Hamas and look where we are now. It’s a total mess.”
Toameh said some foreign reporters tell him that they are afraid.
“We can’t report [about Palestinian corruption] because we need to go back to Ramallah, we need to go back to Gaza, it’s dangerous,” Toameh paraphrased. “I tell them, excuse me, if anyone should be afraid, it’s me, the local Arab journalist who is living here. You guys have embassies, you have consulates, you have your own governments that will protect you. Secondly, why are you going to cover a conflict if you’re going to allow yourselves to be intimidated by one party? You will never be able to do your job. You need to quit journalism and go find yourself another job.”
He added: “Ironically, some of these journalists sometimes tell me, we can’t report anything that reflects negatively on the PLO, Hamas, because it’s not like Israel, it’s not a democracy.”
Other, less physical, fears also inhibit balanced reporting, Toameh said.
“Some of the foreign journalists are afraid that, if they report positive stories about Israel, they will be accused of working for the Jewish lobby or they will be accused of being Zionist agents or they will be accused of being anti-Palestinian or propagandists,” he said. “That’s how it is. That’s the last thing they want. But there are many good stories out here. There is no shortage of good stories. The question we always need to ask ourselves is, who wakes up in the morning and decides what the story is? Who sets the agenda?”
Some of the reporters, whom Toameh calls “parachute journalists,” arrive preprogrammed with false information.
“I’ve met other journalists who have asked me to take them to see the mass graves in Jenin where Jews massacred thousands of Palestinians in 2002,” he said, referring to a false report of a mass killing, a lie that remains today, unaltered, on the website of the BBC. “You can’t send someone who is covering sports in France to do stories over here. It doesn’t work like that.”
Palestinian society does not have the tradition of press freedom or civil criticism that democracies enjoy, he said. Journalists in Palestine operate under very different constraints than those in Israel or the West.
“I don’t think there’s anything unusual about reporting about corruption, for example, in the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “Why is that considered a taboo? Why is it that, when an Arab writes about Arab corruption, he becomes a Zionist agent? While, if a Jew writes about the corruption of the Israeli government, he’s praised as a liberal, as progressive and things like that? I can understand where it comes from, because I come from a culture – the Arab culture, the Muslim culture, the Palestinian culture, if you want – where criticism of the government and the president and the prime minister, or of your people, is considered an act of treason.”
While Palestinian and overseas media may shy away from reporting Palestinian corruption, ordinary Palestinians are fully aware of the situation, Toameh said. Protests during a short-lived “Palestinian Spring” were crushed by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. And Palestinians know there could be repercussions for any complaints.
“Not only are people afraid of being arrested or killed or harassed by these two governments – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – they’re also afraid of losing their jobs,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority is the largest employer in the West Bank and people are worried. They don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want their relatives to be deprived of jobs, so that’s one of the reasons you don’t see this intifada or uprising against bad government.”
Toameh has been lionized as a hero for the work he does. But he dismisses the accolades.
“There is nothing heroic about telling the truth,” he said. “I don’t understand. Since when are people awarded for telling the truth, for not lying?”
Not everyone admires Toameh’s work, of course. Since he began uncovering Palestinian corruption for the Post, in 2002, foreign outlets that used to employ his expertise have abandoned him.
“I lost 95% of my work with the international media,” he said. “Why? Because I dared to challenge the narrative that says, in this conflict, the Israelis are the bad guys and the Palestinians are the good people and we don’t want to hear anything [different]…. I don’t fit into the category of journalists who are known for their severe criticism of Israel and who are ready to give the Palestinians a pass on everything. In that sense, I consider myself to be more pro-Palestinian than many of them. Being pro-Palestinian does not mean that you spew hatred against Israel. Being pro-Palestinian, for me, is when you demand reform, democracy, good government for the Palestinians … when you criticize Palestinian leaders for arresting journalists, for arresting social media users, for skimming the money of their own people. That’s what is really pro-Palestinian.”
Toameh was speaking before the latest conflagration between Hamas and Israel. But the long-range possibility of people remains dependent on the whims of two Palestinian factions.
“The Palestinian Authority, in public, say we support the two-state solution,” Toameh summarized. “But they are also saying, Israel must give us 100% of what Israel took in 1967, which means give me all of East Jerusalem, give me all of the West Bank, give me all of Gaza and then we will talk about the right of return for the Palestinian refugees and other issues. But give me 100% and there will be a deal.
“Hamas, on the other hand, have their own vision. They haven’t changed. I’ve been following Hamas from Day One. I was actually sitting in Gaza at the press conference when Hamas was established in 1988 and I give them credit for being very honest, very consistent and very clear about their strategy and it’s very simple. They say: listen folks, this land, all of it, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River is wakf land, land that belongs to the Muslim trust. No non-Muslim is entitled to any part of it. We want to replace Israel with an Islamic state and, if there are some Jews who would like to live as a minority under our new Islamic state, they are welcome. Otherwise, all of you get out of here or we will kill you and destroy you. These are the two visions that we have so far.”
Mike Fegelman, executive director of HonestReporting Canada, told the audience that, since its founding 17 years ago, the organization has inspired 2,500 corrections, retractions and apologies in different Canadian media outlets and has an overall success rate of 80%.
Journalists in Canada do not face the sorts of threats – sometimes life-endangering ones – that colleagues in many other countries do. But other factors impinge on the right of Canadians to diverse and thorough reporting of contentious issues, says an academic on the subject.
Robert Hackett, professor emeritus of communication at Simon Fraser University, spoke on the civil courage of journalists as part of the annual Raoul Wallenberg Day in Vancouver. The virtual commemoration, sponsored by the Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society Jan. 17, featured a number of recorded events, including the screening of two films.
In recent decades, there has been a return to “partisan media,” said Hackett.
“Media, going back a couple of hundred years, were initially partisan media, reflecting the viewpoint of particular factions or parties,” he said. “We see that returning with a vengeance since the 1980s, with Fox News and so on.”
The internet has lowered attention spans and the “growing entertainment orientation” of the news media has changed the way reporting is done. Contradictory forces have upset the journalism sector in recent decades, he said. On the one hand, concentration and monopoly have placed control of “legacy media” – daily news, for instance – in fewer and fewer hands, reflecting a narrowing of perspectives. On the other hand, digital media and journalism startups have led to a fragmentation of public attention.
As the revenue structures of journalism have become strained due to competition for advertising avenues, resources for newsroom staff have declined, with commensurate impacts on the quality of reporting. Journalists who are expected to pump out several stories a day are unable to do the sort of investigative work common a generation or two ago and so rely on media releases. General reporters have replaced beat reporters with deep contacts and extensive background knowledge in an area of expertise. These structural changes have been accompanied by growing cultural skepticism toward expertise and even the definition of truth, said Hackett.
“It’s a different cognitive world,” he said. “We no longer seem to even have a shared reality.”
Some of Hackett’s recent research, in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has focused on fossil fuel industries and their influence on Canada’s press. He sees Canada’s largest print media company, Postmedia, as a booster of fossil fuels.
While Canadian journalists are fortunate not to face some of the life-threatening risks of reporters in many other places, there remain serious challenges to the ideal of a free media.
“There is still a certain degree of legal harassment and risk, especially for freelancers who don’t have a big organization behind them,” said Hackett. “The cost of a lawsuit for defamation, even if it’s a spurious lawsuit, is prohibitive. It’s intimidating. I know for a fact that freelancers have said they aren’t proceeding with stories because of fears of being sued.”
In addition, he added: “We don’t have effective shield or whistleblower laws, by and large, that would allow journalists to protect their sources.”
The online event, marking the 16th annual commemoration of Raoul Wallenberg Day in Vancouver, also featured two documentaries.
A Dark Place was produced by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Representative on Freedom of the Media. It follows female journalists around the world and the threats they receive online in reaction to their reporting on contentious stories. Threats of rape and murder, as well as other forms of intimidation, are almost ubiquitous. One study said that 60% of female journalists have experienced some form of online harassment or threats, according to the film. A panel discussion featured the film’s director, Javier Luque, and Arzu Geybulla, an Azerbaijani journalist who endured harrowing harassment and accusations of being a “traitor” for coverage of conflicts in the Caucasus.
The other documentary, Mohamed Fahmy: Half Free, by filmmaker David Paperny, follows Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who was jailed in Egypt for his reporting on the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo. Fahmy’s experience is one of many that journalists face daily in conflict zones and under repressive regimes, risking their freedom and their lives to report on events. Fahmy spent 438 days in an Egyptian prison before being pardoned by the country’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Fahmy is now an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.
Alan Le Fevre, a director of the Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Society, welcomed participants to the annual event, which highlights the Second World War heroism of Raoul Wallenberg and Chiune Sugihara.
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Hungary, issued “protective passports” that identified bearers as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation, thereby preventing their deportation from Hungary to death camps in Poland. Wallenberg disappeared in 1945 after the Soviets invaded Hungary. In 1957, the Soviet Union released a statement dated 1947, saying that Wallenberg had died of natural causes that year. Reports that Wallenberg was seen alive after 1947 have added to confusion and controversy around his fate.
Sugihara was vice-consul of the Imperial Japanese legation in Lithuania. At risk to his career and his life, Sugihara issued thousands of transit visas permitting Jews to travel through the Soviet Union to Japan and across the Pacific. Ostensibly, because a destination was required for a transit visa, the holders were destined for Curaçao. Many of those who escaped ended up on the West Coast of North America and there are several Vancouver families who owe their lives to “Sugihara visas.”