It’s no secret that antisemitism around the world has been increasing for years. As recently as Sept. 30, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert saw his office window hit with a spray-painted red swastika. Make no mistake: there is no place for antisemitism in our world. That’s why Chabad Richmond is offering the four-week Rohr Jewish Learning Institute program called Outsmarting Antisemitism on Wednesdays Nov. 3, 10, 17 and 24 from 7:30-9 p.m.
“Join me each week as we explore the ethical impacts of history repeating itself, both within the Jewish community and beyond, by those who believe that antisemitism and hatred are accepted and encouraged practices and attitudes,” said Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, director of Chabad Richmond.
Outsmarting Antisemitism takes on this subject directly and unapologetically, with a sense of optimism, faith and a distinctly Jewish approach.
“Through insightful source texts and fascinating case studies, this course examines the sources of this ancient scourge, along with the appropriate strategies for overcoming it. It’s time to find the confidence to fight hate with hope, and to stand tall against antisemitism,” said Baitelman.
“Upon concluding our series Outsmarting Antisemitism, you will be better equipped to campaign publicly against those who oppose both Israel and the Jewish people, and ensure we do everything possible to condition society to bring out the best in humans, rather than their more sinister elements,” he added.
Outsmarting Antisemitism will be offered both in-person and online via Zoom. Sign-in information will be provided at the time of registration. The cost to attend is $75 per person or $130 per couple, and includes the textbook.
This course will also be offered to lawyers for B.C. Law Society accreditation on Nov. 25, Dec. 2, 9 and 16 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and will take place in person, at Chabad Richmond, 4775 Blundell Rd. The cost is $540 including textbook and the course is applicable for eight CLE approved credits.
An important – and surprising – court decision in Poland last month is a small victory in a longer battle over the history of Polish behaviour during the Second World War.
On appeal, two Holocaust scholars had an earlier decision reversed. University of Ottawa professor Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, a Polish historian of the Holocaust, had earlier been ordered to apologize to a Polish woman who brought a suit against the two, arguing that her family’s name had been tarnished by the historians’ depictions of her uncle’s actions during the war. The case was watched closely, and its appeal is significant, as it could portend how Poland’s judiciary approaches a comparatively new law that proscribes negative depictions of Polish complicity during the war.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is a right-wing nationalist movement that seeks to glorify Polish heroism during that era and erase – indeed, outlaw – records that demonstrate the complicity in atrocities by individual Poles and segments of that society during the Holocaust.
Grabowski and Engelking are on the frontlines of that conflict. They head a team of researchers that produced Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, a compendious 1,700-page documentation of Polish atrocities during the war. The researchers, at risk to themselves, delved into often-untouched archival records in small and remote communities across Poland. In a presentation in Vancouver three years ago, Grabowski explained that, after the war, a surprising number of Poles felt no obligation to hide or embroider their activities during that period, content that their neighbours, if not history, would judge them kindly. The researchers plumbed files that had not been opened since 1945 and discovered harrowing tales of neighbour turning on neighbour, of Jews in hiding listening as their former friends pointed out their whereabouts to the Nazis and their collaborators.
The work is monumental and is being translated into English. It also indicates the breadth and depth of Holocaust history that has yet to be even remotely explored. The big picture, certainly, is well known – to the extent that plenty of people complain that it is time to move on from the topic. But the work of Grabowski et al reminds us that, in terms of millions of stories of individuals, heroic and wicked, we have hardly scratched the surface.
This is why the Polish law, and the intent behind it, is so dangerous. The problem is not merely the suppression of what we already know to be true, it is the very tangible possibility that current scholarship will be curtailed and that potential future scholars will choose less arduous fields of study. In either case, the crucial primary research still underway could be squelched.
This urgency was underscored by the publication Tuesday of a new book, Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph and Love by Rebecca Frankel, former executive editor of Foreign Policy magazine. Writing in the New York Times Sunday, Frankel shared the story of one family who survived the war in Poland by hiding in the forests. The “Jews of the forest,” as she calls them, are an example of a massively underexplored facet of Holocaust history. The narratives of these Jews – some of whom survived the war, many or most of whom apparently did not – are absent from most chronologies because, by definition, those who survived (or did not) by disappearing into the forests were not included in the record-keeping of the Nazis and their collaborators.
We know from opinion surveys that there is an enormous amount of ignorance, particularly among the young in North America and Europe, about the Holocaust. In a notable irony, a major survey of European societies discovered that the countries where the largest number of people believes that there is too much emphasis on the Holocaust are the same countries where ignorance of the facts is greatest. In other words, it seems that those who know the least about that history are the ones most determined to close their ears to it.
Prof. Grabowski, who was born in Poland, was evasive in his visit to Vancouver in 2018, deflecting assertions that his work is heroic. Instead, he credited the courage of the on-the-ground researchers in Poland. There should be enough admiration to go around for the researchers, historians, writers and teachers who continue the necessary work of studying and sharing knowledge of that time.
As we have seen from the past seven decades, knowledge of the past does not preclude repetitions of genocide. But ignorance will almost certainly hasten its frequency and severity.
Two bills recently introduced by the federal government are aimed at reducing online hate and putting some controls on the anarchic world of online commentary. Some, like Jewish community organizations, have been calling for stronger rules to deal with rampant online vitriol. Others, like civil liberties groups, balk at any incursions into unfettered expression. It might not matter anyway.
Bill C-36 is intended to crack down on online hate, something Jewish community advocates and many others have been supporting since a similar section of the Canadian Human Rights Act was repealed in 2013 over concerns around free expression. Groups like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have expressed apprehensions over the new bill, as they had over the repealed section.
The bill would make it an offence to make statements on the internet that are “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” It would target commentary that is “motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other similar factor.”
The bill defines hate as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain,” and is not merely language that “discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends.”
A different piece of legislation, Bill C-10, is also aimed at online content. In this case, the government would require platforms, such as social media and video streaming sites, to enforce guidelines that extend Canadian content rules, which have long governed radio and TV, to the internet. Again, critics say this is an infringement on the freedom of expression.
Both bills attempt to walk a line between free speech and the government’s attempts to encourage particular outcomes. They are likely to please some and they are likely to offend many. Both are probably founded on the best intentions, but, as critics have pointed out, Canada already has hate-speech laws that apply online and off.
Given the chaotic efforts of social media companies themselves to enforce guidelines for conduct and to curtail hate speech, it is difficult to imagine how legislation would provide a clearer guide to online etiquette. More worrying is the possible chaos that human rights tribunals and courts might have thrust upon them if Canadians begin reporting thousands or millions of problematic online statements.
We should be wary of heavy-handedness not only because the proposed laws hand a lot of arbitrary decision-making power to government or judicial overseers, but also because it is unwise to bury hateful ideas. The best way to confront hate and extremism is to shine a light on it, not to force it onto emerging platforms created specifically to give shelter to the most extreme people and ideas.
However, this all might be moot because Parliament has recessed for the summer. If, as many speculate, a federal election is called before Parliament resumes, these pieces of legislation would die. If the Liberals were to be reelected, they could reintroduce the bills. Conservatives have charged that the two proposed laws are “virtue signaling,” as much about campaign fodder as substantive change. The NDP and Bloc voted in favour of Bill C-10, with the NDP asserting that the “modernization of the law is necessary for [the] cultural ecosystem.”
Whatever the fate of these two bills, the fight against hate (online and off) will continue. We have long contended that the most powerful response to hateful words is more words – words that heal and educate. The online world is a jungle of facts and fictions, wonder and woe, insights and insanity. It is, perhaps, like the larger world, only condensed onto a small screen that amplifies the most fringe and sensational voices. Criminalizing those voices may or may not bring the result most of us seek, which is a kinder world. That said, contesting the worst of the online world is a Sisyphean task that we cannot abandon.
The medium is the message, said Marshall McLuhan, who died long before ordinary people heard the word “internet.” The anonymity and unruliness of the internet has no doubt helped to create a toxicity in our culture. But, while we should take seriously dangerous ideas online, we should remember that these are symptoms of strains in society and not solely products of the technology. Addressing online hate demands returning to first things and addressing all forms of hatred and division in our society. Fixing the online dialogue demands changing minds – and that has been the challenge since long before the advent of the internet.
Members of the Jewish community, as well as members of various professional organizations, are calling on the government of British Columbia to do more to regulate practising therapists and counselors in the province.
According to the Federation of Associations of Counseling Therapists in British Columbia (FACTBC), which is at the forefront of the campaign for this change, there is currently no regulatory body for counseling therapists in the province and, therefore, there are no regulatory standards for the work that counseling therapists do.
As it stands, they claim, someone can call themselves a mental health professional in British Columbia without having the checks that exist elsewhere in Canada. This, FACTBC points out, differs significantly from Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, which have all established regulatory bodies to oversee who can become a mental health professional. And, they add, the remaining provinces have done more than British Columbia when it comes to the consideration of implementing regulation.
A member of the Jewish community recently came to the Independent with her story. In her attempts to remove a social worker from her mother’s life, she encountered what she believes were numerous inadequacies within the present system regarding the protection of the public’s interest and confidence.
“When we seek the help of doctors and nurses, there is a protected title that tells us the person is qualified and safe and that there is a professional regulator to back up this promise,” she said. “Regulation protects people from harm. I cannot change the events of the past, but I can take from that experience and do what I can to ensure that all our citizens are protected, moving forward.
“I knew,” she added, “and had confirmed by other counselors and social workers that what this registrant was doing was in violation of their professional code. I saw my mother become further isolated from friends and family, while her health continued to decline both mentally and physically, while in this registrant’s care.”
The community member filed a complaint with the B.C. College of Social Workers (BCCSW). “Through this experience, I saw firsthand the lack of transparency in the complaint and discipline process that gives social workers the ability to enter negotiated complaint resolution agreements (CRAs) in exchange for keeping matters confidential. How can the public have confidence in regulators if the public is not aware of actions taken by regulators to protect them?” she wondered.
The community member then did what many who lack the financial means could not: she filed a civil claim against the social worker. She was not looking for money, she told the Independent; rather, she was looking for accountability and safety.
In the end, the woman and her family received an apology from the registrant and a promise to not repeat the following conduct: failing to differentiate between professional and personal boundaries; creating a situation of dependence with clients; and failing to limit their practice within the parameters of their competence.
“The college, in their inquiry decision, acknowledged that the time the registrant spent with my mother and the amount the registrant billed were not reasonable. I am not sure I will ever be able to fully reconcile with the events that occurred over a three-year span at the hands of a social worker, who was a friend at the time, and [that] I helped facilitate the introduction to my vulnerable, senior mother,” the woman said.
“To help with my own personal healing,” she added, “I elected to join FACTBC’s stakeholder table. I hope to lend my voice to ensure social workers, counseling therapists and emergency medical assistants who deal with our most vulnerable citizens are recognized as health professionals and regulated under the Health Professions Act.”
For Shelley Karrel of Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS) Vancouver, the importance of regulation for counselors in British Columbia cannot be overstated. “For counselors working in the area of addiction and recovery, it is critical to know the importance of assessment, understanding the various stages of addiction, being able to identify the options available for treatment and recovery,” she said.
Karrel explained that understanding co-morbidity – i.e., the presence of one or more additional conditions – of mental health issues with addiction requires psychotherapists and counselors to have the proper training and education to know how to help clients deal with their various challenges.
“Having counseling fall under a regulated body will give clients the assurance they are dealing with qualified professionals who have to meet professional standards of practice, ongoing continuing education and clinical supervision,” she stated.
According to Glen Grigg, a Vancouver clinical counselor and the chair of FACTBC, “proper regulation will prevent consumers from harm. A consumer should not have to guess whether the therapist is equipped to deliver the services they promise. Moreover, when harm is done, it is important to know that a registrant’s college has the power to bring restoration and remediation when harm has occurred.”
FACTBC, which is comprised of 14 professional organizations that represent 6,000 mental health professionals in the province, is asking for safety and accountability. On professional title, it recommends one legislative authority and one coherent and fair process that prevents harm and has the power to act accordingly when harm has been done.
The B.C. government has said that it will first implement modernization of the health professions regulatory system – a step that FACTBC enthusiastically supports – and then give attention to the mental health system.
To Grigg, “this response comes down to saying, in effect, ‘despite the opioid crisis and mental health fallout from the pandemic, we can defer this issue.’ When pressed for what is intended after a new regulatory process is put into place, timeline unknown, the response is that government will ‘recommend’ that professions, such as counseling therapy and social work, become a ‘priority.’ A recommendation to a yet-to-be created bureaucracy falls far short of commitment and action.”
Grigg added, “FACTBC has been advocating for public protection where counseling therapy is concerned for more than 20 years and have heard, over and over, variations on the theme, ‘Yes, of course, we are going to protect the public, but later, at a time we’re not prepared to specify.’”
FACTBC does give the province credit for creating a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions – a huge step forward, in their view, as was the $5 million the province put towards increasing mental health services. What the government needs to do to follow up on this momentum is to regulate counseling therapy, they assert.
At present there is no way of accurately ascertaining how many practising counselors there are in British Columbia. However, Grigg cites what Ontario discovered. In that province, in the time since they implemented statutory regulation on counseling therapists, they found that half the people providing services did not have any form of registration or certification.
“That’s dangerous,” said Grigg. “And we suspect that the situation in B.C. is similar but, because there is no central authority, even the scale of the problem is guesswork.”
He stressed, “It’s easy to see why this is so crucial. Suppose you were sick or injured and went to your local clinic or emergency department and discovered that it was up to you to figure out whether the people working there really were nurses and doctors, and whether they were qualified to provide care? That’s what people looking for counseling services are up against every day in B.C. There is no single title, like doctor or nurse or dentist or pharmacist, that identifies qualified and accountable counseling therapists.”
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Afghanistan is seeking to repatriate a 1,200-year-old siddur, which is currently housed at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. (photo from Museum of the Bible)
The National Museum of Afghanistan, established in 1919 at the former Bagh-i-Bala royal palace overlooking Kabul, reflects both the multifaith heritage and tortured history of the Central Asian country that once dominated the Silk Road linking Europe and East Asia.
Following the outbreak of Afghanistan’s civil war in 1992, the museum was repeatedly shelled. It suffered heavy damage in a May 12, 1993, rocket strike. The combination of Taliban mortars and looters resulted in the loss of 70% of the 100,000 prehistoric, Hellenistic, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Islamic and Jewish objects once in its collection. Those pilfered artifacts flooded antiquities markets in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere. Now, the pro-Western regime of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – formerly an anthropology professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. – wants its cultural legacy returned. Among the treasures it is seeking to repatriate is a 1,200-year-old siddur (prayer book) – the world’s oldest Hebrew manuscript after the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“It is our responsibility to get back our ancient treasures,” said Abdul Manan Shiway e-Sharq – the country’s deputy minister for information and publications in the Ministry of Information and Culture – in the first-ever on-the-record interview between an Afghani official and an Israeli journalist.
Shiway e-Sharq said photos of the ancient siddur in Kabul’s National Museum, dating from 1998, contradict the ownership documents provided by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The MotB says it bought the siddur in 2013 from antiquities dealers in the United Kingdom who provided provenance documents showing the manuscript had been in Britain since the 1950s. The MotB paid $2.5 million for the prayer book. Though Shiway e-Sharq appraised the unique volume at $30 million for insurance purposes, it truly is priceless.
The prayer book may have belonged to the Radhanites, a little-known group of medieval merchants, some Jewish, who traded along the Silk Road linking Christian Europe, the Islamic world, China and India during the early Middle Ages. The Radhanites’ entrepôts and Afghanistan’s early Jewish community were likely destroyed in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the Mongol Empire grew from the steppes of Mongolia to extend from Europe to China.
Responding to a query, MotB’s chief curator Jeff Kloha said the museum will share results of an investigation when completed.
“As noted on the museum’s provenance research web page, museum staff continues to work with external scholars and experts to research this item’s historical and religious significance, as well the item’s history in (apparently) Afghanistan and later Israel and the United States,” Kloha said. “That research is progressing and nearing completion.”
The allegation that the MotB’s rare Afghan Hebrew prayer book is another ancient Near Eastern treasure that was smuggled out of its country of origin is the latest in a series of scandals about looted and forged antiquities that has rocked the Museum of the Bible since its 2017 opening.
The MotB recently shipped 8,000 clay tablets back to Baghdad that may have been taken from the Iraq Museum in 2003, when looters overran it during the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. At the end of January 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security returned 5,500 papyrus fragments from the MotB with “insufficient” provenance to Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, concluding Cairo’s efforts since 2016 to regain its antiquities. And, the museum has acknowledged that all of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments it acquired are forgeries.
MotB founder Steve Green, an evangelical Christian whose family owns the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, and chief curator Kloha have worked to tighten the museum’s acquisition policies after the U.S. government reached a settlement with Hobby Lobby in 2017 requiring the chain store to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing ancient artifacts.
Leon Hill, the in-house counsel for Transparent Business Solutions, a Dutch company that specializes in corporate integrity management, is keen to see a resolution to the dispute over the ancient siddur. He is dismissive of Green’s explanation that he and Kloha are novices in the museum business and the acquisition of artifacts. “They can’t continue to say that. They’re no longer new. They have a duty to know better. They have a duty to the history and heritage of the artifacts they purport to protect.”
He accused the MotB of “cultural imperialism.” He said, “We hope that we won’t need to be hired by the Afghan government, and that the Museum of the Bible will do the right thing in the right way quickly.”
Gil Zohar is a writer and tour guide in Jerusalem.
Galit Baram, consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, says the allegations of recruiting are unfounded. (Consul office photograph)
Last October, a coalition of foreign policy and Palestinian solidarity organizations delivered a formal complaint to David Lametti, justice minister and attorney general of Canada, alleging that Canadians are being recruited for the Israel Defence Forces. Accompanied by an open letter signed by more than 170 supporters, the complaint seeks an investigation into the actions of Israeli diplomats and consular officials, among others.
Under Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act, it is illegal for foreign militaries to recruit Canadians in Canada. In 2017, at least 230 Canadians were serving in the IDF, according to the army’s statistics. The coalition, composed of Just Peace Advocates, Palestinian and Jewish Unity, and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, alleges that Israeli consular officials have invited Canadians to speak with IDF recruiting officers at the consulate and have sent IDF soldiers to speak at Canadian high schools. In a written statement to the Canadian Jewish Record, which was cited in an Oct. 28 article online, Galit Baram, consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, said, “Any allegations against Israel in this matter are unfounded.”
The complaint drew some attention. Montreal-based newspaper Le Devoir reported on it in a front-page article on Oct. 19, under the headline “Israel criticized for recruiting on Canadian soil.” The article pointed to a recruiting invitation posted on the website of the Israeli consulate in Toronto in November 2019. “An IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the consulate. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defence Service Law are invited to meet with him,” read the post, which included contact information to schedule appointments. Further investigations by Le Devoir yielded similar recruiting invitations from 2014 and 2018.
Baram said the invitations were directed only to Israelis. “In Israel, the law requires compulsory service,” she stated. “Every Israeli, male or female, must serve in the Israel Defence Forces. Israeli citizens living abroad are obligated to settle their status with the Israeli authorities.” According to the Foreign Enlistment Act, foreign representatives can recruit their own citizens in Canada, so long as the recruits are not also Canadian.
Baram acknowledged that recruiting officers may be sent to large Israeli communities to conduct interviews, citing Toronto as an example. According to the 2016 Census, however, roughly four out of five Israelis in Toronto are dual citizens, and approximately 3,125 Israelis in Toronto are not Canadian. When invited to clarify to which group the invitations were sent, the consulate declined.
The coalition’s concerns extend beyond Israeli or dual citizens, however. “Any suggestion that all Israel does is recruit their own citizens who have to do their military duty is complete nonsense,” said John Philpot, a Montreal-based criminal-defence lawyer and coalition spokesperson. The Devoir article reported on a visit by an IDF colonel to a Toronto denominational school “to talk about his experiences as a new recruit and as a senior commander.” On the same day the complaint was filed, The Canada Files published an article by Yves Engler, a Montreal-based writer and signatory to the letter, documenting what Engler considers to be extensive promotion of the IDF in Toronto Jewish day schools.
As one example, he pointed to a talk by Seth Frieberg, an IDF “lone soldier,” in January 2020 at TanenbaumCHAT, a Toronto Jewish high school and Frieberg’s alma mater. Lone soldiers are foreign recruits to the military without immediate family in Israel. Frieberg joined the Israeli army in 2013 and served 14 months as a paratrooper. In an interview last October, he credited his time at the Eretz Hatzvi Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he spent a year after high school, for partly driving his decision to enlist. His teachers spoke highly about Eretz Yisrael, the biblical land of Israel, and the importance of living there. He said he felt a greater connection to Israeli Jews, to the country, and was drawn to and admired the soldiers. He returned to Canada to complete an undergraduate degree at Western University and joined the IDF the following year.
The roots of his idea, however, began before his gap year. He was also motivated by a family history with the Holocaust and a course at TanenbaumCHAT. Two of his grandparents were Holocaust survivors, one of whom, his grandmother, was active in Holocaust education. “She’d always talk about that, so I think I had this idea in my mind about the horrors of the Holocaust,” he said. In his Grade 12 history course, a connection was made between the Holocaust and Israel: he took from it the idea that “had Israel been there during the time of the Holocaust, [it] probably wouldn’t have happened.” In this and other ways, Frieberg said, he relies on Israel. “In the worst sense … if anything bad happened to Jews or myself in Canada, I always have Israel to go to.” He reasoned he should do something for Israel in return: “And that could be charity, volunteer, or going to the army.”
As part of TanenbaumCHAT’s IDF Day, the annual event at which Frieberg spoke, students wear olive-green IDF T-shirts, matching clothing, and sell baked goods with green icing to raise money for the military. By Frieberg’s estimates, he spoke to 80 students about his experience in the IDF, including patrolling the Lebanese border and West Bank, searching for three kidnapped youth, and operations in Gaza. Did his talk inspire others? He said, “You’d have to ask them…. I was just there to tell them my story.”
Last year’s events were organized under the leadership of Israelis and former IDF soldiers Ariel and Lee Kestecher Solomon. Ariel, the school’s Israel engagement shaliach, or emissary, was a commander in the IDF and volunteers with the Jewish Agency for Israel. According to the agency’s website, Israeli emissaries are sent to Jewish communities abroad for two to three years “to strengthen and deepen the mutual connection between Israel and members of the community.”
In his Canada Files article, Engler characterizes these activities – IDF Day, talks by lone soldiers, fundraising for the military, and former soldiers with extended placements in Jewish day schools – as enticement to join the IDF. When invited to comment, Renee Cohen, TanenbaumCHAT’s principal, did not respond to multiple requests.
Why countries like Israel might recruit foreign citizens is a puzzle that caught the attention of Kolby Hanson, post-doctoral fellow at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. In a 2019 paper for Security Studies, he and co-author Erik Lin-Greenberg categorized the 25 countries that recruit non-citizens into three distinct groups. In an interview in October 2020, Hanson explained that countries either recruit for specific expertise or for sheer numbers to fill ranks, or, like Israel, “within narrow ethnic or commonwealth networks that are more symbolic programs.” As with India, Israel “[uses] the rules around their recruitment to make some statement about who they are and what the nation’s identity is.” Israel recruits foreign Jews for its military to assert its identity as a Jewish state and to establish deeper ties to Jewish communities abroad.
“Someone might grow up and say, ‘My cousin served in the IDF and that makes me feel like I’m really connected to Israel,’ or whether you know someone who came back after serving in the IDF,” said Hanson. Countries that recruit for symbolic reasons tend to have other programs, like expedited citizenship (as Israel has for Jews), to reinforce these ties.
The IDF itself is likely aware of the legal sensitivities around recruitment of Canadians. Hanson described an unusual exchange in an interview with Canadian IDF soldiers: “When we used the word ‘recruitment,’ we had a couple of people get tetchy…. They pounced on it and said, ‘No, no, it’s not recruitment. The IDF allows people to serve, but they don’t try to get people to.’”
In Canada, crossing the line into active recruitment is a legal issue. Unfortunately, it is not clear where exactly the line is. The Foreign Enlistment Act does not define recruitment, nor, according to Tyler Wentzell, doctoral student in law at the University of Toronto, is there case law.
A serving military officer and lawyer by training, Wentzell has published several articles on foreign recruitment and the history of the act. In an October 2020 interview, he said cases have been tried for recruiting for criminal or terrorist organizations, but not for the military of a sovereign state, for which the term would likely be interpreted differently.
“If you’re actually sworn into [a foreign] military in Canada, that definitely crosses the line,” he said, as would undertaking the stages of an intake funnel, including physical fitness and aptitude testing and evaluation. But, at earlier points, like attracting prospects, the line blurs. Is putting a Mountie on promotional material for Canada recruiting for the RCMP, asked Wentzell, or using a national symbol to promote the country? To complicate matters further, recruiting is also “a cultural sense that changes over time,” as with evolving Canadian attitudes towards high school rifle ranges and cadet corps.
In an October 2020 interview, Petty Officer Gian Barzelotti, a recruiter for the Canadian Armed Forces, described where he draws the line when recruiting in Canadian high schools. To students in Grade 10 or older, he advertises the benefits of joining the military, including a paid co-op program in which students can earn high school credit. With younger students, he emphasized, the CAF does not recruit. “We do talk about the military and who we are and what we do for Canada,” he said, but not about programs and benefits nor intake. “You’re not saying, ‘Go down this path and you’ll end up being in the military.’”
Tzofim Garin Tzabar, however, does just that. A branch of the Israeli Scouts that is 70% funded by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Garin Tzabar describes itself as the “Israeli lone soldier IDF program.” Its online promotional video advertises an “unbelievable three months of one unforgettable absorption process,” “at least 20 new friends,” “a family for life,” and that 30% of its participants are accepted to the IDF’s officer and commander stream. It also lists an office in Toronto.
Likewise, in June 2020, Nefesh b’Nefesh, an Israeli absorption organization, advertised a webinar entitled “Joining the IDF” on the website of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. According to the event listing, the webinar featured “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF,” including the lone soldier program, the structure of the military, preparatory Hebrew programs, and post-secondary degrees relevant to the IDF. Last year, Nefesh b’Nefesh facilitated the absorption of 390 lone soldiers from North America to Israel. Although the UJA Federation did not endorse the webinar, it did promote it on its website.
In practice, it seems the Canadian government has never done more than slap an offending party on the wrist. During the Vietnam War, said Wentzell, the U.S. army accidentally placed a recruiting ad in a Canadian magazine. “There was a great deal of correspondence back and forth saying, ‘Hey, could you lay off this?… The response was pretty consistently, ‘Yep, sorry.’”
The government maintains an interest in keeping Canadians out of foreign militaries and conflicts. Wentzell illustrated this by way of a Canadian who served in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war: “What happens when Benjamin Dunkelman gets in trouble on the other side of the planet? Do we get him home? Do we owe him anything? These were still live issues.” For the 200-plus Canadians serving in the IDF today, they still are.
“If Canada said to the Israeli consulate, ‘Stop all recruiting,’ [and] went to the schools and said, ‘You cannot have meetings where Israelis invite you to join the army’ … that would be a good step forward,” said Philpot.
To Philpot and the coalition, these acts are part of a “whole series of evidence” that point to IDF recruiting, including an event held by Deborah Lyons, Canadian ambassador to Israel. In January 2020, she hosted 33 Canadian IDF lone soldiers at her residence in Jerusalem to thank them for their service. “We at the embassy are very proud of what you’re doing. It’s really quite incredible,” she said. Philpot said all of this points towards recruitment.
Shortly after the complaint was filed, Lametti responded to questions in an unrelated press conference. He reiterated that Canadian law applies to foreign diplomats but referred calls for an investigation to the police and the public prosecution service. “I will leave the decision to the institutions we have in Canada to monitor the situation,” he said. In mid-November, the RCMP confirmed it was reviewing and assessing the evidence submitted.
Kevin Keystoneis a Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and researcher. His writing has been published in the Literary Review of Canada, the Jewish Independent and Good Old Boat.
A poster in Marseille, France, in July 2020, calling for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s release from prison.
The National Council of Jewish Women of Canada spotlighted the remarkable story of Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh during a showing of the eponymously titled film, Nasrin, on Jan. 10.
Narrated by actress Olivia Colman, the film takes us into Sotoudeh’s life in Tehran, where she has been a stalwart in defending a wide array of people: political activists, women who refused to wear a hijab, members of the religiously oppressed Baha’i faith, and prisoners sentenced to the death penalty for crimes allegedly committed while they were minors. Her work has come with a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice, including prolonged periods in jail.
Among the notable cases brought up in the film is that of Narges Hosseini, who, in 2018, stood on an electricity box on Tehran’s Revolution Street and removed her headscarf to protest Iran’s mandatory hijab law. She was immediately arrested, and Sotoudeh soon took up her cause. At her trial, the prosecutor claimed she was trying to “encourage corruption through the removal of the hijab in public.”
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is another of Sotoudeh’s clients. In 2010, Panahi was given a 20-year ban on making films, but he has nonetheless continued to create widely praised cinematic works, such as Taxi, in which he played a Tehran taxi driver – Sotoudeh was one of his passengers. The movie won the top prize at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Together with Sotoudeh, Panahi was co-winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012.
And there is the unassuming hero we encounter in Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan. His unflagging loyalty to his wife and family is underscored throughout the film. He, too, has been imprisoned several times, most recently from September to December 2018, after he wrote about human rights violations in Iran on Facebook. He was accused of operating against Iran’s national security by backing the “anti-hijab” movement. Khandan currently faces a six-year prison sentence.
The film relies on secret footage, made possible by intrepid camerapeople within Iran who took on incredible risk to record Sotoudeh in both her professional and private lives. In the midst of filming, in June 2018, Sotoudeh was arrested for representing several women protesting Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Due to health concerns, she was briefly released from prison late last year, but has since been incarcerated again.
During Sotoudeh’s furlough, she was scheduled to undergo tests to monitor her heart. At one time, she was moved to intensive care in a Tehran hospital after a 46-day hunger strike, protesting the conditions political prisoners in Iran have to endure. She also has pressed for their release during the time of the pandemic.
Shortly before her own release from the Qarchak women’s prison, Sotoudeh contracted COVID-19 but has since recovered.
Following the film’s presentation, a panel discussion took place with the film’s director, Jeff Kaufman; its producer, Marcia Ross; activist Shaparak Shajarizadeh; and former Canadian minister of justice Irwin Cotler. The discussion was led by NCJWC president Debbie Wasserman.
“One of the intents of the film is to say it is not just about Sotoudeh and Iran, it is about applying her standards to our countries and ourselves. Let’s take her example and make it global,” said Kaufman.
The filmmakers said they wanted to tell Sotoudeh’s story because she personifies a commitment to democracy and justice, and represents the power of women to shape society. Further, Sotoudeh holds a deep conviction that people of all faiths and backgrounds deserve equal opportunity and protection.
Both Kaufman and Ross spoke of the extraordinary caution taken to preserve the anonymity and security of those shooting the footage in Iran.
Asked about her reaction upon seeing the screening, Shajarizadeh said, “I cried the whole time. We could see ourselves in every minute of the movement.” Shajarizadeh, who now resides in Canada, was a women’s rights activist and political prisoner in Iran – she fought against the country’s mandatory hijab law for women.
“Nasrin is not only the embodiment of human rights in Iran, but a looking-glass into the persecution of all those who are imprisoned in Iran,” Cotler said.
Cotler advocated for “showing the film as much as we can, and [to] have the sort of conversations we are having now, and mobilize the different constituencies that she has been helping.”
Ross said the film will be out later in the year on Amazon and iTunes.
Established in 1897, NCJWC is a voluntary organization dedicated to furthering human welfare in the Jewish and general communities locally, nationally and internationally. To learn more, visit ncjwc.org.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Renowned lawyer and human right activist David Matas is being honoured by B’nai Brith Canada, as the organization launches the Matas Law Society.
Matas, who is based in Winnipeg, has long served as B’nai Brith Canada’s senior legal counsel, working closely with B’nai Brith for more than 30 years. He has his own private practise and, among other recognitions for his work, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
The new society is set to be a primary hub for Jewish members of Canada’s legal community. For now, while COVID restrictions remain, all events will be held virtually, with any Jewish lawyer, paralegal and law student able to join and participate from any location.
“David is doing so many wonderful things all of the time,” said Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “He really personifies to me what a human rights advocate should be.”
According to Mostyn, “There is a rich history of Jewish law societies in Canada. They are great, established societies. Currently, there’s one in Ottawa and one in Montreal. There used to be one in Toronto, but it closed down decades ago, essentially because the need was no longer there.
“As friends and advocates in the community, we were hearing a lot from the legal community about the need for an activist law society. So, the idea has been brewing for the last number of years. We already have a very strong advocacy program, government relations program and communications program. We wanted to create this law society as a forum for lawyers to get together, network and get some continuing education. It’s also a way for us to give back to the community, for those who care about the fight against antisemitism, racism, and the fight for human rights.”
The society will operate as a subcommittee of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, with news to come of scheduled activities and ways that legal professionals can get involved. Law students can join for free, and the annual cost for legal professionals is $250.
“It’s as easy as, if you’re a law student, paralegal or lawyer and you’re interested in advancing your own career and want to make a difference for the community, you just sign up on the website,” said Mostyn. “Then, you’d be put onto the email list … and, as soon as we will be publicly announcing any activities, those will also be reflected on the website.”
“The time when it was first mentioned to me, it wasn’t mentioned to me as something that would be named after me,” Matas told the Independent. “It was mentioned as a way of getting lawyers involved … [in] legal-specific work related to B’nai Brith.
“There are a lot of legal issues that do arise. In fact, today, I put in an application for an intervention document. It’s a case about Mike Ward. He’s a comedian in Quebec who went after a handicapped guy in the audience in his comic routine.
“The person who was the target of this comic routine complained to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, successfully,” said Matas.
The case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada. “And we applied at B’nai Brith for interveners’ status, based on the experience of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who’s a French comedian who has used his comic routine to attack the Jewish community and has been fined many times … and has gone to court many times in France, Belgium and Switzerland. There’s even a European Court of Human Rights judgment on him. So, I suggested we intervene, and B’nai Brith agreed. We applied for intervention status and we got it.”
While Matas enjoys volunteering with B’nai Brith, he will not be able to do so indefinitely, and would love to get some help sharing the workload.
“Obviously, when you’re dealing with a volunteer organization, you want to get as many people involved as possible,” said Matas. “Not just to spread the load, but also you want to get more people aware, committed and involved. Advocacy can’t just be advocacy of one person; it’s not going to carry much weight. It needs to be as many people as possible.”
Mostyn is working on getting accreditation for the society’s seminars, as he and Matas hope that the continuing education component of the law society will help bring together a number of law students, who will eventually go out and work in the field and fuel change.
The society has been launched and many students have already signed up, said Mostyn.
As for what specializations in law those wanting to join the society may want to possess, Matas suggested “discrimination, equality and international law … also, libel law, which is very different from equality law or international law … or we have things about charities, tax and corporations. There are a wide variety of legal issues that come up.
“There’s a lot, in terms of advancements of rights, that occurs through the courts and also through parliaments and legislatures. Legal work isn’t only doing court work. It’s also sometimes advocating changes to law. You need, of course, a public component for that. That may not be lawyers, but often requires some legal expertise to point out the depths of the law and so on. I’d say there’s a real need here and I think it’s a welcome addition to the work that B’nai Brith is doing to add this.
“It’s also a great opportunity for lawyers to contribute and use their skills,” added Matas. “They can talk to each other in a way where everybody knows what they’re talking about.”
Many businesses are shifting their focus to ecommerce, and many new ecommerce businesses are popping up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. British Columbia has recognized this by launching a plan to support these businesses.
Whether your business operates its own ecommerce site or operates through a service like Shopify or Etsy, how you deal with conflict in the ecommerce environment is up to you. I always caution people against finding website policies and legal documents online, as I’ve yet to see one that adequately deals with the concerns of the business.
The other areas that I find suffer from a one-size-does-not-fit-all problem are dispute resolution and intellectual property.
There are many types of disputes that can arise and many types of resolution tools. No one tool is the best for all situations.
Ecommerce businesses have certain aspects that make arbitration the best path, and some that would be more appropriate for the court system.
For example, intellectual property disputes often have to be tried in Supreme Court, not Small Claims. The cost of making a claim in Supreme Court is often higher than the cost of arbitration.
Arbitration is often used for ecommerce disputes because you can select an arbitrator with the specialized knowledge needed to understand the claim. If arbitration is an appropriate dispute resolution tool, you should discuss with your lawyer what set of rules and what type of panel will be used.
Let’s say you craft custom mezuzot and you sell them through Etsy. There are two main areas where I see disputes arising.
One of them is sale completion, like payment, delivery, etc. This is pretty standard business stuff, such as, who is responsible for the mezuzah after payment is made but before either the payment is received or the product is delivered? There is a wealth of case law dealing with this, and it’s important that you understand what kind of insurance you’ll need in case it’s stolen or lost during that interim period.
Another type of dispute arises from the originality of your artwork. The mezuzot themselves are covered by copyright law, as are the photos of them, but how will you deal with someone who makes unauthorized copies of either the mezuzot or the photos? If the copies are slightly different, who will be the best person to determine whether there is infringement?
Let’s say you have a site called TeleSeder. You sell an app and run a course to help people run their Passover seders through videoconferencing software, like Zoom or Skype. Someone signs up for the course, pays for everything, and then turns around and creates VirtuaPesach. It does almost exactly the same thing – it’s clearly using your idea, including a similar app and course, right down to the course materials. But the person running VirtuaPesach has done their homework on copyright and made sure that they’ve made enough changes to escape a claim for copyright infringement.
Copyright doesn’t protect ideas; it protects the specific works expressing those ideas. But that’s not fair, you say. They came to my site, even paid for my materials, and then ran off with them to create a competitor!
You can put remedies – as long as they’re not excessive and they’re realistically tied to the problem – right into the agreement. There’s a way that the agreement can say, “Not only will you not steal my idea, but if you do, whatever you create with it will be mine.” Enforcing that could put the brakes on VirtuaPesach and hand over all of its assets to TeleSeder. The extent to which you can do that depends on circumstances, of course, but this is something to consider when transitioning to an online business.
Using carefully crafted online documents for your ecommerce business helps protect you and your business. From securing what’s yours to controlling dispute resolution before a dispute arises, an ecommerce venture has new challenges and new spins on old challenges that can be managed by getting the right advice.
Jeremy Costinis a business and estates lawyer practising in Vancouver. He sits on the board of directors and is the chair of the governance committee of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and is a frequent guest instructor at the Law Society of British Columbia.
Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you proper advice specific to your needs.
הצעת חוק החדשה של חברת הכנסת תהילה פרידמן ממפלגת כחול לבן, מעוררת עניין רב בעולם היהודי. לדברי אחד מהבכירים בקהילת היהודים בארצות הברית, דיוויד באטלר, הצעת חוק זו מעלה על הפרק את אחד האירועים המשמעותיים ביחסי ישראל והתפוצות מזה שנים רבות.
השאלה שהחוזרת על עצמה אין סוף פעמים, נדונה לעיתים קרובות במאמרי דעות בעיתונות, בנאומים ובכנסים יהודיים שונים, אך היא מעולם לא זכתה לתשובה חד משמעית. כעת מוצעת בכנסת חקיקה חדשה שתיתן למנהיגי יהדות התפוצות סוף סוף תפקיד רשמי בענייניה של ישראל, ואולי אף תבשר על עידן חדש ביחסי ישראל והתפוצות.
מתוך כלל היהודים בעולם שמספרם מוערך בכחמישה עשר מיליון, קרוב לשבעה מיליון גרים בישראל, לפי נתוני ממשלת ישראל. על פי הערכות שונות כשמונת המיליונים הנותרים חיים ברובם בשש המדינות הבאות: ארה”ב כשישה מיליון, צרפת כחצי מיליון, קנדה כארבע מאות אלף, בריטניה כשלוש מאות אלף, ארגנטינה כמאתיים אלף ורוסיה כמאתיים אלף.
את הצעת החוק, שזכתה לתמיכת משרד התפוצות, מקדמת כאמור ח”כ תהילה פרידמן. החוק המוצע יחייב את ממשלת ישראל להיוועץ במנהיגי יהדות העולם בעניינים שייחשבו בעיניה כמכריעים, ונוגעים גם לכשמונה מיליון היהודים שחיים מחוץ לישראל.
באטלר אומר הצעת החוק החדשה “עשויה להיות אחד האירועים המשמעותיים ביותר ביחסי ישראל והתפוצות מזה עשרות שנים”. באטלר אגב משמש יו”ר ועדת ישראל וחו”ל של ארגון הגג של הפדרציות היהודיות בצפון אמריקה (שמאגד מאה ארבעים ושש פדרציות יהודיות ועוד שלוש מאות קהילות עצמאיות).
פדרציות אלו שולחות במשותף לישראל מדי שנה מאות מיליוני דולרים בדמות מענקים למלכ”רים שונים, שפועלים למען ישראלים מכל מגזרי בחברה. ביניהם שני השותפים העיקריים של הפדרציות מחוץ לארה”ב: הסוכנות היהדות לישראל וארגון הג’וינט.
בסוף חודש אוקטובר קיימו הארגונים את הכנס השנתי שלהם (בפורמט מקוון) ובו עלתה לדיון השאלה המרכזית: באיזו מידה צריכה להיות ליהודי העולם אמירה בענייני הפנים של ישראל. שאלה זו שימשה כזרז להצעת החוק הממשלתית של השרה לענייני התפוצות עומר ינקליבץ’ (השרה החרדית הראשונה בישראל).
אריק פינגהרט, לשעבר חבר קונגרס יהודי מאוהיו (עומד כיום בראש רשת הפדרציות היהודיות) מאמין שהישראלים וממשלת ישראל צריכים לרצות לשמוע גם מהיהודים בעולם, וללמוד ולהבין את נקודות המבט של היהודים בעולם. “איננו רוצים לנסות לומר לממשלת ישראל מה לעשות, אבל אנחנו כן רוצים שהם ישמעו את מה שיש לנו לומר בעניינים המשפיעים על הקהילה שלנו”, הוא מוסיף.
לדברי השרה ינלקביץ’: “עלינו להבין לעומק את האינטרסים והצרכים של כשמונה מיליון האחים והאחיות של ישראל הגרים מחוץ לגבולותינו. זה נכון במיוחד כאשר מדינת ישראל מקבלת החלטות המשפיעות ישירות על קהילות יהודיות מחוץ לישראל. אם למדתי משהו בתפקידי כשרה בשמונת החודשים האחרונים, זה שליהדות העולם יש קול. הוא עשיר, הוא מגוון, הוא חזק, אי אפשר ואין רשות להתעלם ממנו”.
ישנן כמה סוגיות שבאופן קבוע נוגעות בנקודות רגישות במערכת היחסים המורכבת בין שתי הקהילות היהודיות הגדולות בעולם, ישראל וארה”ב. רוב היהודים האמריקנים מזדהים כרפורמים או כקונסרבטיבים, אך היחס לשני הזרמים הלא אורתודוקסיים הללו הוא יחס של בוז או עוינות של ממש, מצד רבים בישראל, בכלל זה הרבנות הראשית. גיורים שעורכים רבנים רפורמים או קונסרבטיבים אינם מוכרים בישראל, ויהודים אמריקנים שרוצים להתפלל בכותל המערבי במניינים שיוויוניים, בעירוב נשים וגברים או בהובלת נשים, נחסמים באופן קבוע ואינם מורשים לעשות זאת.
“במשך זמן רב מדי הייתה ישראל המקום היחיד עלי אדמות שבו לא כל היהודים מקבלים יחס שווה. זה משהו שישראל צריכה לתקן ויפה שעה אחת קודם, ולא רק בגלל יהודי התפוצות”, אומרת חברת הכנסת מרב מיכאלי ממפלגת העבודה. “יש לנו גם כאן בישראל יהודים רפורמים וקונסרבטיבים שעדיין אינם נהנים משיוויון לא במימון, לא בזכויות ולא בהכרה על-ידי המדינה”, היא מוסיפה.
רבים מחברי הכנסת התומכים בחקיקה החדשה התנסו במגורים בתפוצות או בעבודה עם יהודי התפוצות. מיכאלי עבדה בעבר כמדריכה במרכז קהילתי יהודי במערב פאלם ביץ’, פלורידה. פרידמן, עורכת דין דתייה מירושלים, ייצגה בעבר את הפדרציה היהודית הגדולה ביותר בניו ג’רזי (הידועה בשם גרֵייטר מֶטרוֹ-ווֶסט). הוריה של ינקלביץ’ עלו לישראל מברית המועצות לשעבר.
חברת כנסת נוספת שתומכת בחקיקה היא מיכל קוֹטלר-ווּנש ממפלגת כחול לבן, שגדלה במונטריאול ולאחר מכן שבה לישראל. אביה, ארווין קוטלר, שימש בעבר שר המשפטים בקנדה. לדבריה: “השאלה אינה אם אלא איך לערב את יהודי התפוצות. אנחנו חיים ברגע היסטורי, שבו יש לנו הזדמנות כבירה לעצב מחדש ולשנות את תבנית המחשבה ביחסי ישראל והתפוצות, למה שהיא שהייתה אמורה להיות”.
שמואל רוזנר, שמשמש עיתונאי ופרשן של הניו יורק טיימס, אומר כי הוא אינו חושב שהצעד הזה יעבור בכנסת במיוחד עכשיו, כשישראל ממוקדת בקורונה, ודעת ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו מוסחת בשל ההפגנות נגד עמידתו בראשות הממשלה. הוא מוסיף: “הקמת מנגנון אפקטיבי שמייצג נאמנה את האינטרסים של יהודי התפוצות יהיה בלתי אפשרי, והישראלים אינם רוצים בחוק שכזה. אני חושב שהתייעצות בין ישראל לבין יהדות העולם צריכה להיעשות באופן קבוע ורציני, אבל לא צריכה להיות רשמית בשום צורה. אני תומך לחלוטין בדיאלוג, אבל מתנגד לכל דיאלוג שתלוי במנגנונים רשמיים ובחוקים שתכליתם היא לכפות על ממשלת ישראל התייעצות עם גורמים מבחוץ”.
פרידמן מסכימה כי נמוכים הסיכויים שהצעת החוק שלה שפרטיה מעורפלים בשלב זה, לדרוש חובת התייעצות עם יהדות התפוצות בהחלטות שיש להן השפעות ישירות על יהדות העולם – תהפוך לחוק. זאת, במיוחד בנסיבות הנוכחיות. אך היא שואבת עידוד מכך שמשרד התפוצות הטיל את כובד משקלו על ההצעה. “זה פשוט הופך את כל העניין להרבה יותר רציני”, היא הוסיפה.
שירה רודרמן, מנכ”לית קרן משפחת רדומן, גוף פילנתרופי עם משרדים בישראל ובבוסטון, שמבקש לעזור לגשר על הפער שבין ישראל לתפוצות, אומרת שבדרך כלל המחוקקים הישראלים שמים לב לקהילות היהודיות מעבר לים, רק כאשר יש משבר בבית או בחו”ל. רודמן: “זה צריך להשתנות. במשך השנים, שמענו הרבה הערות נגד יהודים רפורמים וקונסרבטיבים, שהדעות שלהם אינן חשובות, למעט כאשר הדברים אמורים בתרומות ובשתדלנות למען ישראל. לפני למעלה משבעים שנה, הייתה לעם היהודי בכל מקום שבו היה – מטרה משותפת: להקים מולדת יהודית. היום, אין לנו מטרה משותפת או ייעוד משותף. איך אפשר לבנות עתיד ביחד אם אין לך מטרה משותפת”.
פרידמן שממשיכה בקידום החקיקה, אישרה שקיימת התנגדות להצעת החוק, אבל היא מאמינה שבכל זאת מדובר ברעיון חשוב. פרידמן: “אני מקבלת לחץ נגדי הן מהשמאל והן מהימין. ברור לכולנו שישנן סוגיות שרק אזרחי ישראל יכולים להחליט בהן, כמו ביטחון וכלכלה. אבל כשמדובר בסוגיות שיש להן השפעה ישירה על העם היהודי כולו, כמו שינוי חוק השבות או איך אמור להיראות הכותל, או שאלות לגבי גיור – גם יהדות העולם צריכה לקבל קול”.