Left to right: Chaim Chesler, Diane Wohl, Matthew Bronfman and Sandra Cahn. (photo by Yossi Aloni)
Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler said the country needs to toughen security measures against terrorism, while preserving the nation’s democratic freedoms. Cotler addressed the recent attacks in Canada in remarks to some 500 Russian-speaking Jews participating in the inaugural Limmud FSU Canada, a dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of learning, culture and creativity.
Cotler, a Canadian Jewish leader and human rights activist who served as the honorary chair of Limmud FSU Canada, spoke alongside such public figures as Limor Livnat, Israel’s minister of culture and sport; Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, bestselling author and media personality; entrepreneur Marat Ressin; Matthew Bronfman, Limmud FSU chair; Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU; and Sandra Cahn, co-founder.
“Canada is a country that takes pride in its openness, freedom and democracy but, at this point, the Canadian government needs to take the right measures to ensure that it remains not only peaceful but also secured in a way that we combat the threats,” said Cotler. “Security has to be expanded, but not at the expense of freedom. We need to protect democracy, but also to protect our citizens,” he added.
Livnat added: “I salute the prime minister of Canada on his strong support of Israel. The recent terrorist event in Ottawa was not only directed against the Canadian Parliament, it was also directed against the democracies of the free world.”
Limmud FSU Canada, in collaboration with UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto and Jewish Agency for Israel, took place Oct. 25-27 at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont., site of the 2010 G8 Summit. Limmud FSU Canada offered a wide array of sessions, from Not Just ISIS and Hamas: The Threat of Islamic Radicalization on Israel and on the Western World, to Canadian Jews: A Unique Community or Just American Jews in the Making? Other sessions focused on the crisis in Ukraine, Jewish life in the Russian Empire, the Russian-speaking Jewish elite in Russia, and such esoteric topics as The Shadchan: The Art of Jewish Matchmaking, and a kosher wine workshop. Limmud FSU Canada also featured nature walks, theatre and programs for children.
This was the first time the global conference for Russian-speaking Jews was held in Canada, home to about 330,000 Jews, including an estimated 70,000-plus Russian speakers, many in the Greater Toronto area. The contemporary Russian-speaking Jewish community in Canada – among the centres of Russian-Jewish immigration globally – is shaped by three waves of immigration, starting with the major exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, Jews from countries of the former Soviet Union, including those who first went to Israel, between 1990 and 2001, and since then those who first immigrated to Israel in the 1990s. A large percentage, nearly 220,000, of the country’s overall Jewish population lives in the Greater Toronto Area, including about 20,000-30,000 Israelis.
Now, Canadian Russian-speaking Jews are seeking to develop their own conference, geared to this unique community. Local community organizers include conference co-chairs Karina Rondberg and Leon Martynenko, chair of the governing council Galina Sandler, and council members Julia Koschitzky and Shoel Silver.