Rallies for Palestine across Canada have regularly turned into outright anti-Semitic forums. Photo from X

Archdiocese fights rise in anti-Semitism

  • January 23, 2024

In the face of rising anti-Semitism stemming from the Israel-Hamas war, the Archdiocese of Toronto is providing resources in support of the Jewish community.

While bolstering its existing tools on interfaith relations between Catholics and Jews, the Office for Promoting Christian Unity and Religious Relations with Judaism is encouraging participation in several educational events surrounding anti-Semitism and Holocaust remembrance, said Fr. Luis Melo, the office director.

“The Gospel challenges and calls us to confront hatred in all its forms,” said Melo. “I am inspired by the bold words of Pope Francis when he stated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”

Toronto police are reporting a 42-per-cent spike in hate-related crimes in 2023. Much of that can be attributed to the Mideast conflict. According to CTV News, 117 anti-Semitic-related charges have been laid to go along with 54 arrests since Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters broached the Israeli border and slaughtered upwards of 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 captives back to Gaza.

There have been weekly protests, in Toronto and around the country, by Hamas and Palestinian supporters calling for a ceasefire, many crossing the line into outright anti-Semitism. Among them have been protests over two January weekends where the Avenue Road bridge over Highway 401, near a densely populated Jewish neighbourhood, in Toronto was closed due to protests.

An attempt at closing the overpass for a third weekend was thwarted Jan. 13 and three arrests were made.

At the start of the year, a Jewish deli in North York was set ablaze and is being investigated as a suspected hate crime. Other Jewish businesses have been intimidated as well.

Toronto is not alone in seeing a rise in anti-Semitic acts. Montreal’s Jewish Community Council was hit by a Molotov cocktail and the Yeshiva Gedola and United Talmud Torahs of Montreal Inc. were hit with gunfire, the former twice.  

Due in no small part to the incidents happening across the country, the Office for Promoting Christian Unity and Religious Relations with Judaism has informed priests and pastoral workers of a number of educational events regarding anti-Semitism and Holocaust remembrance. Melo is also working on a Catholic-Jewish event/response to local anti-Semitism. 

“Our continued and sustained commitment to education and formation to eradicate hatred and anti-Semitic attitudes and actions takes on a new urgency in the face of the tragic events stemming from the horrors of Oct. 7 felt both near and far,” said Melo.

Toronto Archbishop Francis Leo’s Hanukkah message in December also addressed Catholics role in denouncing hate.

“There is no place for religious intolerance and persecution in our world, and we must make every effort to counter hatred with love, mindful of the call of Jesus to love your neighbour as you love yourself,” Leo wrote.

At the Jan. 21 webinar “The Global Phenomenon of Conspiratorial Anti-Semitism,” Jacob Kovalio, a professor of Japanese and Asian History/Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, strove to showcase how prejudice impacts every society in one way or another. Kovalio has researched nationalism and anti-Semitism and covered the core reasons behind Holocaust denial and other related conspiracies. 

“The expansion of the phenomenon that I am dealing with is nothing less than astounding,” said Kovalio. “That is why over the years I’ve had such a large quantity of material to cover to really separate the wheat from the chaff. The same things I say about anti-Semitism I am saying about racism at large, that it exists in all societies without exception in pockets big and small.”

Kovalio noted conspiratorial anti-Semitism conditions people to believe certain ways of thinking rooted in hate and prejudice and explains actions we are seeing towards Jewish communities.

“It’s true that certain people are inclined by their personality, their education and their inclination towards accepting things without giving them a second thought,” said Kovalio. 

While he acknowledged intimidation and hate towards Jews in Canada specifically, Kovalio is adamant anti-Semitism needs to be addressed on a scale much larger than from city to city.

“I must say that it would be impossible to find any society of reasonable size where the idea of a Jewish conspiracy doesn’t exist in a pocket format. That’s why it’s very important that people do not make blanket statements that are completely inaccurate and unfair.”

The Archdiocese office is also part of the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto which is sponsoring the Jan. 28 webinar “Anti-Semitism in Biblical Interpretation” with New Testament scholar Dr. Amy-Jill Levine.

The office also has a multitude of educational resources and tools on its webpage. 

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