Statement in Support of No Silence on Race
“Justice, justice shall you pursue.” This statement from Deuteronomy 16:20 animates us as Jews, as rabbis, and as community leaders. Therefore, the Toronto Board of Rabbis takes seriously the call to action from No Silence on Race.
We acknowledge both historic and ongoing racism against Black people, Indigenous people, and other People of Colour — in the wider society, in the Greater Toronto Area, and in our own Jewish community. Realizing our positions of influence, we rededicate ourselves to building an inclusive and diverse Jewish community. We pledge to continue our learning and to advance a clear atmosphere of inclusion and nonjudgmental welcoming of Jews of all backgrounds and identities, as well as those exploring Judaism, in all our congregations and organizations. We will practice deep listening and active participation with Jews of Colour, and we will learn from and work with No Silence on Race, and others involved in this endeavour.
We commit to educate ourselves and our communities on internal and external racism in an effort to identify it, name it, and eradicate it. Thereby we will help move the Jewish community as a whole to manifest the highest values of Jewish tradition. As our Sages taught, “The Holy Blessed One created all human beings in the image of God… and yet not any one of them is the same as any other.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 38a)
Statement on the Terrifying Attack in London, Ontario
In the Torah (Genesis 17:20), we are taught that the descendants of Ishmael shall be blessed. Our bonds to the Muslim community reach back to our common spiritual ancestor, Abraham.
The Toronto Board of Rabbis expresses our deepest sadness and shock over the recent attack against the Muslim family in London, Ontario. In Leviticus 19:16, we are commanded: “Do not stand idly by while your neighbour’s blood is shed.” We stand in solidarity with all Muslim Canadians in the conviction that freedom of religion protects people of faith to express their sacred beliefs in their homes, in their places of worship, and openly in the community without fear.
We call on all Canadians and every level of government to take action against Islamophobia in all its forms and to insist that hatred, violence, and discrimination have no place in our society. Let us join together in reaffirming the shared values that make Canada a safe and welcoming place for people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds to live in peace with one another. This is a sacred pledge from which we will never desist.
Statement Regarding the 215 Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Children
קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן־הָאֲדָמָה
Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)
We, the members of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, reach out in sorrow and in solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and Indigenous communities throughout the country. The discovery of the bodies of 215 children on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School has reopened wounds that have festered for decades. No parent should ever have to mourn a child, nor be denied the chance to provide that child a proper burial. We pray that the grieving families and communities find a measure of comfort in providing a proper resting place for these children who were denied their life and their heritage.
These 215 children represent a small number of those who died in the care of Canadian Residential Schools and Canada has much to do to make amends for the mistreatment inflicted on these innocents.
Words are not sufficient to atone for the abuse of our First Nations at the hands of Canada. Through our actions and deeds, we must ensure that nothing like this ever takes place here again. We teach in our holy scriptures that “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” As a community that has also experienced displacement and knows the pain of children murdered and buried in mass graves, we call on the Canadian government to fulfill all the commitments outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Our tradition teaches that the first human being was created singularly so that no person or group could say they are better than another. We pray with you that this lesson will be one that is seared in the hearts and minds of every Canadian so that tragedies like this will never occur on this soil again. May we learn to live and respect each other in peace and dignity.
Statement on Antisemitism
In any society, fanatics who hate don’t only hate me—they hate you, too. They hate everybody. – Elie Wiesel
The Toronto Board of Rabbis notes with alarm the increasing number of public antisemitic incidents in our city, Canada and around the world. Centuries old antisemitic tropes have been given new life. Innocent people have been subject to verbal and physical abuse. Jews are being harassed on social media and at universities, threatened in their neighbourhoods, assaulted in restaurants and on the streets.
While some elected officials have spoken out against the rising tide of antisemitism, words alone do not suffice. We urge all our levels of government to bring the full force of the law to bear on individuals and groups who commit antisemitic crimes. We call on elected officials and faith leaders to unequivocally denounce antisemitism and to recommit to combatting antisemitism wherever it may be found. We join with others in our community in calling on the federal government to convene an emergency summit to tackle antisemitism as soon as possible.
It is said that what begins with Jews does not end with Jews. For the sake of all Canadians, now is the time to speak out against hatred and violence.