Bearing Witness Through the Voices of Our Survivors
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For articles from 2011 to 2012, please see Awareness Archive
For articles from 2013 please see Awareness Archive 2013
For articles for 2014 please See Awareness Archive 2014
National Assembly denounces anti-Semitic graffiti in N.D.G.
March 2, 2015
By Geoffrey Vendeville
The National Assembly unanimously condemned on Wednesday the swastikas spray-painted on hoods of four cars in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
“I wish to reassure the public that we will not tolerate that Quebecers be subject to threats because of their origins or religious beliefs,” said Premier Philippe Couillard in the assembly, in a rare English declaration.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault, who introduced the motion, called the act of vandalism unacceptable. “Citizens who have lived all their lives in safety were attacked because they were Jewish,” he said. “They now live in fear.”
The incident dates back to Monday night, when tenants of a building at the corner of Côte-St-Luc Rd. and Hampton Ave. discovered four cars spray-painted with red swastikas.
PQ interim leader Stéphane Bédard described Quebec as a “land of welcome for the Jewish community,” remarking that it was the first place in the British Empire to elect a Jewish representative: Ezekiel Hart.
Couillard seized the occasion to give the opposition a history lesson, reminding them that Hart was never allowed to take his seat due to his faith.
Elected on his second try in Trois-Rivières in 1807, Hart was sworn in with his head covered and with his hand on the Torah instead of the Bible, according to Denis Vaugeois’s The Extraordinary Story of the Hart Family. He was barred from the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada because legislators protested that he, as a Jew, “cannot be bound by his oath, he has profaned the religion of the oath and cannot take his place, nor sit, nor vote in this House.”
“There is often a dark side to these success stories,” Couillard said.
He added that “Quebec, too, has its demons,” including intolerance, racism and xenophobia.
Referring to the hate crime in N.D.G., he said gestures such as these “in no way reflects Quebec society’s values and have no place in our society that is open to diversity.”
Judge's refusal to hear case of woman in hijab left her in tears
March 2, 2015
A Quebec woman says she was left in tears after a judge refused to hear her case in court unless she removed her Islamic headscarf.
Judge Eliana Marengo told Rania El-Alloul inside a Montreal courtroom on Tuesday that she had to remove her hijab. Marengo said that the court was a secular space and that El-Alloul was not suitably dressed.
"I was shocked. I was surprised. I told her I cannot remove it," El-Alloul told CTV Montreal on Friday.
"I am proud of my hijab – I will never remove it, not for a small case because of my car," she added.
El-Alloul was in court to apply to get her car back after it was seized by Quebec's automobile insurance board.
She said that the judge's ruling left her feeling dehumanized and disrespected.
"Outside I cried; on the streets, on the metro, on the bus – I couldn't stop my tears," she said.
"I am Canadian. It is my right and I am feeling not Canadian anymore because what she did to me, but really I am Canadian," she added.
When El-Alloul first appeared before Marengo, the judge asked her why she was wearing a scarf. El-Alloul told her it was because she is a Muslim.
Marengo proceeded to take a 30-minute recess. When she returned, she offered El-Alloul a choice: remove the scarf or seek a postponement in order to consult with a lawyer.
The judge cited Article 13 of the rules of Quebec court, which states that "any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed."
Marengo's interpretation included hijabs.
"I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding," Marengo says in a recording of the proceedings.
Copenhagen shooting suspect was a 22-year-old Danish man with gang ties and a criminal past, police say
February 16, 2015
By Jan Olsen and Karl Ritter
Police say the suspected gunman in two deadly shootings in Copenhagen was 22 years old and had a background in criminal gangs.
Danish police shot and killed the man early Sunday after shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a documentary filmmaker and a member of Denmark’s Jewish community. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.
“Denmark has been hit by terror,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. “We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator’s actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech.”
Jens Madsen, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, said investigators believe the gunman was inspired by Islamic radicalism.
“PET is working on a theory that the perpetrator could have been inspired by the events in Paris. He could also have been inspired by material sent out by (the Islamic State group) and others,” Madsen said.
Islamic radicals carried out a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in Paris last month, followed by an attack on Jews at a kosher grocery store, taking the lives of 17 victims.
Up to 400 Jewish gravestones desecrated and daubed with Nazi graffiti in 'heinous anti-Semitic attack' in French cemetery
February 16, 2015
Hundreds of Jewish graves have been desecrated in a 'heinous anti-Semitic attack' in France.
The country's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack happened at the main Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace, on the German border.
Up to 400 gravestones were vandalised by being kicked over, or had Nazi swastikas daubed on them in red paint.
Mr Cazeneuve said: 'This was an odious act against religious freedom and tolerance. France will not tolerate this latest attack which harms the values all French people share.'
The incident follows the murder of four Jewish people by a Kalashnikov wielding terrorist following a siege in a Paris Kosher store last month.
Mr Cazeneuve said 'everything will be done to establish the identity of the perpetrators' of the Sarre-Union attack 'so as to bring them to justice'.
Manuel Valls, France's Prime Minister, joined in condemning the 'vile anti-Semitic act', and also pledged that the criminals responsible would be brought to justice.
Many of the Jews buried in Sarre-Union were linked with the Second World War Holocaust, when some 76,000 French Jews were entrained to their deaths in German concentration camps.
Philippe Richert, UMP President of the Alsace Regional Council, said it 'was too early to say' who might be responsible for the Sarre-Union attack, but confirmed that police were 'flooding the area'.
A gun attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen left one Jewish man dead this weekend, as Jewish leaders complain of a rising tide of anti-Semitism.
The Paris attack in January was part of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine atrocities, in which a total of 20 died, including the three terrorists responsible.
Belgian teacher tells Jewish student: ‘We should put you all on freight wagons’
February 9, 2015
A Brussels high school teacher was summoned to appear before a local school board for telling a Jewish student, “We should put you all on freight wagons.”
The incident occurred at the Belgian capital’s Emile Jacqmain school and involved a 16-year-old female student and her mathematics teacher, the La Derniere Heure magazine reported Friday.
The teacher, who was not identified, was summoned to appear before the board following a complaint filed against him for inciting racism and anti-Semitic hatred. The student, according to the report, told the teacher that “one does not joke about such subjects.”
Tens of thousands of Belgian Jews, along with countless other Jews from across Europe, were transported by the Nazis to deaths in cattle and freight wagons.
Moments earlier, the teacher reportedly told a pupil with a Polish-sounding last name to “go back to Poland” while imitating a German accent.
Four days after the “freight wagons” incident, the teacher said publicly at school, “I did not mean to say it, and I apologized to anyone shocked by it.”
But the pupil’s parents filed a complaint, which the school board processed promptly, earning praises from Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA. Rubinfeld told the RTL broadcaster that the school’s action was exemplary.
“My feeling is that this teacher meant to say exactly what he said, and that this is yet another example of the anti-Semitism that is making life increasingly difficult for Belgian Jews here,” he told JTA on Monday.
Muslims' WW2 help for Jews displayed at Cardiff synagogue
February 8, 2015
Stanley Soffa, chair of Jewish Representative Council for South Wales who has brought it to Wales said it was a "heroic story".
It is part of Open Doors 2014, the annual event offering free entry to many attractions throughout September.
The programme is marking 30 years of making heritage more accessible.
The Righteous Muslim Exhibition documents the story of Bosnia Muslims who went to great lengths to preserve Jewish tradition during World War Two by safeguarding the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year-old manuscript which narrates the Exodus from Egypt every Passover.
When a Nazi official came to seize the Haggadah, two men carried it through Nazi checkpoints, to a mountain village above Sarajevo. A Muslim cleric kept it hidden beneath a floor of a mosque until the war was over.
Mr Soffa said: "The exhibition was very well received in London last year, so we are delighted to have the opportunity to share this story with the people of Wales... this weekend.
"For us, it is a heroic story of Muslims saving Jewish lives which provides a unique bond between to communities that we can celebrate together and remember together."
The exhibition aims to inspire new research into instances of collaboration between the Muslim and Jewish communities.
Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, added: "The Holocaust is probably the most documented event in modern history but to this day very few people knew about this factual event during World War Two when two religious events came together to save one another.
Iranian public gets the truth about Holocaust as documentary airs
'Germany's Fuhrer,' shot by the first Iranian film crew to visit Auschwitz, was aired over satellite TV by Manoto1, a London-based station, UK Times reports.
February 3, 2015
While a number of Iran's leaders officially continue to deny that the Holocaust happened, average Iranians for the first time were able to view the truth, through a documentary marking Holocaust Memorial Day, media reports say.
The Times of London reported that "Germany's Fuhrer" was aired over satellite TV by Manoto1, a London-based satellite-TV station.
The film, tracing Hitler's rise to power and attempt to exterminate the Jews, was shot by the first Iranian film crew to visit Auschwitz, the paper reported.
The UK Telegraph noted that the film represents a challenge to the hardliners in Iran, although President Hassan Rouhani said in a September 2013 CNN interview that the Holocaust did occur.
Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cited his public Holocaust denial as a key achievement of his presidency.
The Telegraph also noted that some in Iran were unconvinced. “All these crimes were committed by the Jews themselves so they reach their real objectives," an Iranian hard-liner wrote on Facebook, the paper reported.
New report maps the global status of Holocaust education
How is the Holocaust taught in schools worldwide? Are textbook representations of the Holocaust complete and accurate? What do textbooks tell us about the status of the Holocaust internationally?
January 30, 2015
UNESCO and the George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research have published an ambitious new study - International Status of Education about the Holocaust: A Global Mapping of Textbooks and Curricula (ISEH) - comparing ways in which the Holocaust is presented in curricula and textbooks worldwide. It shows where Holocaust education stands today in secondary school level history and social studies curricula, through analyses of 272 curricula from 135 countries, and 89 textbooks published in 26 countries since 2000.
Aimed primarily at educational policymakers, teachers, academics and textbook authors, the study formulates recommendations for the development of educational content and policies about the Holocaust. These recommendations relate to such issues as the use of concepts, the comprehensiveness of historical facts, the definition of the causes of the genocide, the combination of universal and local approaches, and the development of historical literacy. They are critical today, to “mitigate the misuse of references to this event in an age […] where knowledge about the Holocaust is fragmented and often distorted, if not used to political ends.”
ISEH can help young people to acquire knowledge and an understanding of this complex event, and even encourage awareness of what may be required in order to avoid similar events happening again. For author Peter Carrier, it is “one piece in a puzzle whose aim is to better understand how world affairs are interconnected, to encourage learning about other peoples' histories, and to foster reflection about the relation between learning and genocide prevention. Although one cannot directly ‘learn’ how to implement human rights or even how to be a global citizen by studying genocides, their negative example does help young people to learn to avoid humiliating and harming others, and to appreciate and preserve what human decency each of us, to differing degrees, enjoys.”
Reaffirmation of the Stockholm Declaration on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
January 27, 2015
Today, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the 31 member and eight observer countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), together with our seven Permanent International Partners, have collectively reaffirmed our strong and unqualified support for the founding document of our organization, the Stockholm Declaration of the year 2000, and the solemn commitments which our governments then undertook.
The unprecedented character of the Holocaust will always hold universal meaning for us. We are committed to remembering and honouring its victims, to upholding the terrible truth of the Holocaust, to standing up against those who distort or deny it and to combatting antisemitism, racism and prejudice against the Roma and Sinti.
We are determined to continue to develop our international cooperation on Holocaust education, remembrance and research and the prevention of future genocides.
The members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance are committed to the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, which reads as follows:
1. The Holocaust (Shoah) fundamentally challenged the foundations of civilization. The unprecedented character of the Holocaust will always hold universal meaning. After half a century, it remains an event close enough in time that survivors can still bear witness to the horrors that engulfed the Jewish people. The terrible suffering of the many millions of other victims of the Nazis has left an indelible scar across Europe as well.
2. The magnitude of the Holocaust planned and carried out by the Nazis must forever be seared in our collective memory. The selfless sacrifices of those who defied the Nazis, and sometimes gave their own lives to protect or rescue the Holocaust's victims, must also be inscribed in our hearts. The depths of that horror, and the heights of their heroism, can be touchstones in our understanding of the human capacity for evil and for good.
3. With humanity still scarred by genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia, the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils. Together we must uphold the terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it. We must strengthen the moral commitment of our peoples, and the political commitment of our governments, to ensure that future generations can understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences.
4. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust, both in those of our countries that have already done much and those that choose to join this effort.
5. We share a commitment to study the Holocaust in all its dimensions. We will promote education about the Holocaust in our schools and universities, in our communities and encourage it in other institutions.
6. We share a commitment to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to honour those who stood against it. We will encourage appropriate forms of Holocaust remembrance, including an annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance, in our countries.
7. We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust. We will take all necessary steps to facilitate the opening of archives in order to ensure that all documents bearing on the Holocaust are available to researchers.
8. It is appropriate as this, the first major international conference of the new millennium, declares its commitment to plant the seeds of a better future amidst the soil of a bitter past. We empathize with the victims' suffering and draw inspiration from their struggle. Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.
I Won't Fear Muslims
When I'm asked if I feel safe in France as a Jew, I know what they really mean. My answer is always the same
January 26, 2015
By Miranda Richmon Mouillot
After “Do you miss home?” the question I am asked most frequently about my 10 years in France is, “Do you feel safe as a Jew?” Invariably, the query cloaks another, usually unspoken one: Am I afraid of all the Muslims? And so I wish to say what a decade here has shown me: The generalizations contained in those questions frighten me more than any experience in France ever has.
I don’t mean this in ideological or statistical terms, although those are important points to be made as well. Those terms are too general, and what I wish to share is the opposite; it is purely personal. But as the wave of terror that follows crimes committed in the name of any creed or god pushes us to embrace stereotypes and generalizations, I believe it bears repeating: In my 10 years on French soil I have learned that choosing how and when to discuss my Jewishness with a French person can be a fraught and sometimes painful affair – unless, that is, he or she happens to be Muslim. I have never been treated with anything approaching intolerance by a Muslim in France; more often than not, I am hailed and welcomed as a kind of distant cousin.
When I first arrived here, I was lunching alone in a restaurant in the small village where my family and I now live. I asked for my salad without lardons, the bits of cured ham the French would probably put in their toothpaste if they could find a way to do so, and when the owner served me, he smiled. “Cacher,” he whispered, raising an eyebrow at the Star of David around my neck. “Comme moi.” Kosher. Like me. I returned his smile gratefully but didn’t quite understand – not yet, at any rate. His name was Rachid.
During the years we lived in Paris my husband worked for a company that restored historical monuments. It was an all-male, testosterone-charged environment that fostered sexism, racism and homophobia, and my husband spent many a lunch break considering which comments he would or wouldn’t let slide. After years with a Jewish wife, it was often the non-Muslims’ attempts to get the Muslims to eat pork and drink wine that bothered him most. One day, a Muslim colleague asked him why. “My wife doesn’t eat pork either,” my husband explained.
“And she follows the dietary laws?” the co-worker inquired.
My husband nodded.
“She doesn’t smoke?”
“Sure she does,” my husband replied with a wink. “Wine every Friday night – it’s a commandment.”
UN holds first ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism
'Faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins,' French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy says at meeting.
January 14, 2015
By Associated Press
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy challenged the world at the first-ever UN General Assembly meeting devoted to anti-Semitism to counter the rising hatred of Jews, which he denounced as "radical inhumanity."
In a keynote address on Thursday, Levy decried that "faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins."
The United Nations was established on the ashes of the Holocaust after World War II, and one reason was to fight the "plague" of anti-Semitism, Levy noted.
The assembly was held in response to the global increase in violence against Jews and was scheduled before the killing of four French Jews at a kosher market during three days of terror in Paris earlier this month. Paris was just the latest attack to raise fears among European Jews, following killings at a Belgian Jewish Museum and a Jewish school in southwestern France.
A surprise speaker was Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Abdallah Al-Moualimi, who told the meeting that Islamic countries condemn all words and acts that lead "to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia."
Note to reader - Given the widespread reporting around the events in Paris regarding the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher murders, we have chosen to report on stories that have arisen from these events rather than the events themselves
Dieudonné arrested over Facebook post on Paris gunman
January 18, 2015
French comedian accused of justifying terrorism after linking attacker to tribute slogan by writing ‘I feel like Charlie Coulibaly’
January 15, 2015
Agence France Presse
Notorious French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathised with one of the Paris gunmen, a judicial source has said.
Prosecutors had opened the case against him on Monday after he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday.
Coulibaly killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday and a police officer the day before.
The comedian made international headlines in 2013 when French footballer Nicolas Anelka was banned for five matches by English football authorities for using a gesture created by Dieudonné that many consider to echo the Nazi salute.
Dieudonné posted his controversial Facebook post after attending Sunday’s unity march against extremism that brought more than 1.5 million people on to the streets of Paris in the wake of the attacks.
He described the march – considered the biggest rally in modern French history – as “a magical moment comparable to the big bang”.
The French government has in the past banned Dieudonné’s shows because it considers them “antisemitic”.
Dieudonné has removed the remark from his Facebook page.
Egyptian Court Bans Annual Festival Honoring Moroccan Rabbi
December 31, 2014
An Egyptian court on Monday banned an annual festival in honor of a Moroccan rabbi that was regularly attended by hundreds of Jewish pilgrims.
After the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egypt began allowing organized and heavily secured trips to the tomb of Yaakov Abu Hatzira in the Nile Delta province of Beheira, south of Alexandria. The Culture Ministry declared the site an Egyptian cultural monument in 2001.
The Administrative Court of Alexandria banned the visits and stripped the ministry's designation. It acted on a complaint filed by local residents who objected to the mingling of men and women and the consumption of alcohol at the festival, and claimed that strict security measures applied during the festival negatively affected their normal daily life.
Abu Hatzira, born in northern Morocco in 1805, was a son of the chief Rabbi of Morocco. He fell ill during a visit to the sacred sites in Jerusalem and died in Egypt in 1879. His grave became a shrine built on a small plot of land in the largely rural Nile Delta province. He is revered by some Jews as a mystic renowned for his piety and for performing miracles. The annual festival has in the past drawn hundreds of religious pilgrims each year, mostly Jews from Israel, Morocco and France.
The tomb is a vestige of Egypt's once-prosperous and thriving Jewish community, which dates back to the time before Moses. At the time of the founding of Israel in 1948, they numbered about 80,000 people. But the multiple Arab-Israeli wars, and the resentment and expulsions that they engendered, have reduced Egypt's Jewish community to a few dozen elderly people in Alexandria and Cairo, according to the Israeli embassy.
The annual religious festival has been a long-term source of controversy in Egypt. A court cancelled the event in 2001, but it was later resumed. In 2009, the Egyptian government banned Jewish pilgrims from entering because it took place during the Israeli government's Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza Strip; officials said they could not guarantee the pilgrims' safety at a time of intense public anger toward Israel.
In 2010, Egyptian security authorities arrested 25 men suspected of forming a new Islamic militant group that planned to carry out attacks on targets inside Egypt including the tomb of Abu Hatzira. In 2012, the government called off the festival, citing political instability in the wake of the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power. Monday's court ruling, if it stands, seeks to permanently ban the festival.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said his office is examining the decision of the local Egyptian court and, if necessary, will approach the Egyptian authorities about the issue and stress the importance of freedom of worship.
Bullet smashes through window at Paris synagogue
Earlier this month, France was rocked by a rape of a Jewish woman in an anti-Semitic attack. In what President Francois Hollande described as an “unbearable” attack, assailants stormed the flat of a young couple, raping the woman and stealing jewelry and bank cards on December 3. That attack also drew fierce criticism from Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who said the fight against anti-Semitism must be “a national cause.”
December 23, 2013
Times of Israel
By JTA and Marissa Newman
A bullet fired from an air gun crashed through a window of a Paris synagogue’s office. The rabbi and his assistant were in the David Ben Ichay Synagogue in Belleville, in the northeastern section of the French capital, when the bullet was fired on Monday night. Nobody was injured in the attack. French police arrested a suspect, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Tuesday night. It said the shooting took place during evening prayers.
Two suspects were seen outside the synagogue about 10 minutes before the attack, the JSSNews website reported earlier.
Police found a bullet hole in the office windowpane, Israel Radio said.
Surveillance cameras did not provide much information on the incident, according to the website. It was unclear whether the shots originated from the street or a nearby building.
The Bureau for National Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, condemned what it called the “anti-Semitic assault on a place of worship in Paris.” The watchdog group has made a public call for “everything to be done to identify and question the anti-Jewish criminals.”
Earlier Monday, a motorist had rammed his vehicle into a crowd in western France shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is greatest.” On Sunday, in a similar attack, a driver in eastern France had shouted “This is in the name of the children of Palestine” while slamming into a Christmas market crowd.