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A Reassuring Response

Friday, 21 May, 2010 - 1:21 pm

Dear Friends,

This past week seems to have lasted a very long time. Aside from having the most wonderful Shavuot, which may be the subject for a future blog, the week focussed on continued discussion about last week’s incident in the park. I must detail to you the response which we have been getting over the last week.

First of all, I have received numerous messages of support and participation from the Jewish community in Victoria. The entire community was united in the importance of sending the clear message that Jewish people and Jewish life will continue to grow here with pride and strength. I would like to thank you all for your encouragement!

In addition, other religious groups in town have contacted us to express their support for whichever way we choose to handle the situation, and to guarantee that they will be happy to stand beside us.

On Monday, after the police issued their press release, I was called to meet with the Chief of Victoria Police, Mr. Jamie Graham. He shared with me that he was "personally hurt" by this incident, and that as soon as he heard about it he instructed to give it high priority.  Two officers will be investigating this story in order to find the one(s) who is/are responsible for what he considers to be a "hate crime." He said that he would be willing at any time to speak to the community about where the police stand on anti-Semitic acts such as this one.

Later that day I received a phone call from a good friend, the Mayor of Victoria, Mr. Dean Fortin. Mr. Fortin told me how "shocking" it was for him to hear of the unpleasant event last week, and he offered his services at anytime to assist in whatever the Jewish community feels may be helpful at this time.

I have known Mr. Fortin for a few years before he became Mayor. A mutual friend of ours is a Jewish woman who used to be a very close neighbour when he was growing up in Courtney. Later, she used to come for High Holidays to Victoria to participate in the Services in our Shul, and would stay at the Fortin’s home. Since then I have met Dean on a few different occasions. One Shabbat afternoon I ran into him while walking back from Shul; Mr. Fortin was bicycling on the other side of the street.  He stopped his bike and we had a very nice conversation about Shabbat services, Shul, Torah and the rest. So when he read in the paper about us walking back from Shul, he knew precisely what I was talking about...

Overall, I must say that this week’s reactions were reassuring; we are very fortunate to live here in Victoria. Our impression is that the authorities are responding to the situation with a great deal of seriousness. They are prepared to confront these people and do all they can to ensure that Jewish people are being respected in this city, and such insults do not reoccur.

Comments on: A Reassuring Response

Fiona Prince (Morah Feygah) wrote...

Thank you for posting this response from the community at large.
I have been thinking about how complacent we are in Victoria because we are surrounded by so much natural beauty and happy, friendly people.

We are such a small community that many of us only see other Jews when we make an effort to go to synagogue, the Jewish Community Centre and/or a Jewish organization's event. We spend the majority of our time in the secular world, thinking that we are completely accepted and no different from our neighbours.

But unfortunately, hate is always hiding underneath the surface or in the shadows. It may not come from the people we build relationships with, but it may live in the hearts of their partners, children, friends, coworkers and neighbours.

Thank G-d, rarely is this hate acted out in public, so we forget that it's there. In many ways, this incident was a good thing. It helped us all to see that our community leaders as well as our friends value us, and will step up publicly to support Jews when hate rises against us.

I'm not saying that hate is good...I'm saying that it will always be there. We mustn't let it stop us from going about our business of doing good in the world.