CISA in Toronto
The Rubins Introduce CISA to Toronto
May 17, 2012
Last Thursday evening in their home, the Rubin family graciously hosted a beautiful reception for the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, introducing our work to prominent members of the Toronto community.
Mr. Rubin began the evening by introducing Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, who attended the evening in support of the Institute and to introduce CISA's Director.
Dr. Chatterley explained the goals of the Canadian Institute she founded in 2010 and CISA's national strategy to design and introduce courses on the History of Antisemitism at our major universities.
Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre
While in Toronto, Dr. Chatterley met with the chair and staff of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre to introduce them to CISA and begin to develop a cooperative working relationship.
Unquestionably a world-class institution, the Toronto Centre is the leader in Canadian Holocaust Education and an important resource for CISA.
CISA's Director Lectures in Toronto and Montreal
May 15 & 16, 2012
See public responses to these presentations on Letters page.
Canadian Antisemitism Institute Aims to Fill Worldwide Void
Toronto Star, Wednesday May 9, 2012
By Bob Hepburn
When Catherine Chatterley was growing up in Winnipeg, the first serious book she read was The Diary of Anne Frank, the harrowing story of a young Jewish girl forced to hide for nearly two years in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.
“I was in shock,” Chatterley recalls. “I couldn’t understand how a girl like Anne Frank could be perceived as a threat to Germany.”
For Chatterley, who was raised in a devout Lutheran home, the famous book sparked a lifelong fascination with the Jewish people, the Holocaust and antisemitism.
That fascination has prompted Chatterley, an Adjunct History Professor at the University of Manitoba, to develop the first academic institute in Canada to focus on the study of antisemitism, which she says is a persistent — and in some parts of the world flourishing — problem facing Jews today.
“There is a void in academia, our universities and our human rights discourse” when it comes to the study of antisemitism, she said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg, where the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA) is based.
CISA, which is barely two years old, is one of only six such institutes in the world. Its mandate is to promote research, education and awareness of antisemitism.
Ultimately, her goal is to have the independent, non-profit institute fund and offer university-accredited courses leading to an undergraduate degree in the study of antisemitism. In addition, she plans to develop an online publication for young people and publish an academic journal on current and historical antisemitism.
Already, the young institute is attracting international attention, especially after Elie Wiesel, the renowned Nobel Peace Prize winner, agreed to serve as honorary chairman.
But why such an institution? And why now?
Chatterley, who will speak May 15 at Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto and May 16 in Montreal, agrees many universities have courses in Jewish studies, but it’s rare they have actual courses about the Holocaust, let alone about antisemitism. In fact, she says Holocaust courses are dwindling, being replaced by comparative genocide studies.
Because of that void and because Jew-hatred is absent from much of the academic and political talk about human rights and racism, Chatterley says an academic institute devoted strictly to the study of antisemitism is badly needed.
In Chatterley’s view, antisemitism is the historic product of the Christian accusation that Jews killed Christ. “Its origins are theological, which is why it has lasted so long” and is known as “the longest hatred,” she says.
Studying antisemitism is “a minefield,” she says, because many people believe that scholars who do so merely want to defend Israel and its policies toward Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
“It’s become highly politicized,” she admits, but adds it’s a serious problem that deserves serious scholarship.
While some may argue antisemitism is waning here, Jewish leaders would disagree, pointing to several recent developments.
This week, an east-end Toronto Islamic school was forced to apologize after a complaint was filed with police claiming that some of its school texts referred to Jews as “treacherous” and compared them to Nazis.
Last week, a report by the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada cited 1,297 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 2011, down less than 1 per cent from the previous year. The incidents ranged from death threats to verbal taunts.
In March, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs announced it will train some 25 unarmed volunteers in how to observe and monitor threats and vandalism in heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Toronto.
In recent months, Chatterley has had two death threats against her and lots of hate mail. She now has an unlisted telephone number and requires police security at all of the institute’s public events.
“Antisemitism poses a real threat today,” she says, although many academics and other leaders are downplaying it, with some even denying it exists at all.
“I can tell you that the fear today of antisemitism in Jewish communities is very real,” she adds.
Chatterley has big dreams for her fledgling institute. Some will never come true, but those that do hopefully will help all Canadians better understand the roots of antisemitism, the reasons it still persists — and how to combat it.
Bob Hepburn’s column appears Thursday.