Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.

wRanter.com - Gentle and not-so-gentle thoughts and musings from a Jewish, left-leaning, Canadian, pro-Israel, inner-suburban, fortysomething, libertarian, recovering perfectionist, quasi-socialist husband, dad, basketball fan, writer and editor with a few opinions.
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The next occupants of 24 Sussex?

Why Thomas Mulcair gets it when it comes to Israel

Not surprisingly, Thomas Mulcair won the NDP leadership last month, replacing Saint Jack Layton as the man social democrats hope can rally left-of-centre voters to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Here's hoping he's successful, but ...

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Israel shouldn't be a political football or litmus test

Despite public and private appeals to call off the event, the Jewish Defence League (JDL) went ahead with its unfortunate decision to picket a Liberal fundraiser at the Toronto home of pharmaceutical magnate and Jewish ...

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Who will be the next big-name Jewish MP?

Last week, we examined four “Jewish” battleground ridings, including two – York Centre in Toronto and Mount Royal in Montreal – where, one way or another, a Jewish candidate is likely to win. This week, ...

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He was burned by this very issue.

The Jewish community should fund its own schools

The fallout from the recent controversy over the creation of gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in Ontario's publicly funded Catholic school system should give pause to those seeking funding – in the name of fairness – ...

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Being mislabelled by educators can make school a misery.

Your December-born kid may not have ADHD. He might just be immature.

A new Canadian study is bolstering an argument I've been making to my kids' teachers and principals for years: children born later in a calendar year are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit ...

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Jewish issues at centre of partisan sniping

Jewish issues and candidates made headlines last week and became the subject of some distasteful political rhetoric on the campaign trail. In Alberta, a 21-year-old hijab-wearing university student resigned Aug. 18 as the Liberal candidate in ...

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Thursday the rabbi walked out, or was he pushed?

Being a pulpit rabbi can be a cutthroat business

When Toronto Jews awoke last Saturday morning and collected their Globe and Mail newspapers from their doorsteps (those who still subscribe, that is), they discovered a front-page story detailing how Holy Blossom Temple, the city's ...

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What does the Liberal win mean for Jewish groups?

Anthony Housefather at wRanter.com

Anthony Housefather

The longest election campaign in modern Canadian history delivered more than a surprise Liberal majority – it yielded six new Jewish MPs for the winning party: Michael Levitt in Toronto’s York Centre; Anthony Housefather in Mount Royal, and Jim Carr in Winnipeg South Centre – all ridings with large Jewish populations – as well as Julie Dabrusin in Toronto-Danforth, Karina Gould in Burlington, Ont., and David Graham in Quebec’s Laurentides–Labelle riding.

The election also saw the defeat of Stephen Harper, Canada’s most vocally pro-Israel prime minister ever, as well as a loss by Joe Oliver, Canada’s first Jewish finance minister, and the retirement of respected Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

The campaign was perhaps the most divisive one ever for the Jewish community. Reminiscent of the U.S. right’s disdain for President Barack Obama, some of Harper’s Jewish supporters were especially vocal – both on social media and in more traditional channels – in wildly accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of, in effect, being a front for radical Islam.

By the end, there was pushback from a number of Jewish commentators, who noted that all three major parties voiced strong support for Israel and condemned the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Did this motivate some Jewish voters to shift allegiances back to the Liberals, the community’s historical home, after exit polls registered 52 per cent support among Jews for the Tories in 2011?

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It’s time to mend fences in the Jewish community

Mark Adler at wRanter.com

Mark Adler’s Toronto campaign office

When we sat down in early summer to discuss how we’d cover what was expected to be a five-week fall campaign, CJN editor Yoni Goldstein asked me to write a weekly column about election topics of Jewish interest. The idea – a departure from past practice of mostly limiting ourselves to rather pedestrian riding profiles – made me a bit nervous.

To echo a current catchphrase, I felt like I was just not ready.

My main concern was finding material to write about, since Jews and Jewish issues had never figured very prominently in a federal election before, even in 2011, when exit polls suggested that for the first time, a majority of Jews had voted Conservative, largely on the strength of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vocal support for Israel.

But after the longest campaign in modern Canadian history, I can declare that my anxiety was definitely misplaced. Jews and Jewish issues have been more conspicuous in this election than in any campaign in living memory. Jews were news, as they say. Continue reading

Cultural and religious issues dominate as election day nears

Thank God for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I say that not because trade is an inherently Jewish issue, nor because I know for certain the recently negotiated deal will be good for Canada, especially since its details have yet to be released.

Zunera Ishaq, CBC screenshot

Zunera Ishaq’s niqab has helped Harper

Irrespective of its long-term effects, the TPP might be our only hope to reorient electoral discussions toward an issue – the economy – that actually affects the well-being of large numbers of Canadians.

If so, it will offer a change from the debates that have dominated the campaign for the last month or so.

Barely seven weeks ago, news photos of little Alan Kurdi’s dead body provoked a (perhaps overdue) groundswell of concern for the four million refugees created by Syria’s brutal civil war. The sudden surge of interest blindsided the governing Conservatives, whose reaction was seen in many quarters as hard-hearted.

It seemed the issue might sink the Tories, especially in the wake of shaky economic numbers (which have since improved), as well as scandals and polls suggesting an appetite for change.

But they’ve since regained their footing. In addition to standing firm on the refugee file, they’ve connected with large numbers of Canadians on the issues of revoking the naturalized citizenship of convicted terrorists; wearing a niqab at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies and a proposed ban on them in the public service; and a pledge to set up a phone line for people to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Continue reading

Munk Debate glosses over Israel – is that a good thing?

Rudyard Griffiths at the Munk Debate

Moderator Rudyard Griffiths

Is that all there was? Given how much praise – and criticism – the Harper government’s strong support for Israel has attracted, it’s somewhat surprising that so little was said about the Jewish state in the Sept. 28 Munk Debate on foreign policy in Toronto.

The night’s only exchange on Israel, between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, came more than halfway through the proceedings, when Harper raised the topic, ostensibly in response to comments by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair about working with allies on issues of global concern, such as Iran.

“I fully admit that we don’t always take the position of our allies. Sometimes we take our positions based on what we believe are principles,” Harper said.

“Let me give you a clear example. This government has been perhaps the most unequivocal in the world on the fact that when it comes to the Middle East, we are not going to single out Israel. It is the one western democratic ally. Threats that are… directed at that state – [it’s] on the front line of threats directed against us. We are not going to single out the Jewish state for attack and criticism. We recognize unequivocally the right of Israel to be a Jewish state and to defend itself.” Continue reading

Gaffes and ‘anti-Semitism’ on the campaign trail

In the Sept. 17 Globe and Mail leaders’ debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made reference to “old-stock Canadians” in defending his government’s policy on health care for refugees and immigrants, saying it had only denied care to bogus claimants.

Stephen Harper at wRanter.com

Stephen Harper

“We do not offer them a better health-care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive,” Harper said. “I think that’s something that both new and existing and old-stock Canadians can agree with.”

Critics pounced, calling it either a lapse that showed Harper’s true racist colours or a deliberate, coded dog whistle to his intolerant party core.

But if you watched the debate, it was clear Harper was searching for a way to express how both new and old Canadians might agree with his policy. By the next day, he clarified that the phrase referred to “Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations.” 

Under that definition, with four European-born grandparents, I and many other Jews qualify. As such, Walrus editor Jonathan Kay was right to say the comment was no big deal. Continue reading