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.

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.
Featured wRants
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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A national icon takes his leave

One of the questions I posed in this space a few weeks ago was: who will be the next big-name Jewish MP?

Irwin Cotler

Irwin Cotler

With apologies to Joe Oliver, Canada’s first Jewish federal finance minister, what I may subconsciously have been asking is who will be the next Irwin Cotler, now that the 75-year-old Mount Royal Liberal MP is retiring from politics after a 16-year run.

It’s not an entirely fair question, really, because it’s nearly impossible to measure up to a national icon.

With his naturally menschlich demeanour and his long list of achievements before entering politics, Cotler has been a staple of public life in Canada and internationally for more than 40 years.

Whether as a distinguished professor of international law at McGill University, president of Canadian Jewish Congress, a messenger who helped kick-start peace between Egypt and Israel, an advocate for Soviet Jewry in the 1970s and 1980s, or representing such high-profile political prisoners as Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela, Cotler has been a constant. Continue reading

Refugees: a Jewish issue comes to the fore

A quintessentially Jewish issue has dominated the news and become a prominent election issue ever since the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead in the Mediterranean surf generated headlines worldwide earlier this month.

Alan Kurdi's lifeless body

The image that moved the world

For many, the painful image has crystallized the ongoing question of what the world ought to be doing about the human fallout from Syria’s bloody civil war, which so far has killed 250,000 people and created a staggering four million refugees.

It may be the Conservatives’ misfortune the photo has galvanized Canadians in the midst of an election campaign, and they’ve been caught flatfooted on terrain that’s traditionally been friendlier to their rivals. Both the Liberals and the NDP have called for Canada to quickly admit thousands more refugees, despite criticism that this won’t solve the problem and comes with security risks if they can’t be properly vetted.

This story is almost as central to the Canadians psyche as it is to the Jewish one, since many of us have come here fleeing persecution, poverty or both.

We Jews feel the issue in our bones. We were born a nation of refugees, as the Passover Exodus story attests, and our history is one of both wandering and exile. Whether it’s been at the hands of Babylonian soldiers, Roman centurions, Spanish Inquisitors or Nazi storm troopers, we know what it means to be uprooted. Continue reading

Can we talk politics without lashon hara?

The Chofetz Chaim

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan

Over the course of the election campaign to this point, the Jewish community has seen repeated and sometimes flagrant violations of halachic and ethical prohibitions against lashon hara – wicked speech – and some of the 31 transgressions related to it, such as unnecessarily engendering controversy and division.

But although negative politicking has become more common in Canada – though perhaps not to the same debased degree as in the United States – it’s worth asking whether it’s even possible for political speech to conform to Jewish law regarding lashon hara?

Moreover, is it possible to engage in any journalism or political discourse at all in a way that doesn’t contravene this restrictive halachic precept?

In a nutshell, the laws of lashon hara, as laid out by Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, a.k.a. the Chofetz Chaim (1839-1933), the recognized authority on the subject, refer to speaking disparagingly of another person, even if the information is true. Continue reading

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 philanthropist Barry Sherman.

Meir Weinstein

JDL head Meir Weinstein

Before the Aug. 26 protest, Sherman was viciously attacked on social media, with trolls questioning his motives and suggesting he was furthering his business interests by buying access to power.

Mercifully, the demonstration only attracted about 30 protesters. They called Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a traitor for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, which they likened to the Munich Agreement between Hitler and Neville Chamberlain, a classic case of appeasement.

“It is absolutely wrong for a leading philanthropist in the Jewish community to support a man that would support the regime of Iran,” the JDL wrote on its website, a reference to Trudeau’s support for re-opening Canada’s embassy in Tehran.

Fortunately, other Jewish leaders strongly denounced the decision to hold a political protest outside the private home of a fellow Jew. Continue reading

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.

York Centre Tory MP Mark Adler

Mark Adler

In Alberta, a 21-year-old hijab-wearing university student resigned Aug. 18 as the Liberal candidate in the Tory stronghold of Calgary Nose Hill a day after conservative activists publicized noxious tweets from her past.

Ala Buzreba apologized for the posts, including one from 2011 in which she told a supporter of Israel his mother should have aborted him with a coat hanger. She said she made the comments “a long time ago, as a teenager, but that is no excuse.”

One wonders how her party managed to miss Buzreba’s outbursts when it vetted her candidacy, but more troubling was Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s initial response to them. Instead of simply condemning her remarks, he initially defended Buzreba. “Ala has unreservedly apologized for her comments, and I think it’s important to point out that she was a teenager and that we all make mistakes,” he said.

Meanwhile, York Centre Conservative MP Mark Adler became mired in a controversy that began when Walrus editor Jonathan Kay tweeted a picture of a 20-foot-high campaign poster outside Adler’s re-election office that noted Adler is the son of a Holocaust survivor.

The Twittersphere quickly erupted in righteous indignation, and by the next day, Adler was being widely accused of exploiting the Shoah for political gain.  Continue reading