VIBC is dedicated to building bridges across cultures and strengthening our community by creating shared experiences and opportunities for learning. This year, through Yael Levin, we’ve had the privilege of connecting with The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada, and advocating for freedom, human rights, and social justice.
Recently, one of VIBC’s volunteers, Esther Macharia, sat in on a conversation between Ms Levin, who serves as Manager of Community Relations for the Pacific Region branch of CIJA, and Martin Sampson, CIJA Director of Communications & Marketing, based in Ottawa. The topic was anti-Semitism, and in her blog below, Esther reports on the many points raised on this important topic.
Our thanks to Yael Levin and Martin Sampson for sharing their thoughts with Esther, and to Esther for taking the time to meet with them.
The word to remember is anti-Semitism. Throughout my interview with Martin Sampson, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Communications and Marketing Director (Ottawa) and Yael Levin, Community Relations Manager in Vancouver, the term was constantly mentioned. Anti-semitism is prejudice against or discrimination against Jewish people, such as that faced by the Jewish community during World War II, but which continues to be felt in other ways today. Sampson believes that discrimination comes from a deep, fundamental misunderstanding of the Jewish community, and that the only way to address the problem is to cut through the noise and find ways to inform Canadians about issues faced by Jews today. Yael Levin agrees, pointing out that "We [the Jewish community] face the same issues as other communities. When we communicate we get to know that we have shared interest with other communities."
Sampson’s family was deeply affected by anti-semitism in World War II: his Polish mother witnessed her father being taken away at an early age in 1940, meaning his mother's family had to keep on moving, so that no other members of the family could be taken either. Having personally experienced the need to move constantly from place to place just to stay safe, Sampson can relate to issues that Jewish people as a whole have faced, due to the fear of been attacked, caught, or killed due to anti-semitism.
One of the most powerful moments in Sampson's life occurred when he went to Yad Vashem, the most important Holocaust memorial in Israel, where he witnessed a painful reminder of the number of Jews that were killed during the Holocaust. This experience fully brought home to Sampson the effects of anti-semitism on the Jews. At this moment, Sampson mentions the word "Tikkun Olam,” which means "repairing the world." This is what the CIJA aims to do by sharing information about the Jewish community with the wider world, in hopes of creating awareness and better understanding of the Jewish experience everywhere.
Blog by Esther Macharia
Edited by Jennifer Webb
Photo courtesy Martin Sampson