MPP Rima Berns-McGown: “We are witnessing rise of anti-Semitism in North America”

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Rima Berns-McGown. Photo: YouTube Rima Berns-McGown – screenshot

Rima Berns-McGown is the NDP Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament for Beaches-East York.

Here is Rima Berns-McGown’s statement in parliament on Yom ha-Shoah (May 1, 2019):

It is a particularly poignant moment to commemorate Yom ha-Shoah. I was very honored earlier this afternoon to attend the ceremony of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and to honour Dr. Renate Krakauer, Eva Meisels, Aaron Nussbaum, Lilia Tsareva and Helena Weksberg.

We are witnessing the rise of anti-Semitism—unprecedented since the Holocaust—in Europe and North America. Synagogues in San Diego and Pittsburgh have been attacked in recent months by shooters determined to kill Jews at prayer. In San Diego, Jews were celebrating Pesach—Passover—the very holiday intended to honour liberation from oppression. Jews are frightened. They have seen this movie before.

I want to talk a little bit about trauma. People can be traumatized because they themselves, as individuals, experience a particular event, or they can be traumatized intergenerationally because the terror and acquired behaviour of family and community members who endured those events affect their lives, or because they imagine themselves in the situation that books and movies depict. How many little Jewish girls imagined themselves locked in a closet-sized room, writing in a diary and awaiting the knock that would spell their doom?

But we also know that cataclysmic events like the Shoah actually changed the DNA of survivors, family members and their descendants.

My own relationship to the Shoah is such. I was born in South Africa. Three of my four grandparents were Ashkenazi Jews whose families had fled persecution in different ways in Poland, Prussia and Latvia. But my extended family, who did not leave in time, perished in the deep night that descended upon Europe. I know some of, but not all of, their names and some of, but not all of, the places where they were murdered. For me, as for millions of others, the Shoah represents loss, erasure and unimaginable horror.

When anti-Semitic graffiti is spray-painted across a family’s garage doors in Markham [note: the incident occurred in Maple, Vaughan] the same day that Jews are murdered in prayer, it’s terrifying, and that graffiti—swastikas and “We are watching”—was particularly horrifying. Who is watching? Where are these people? What are they capable of?

When the Holocaust is remembered every year, it is not simply to pay homage to those who lost their lives but to ensure that the conditions do not arise for its re-creation or for another iteration of it.

My father, who was six when World War II began and 12 when it ended, used to point out to me that all of Germany’s culture, philosophy, universities and sophistication did not prevent it from the heinous acts and crimes against humanity that were the Holocaust. It is a chilling lesson and one that we need to take seriously.

We need to pay attention and to act when hate-mongers like Faith Goldy run for public office and manage to garner 25,000 votes in a municipal election. People like Faith Goldy, who was recently kicked off Facebook for propagating hate, need to be taken seriously. She claims she means no harm, but she and others like her say they want racialized people to go back where they came from, which is extraordinarily ignorant of their own settler history on these lands and which is why, by the way, it is so critical that we always make land acknowledgements.

People like Faith Goldy sometimes say nice things about Israel, by the way, but it is not because they wish Jews well; it is because they applaud separation, walls and barriers. Do not be misled.

Canada behaved very, very badly during the Shoah. It sent a ship full of refugees back to their deaths, a story we know all too well, and it has had to apologize.

The world is watching again, and it is important that anyone who has power not only say soothing words but take very specific action to stamp out anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. We can have no tolerance for views like those of the yellow vests, or any of the other alt-right bloggers or trolls, or people like Faith Goldy. Never again—never again for anyone.