Newcomers making impacts in Edmonton and Israel

For those who follow the news, this week has been full of challenges across the country. Brazen, violent acts of antisemitism in Vancouver and Montreal, followed by a proposal at the Toronto District School Board to adopt a motion around anti-Palestinian racism that seeks to erase core aspects of Jewish identity and history and redefine what constitutes antisemitism. You can read the Centre for Jewish Affairs (CIJA) media release about this issue.   

The University of Alberta released a statement showing their intention to offer support to Palestinian academics affected by the Israel-Hamas war and expressing their commitment to engage in a review of the university’s investments.  

While we understand this declaration is generating concern, we recently met with the university administration regarding this matter and their relationship to the Jewish and Israeli community. It continues to welcome input from our community and a variety of voices. We have asked them to engage directly with the Jewish/Israeli faculty, staff, and students to receive their input. Our understanding is that they plan to move cautiously and thoughtfully and will give Jewish Edmonton an opportunity to be heard.  

“Pinkwashing”…”Genocide”…”I don’t want no Zionist in my city.”

These are some of the email registrations and social media comments made towards Jonathan Elkhoury and the Pride event we hosted last night. Jonathan tackled them face on, after openly sharing his account and explaining the identities he holds, as a minority (within a minority) in Israel. While many have turned to Tik Tok as an ‘educational source’ for the geopolitics of the Middle East, Jonathan brought us back to the history and events that ensure the upholding of minority rights and liberal values in the only democracy in the region. Through his firsthand knowledge, we learned about the South Lebanon Christian Army, the minority experience in Israel, and the treatment of LGBTQ+ in Israel and the West Bank. He unpacked the slogans being used, and how in particular the LGBTQ+ community across the world is using the talking points of Hamas, expressing anti-Israel sentiment instead of being pro-Palestinian.   

Jonathan and his family fled South Lebanon as refugees. They came to Israel, welcomed warmly, and settled in Haifa. Jonathan spoke about the values imparted to him by his family to contribute to society. He has integrated into Israeli society and gives back through his diplomacy around the world. You can watch an excerpt of his talk from last night on our YouTube channel.

Earlier in the day, I attended the Edmonton Community Foundation annual general meeting, where the organizers recognized and celebrated hundreds of people for their contributions in giving back through the establishment of endowment funds to charities across the city. The guest speaker, Tareq Hadhad, recounted the story of his family having fled Syria as refugees, ultimately ending up in Canada. The community of Antigonish welcomed him and his family, helping them to realize their dreams. You may be familiar with their story through the movie Peace By Chocolate. His family’s principles of supporting the community (and country) rooted his own values and were truly inspiring. 

I think of these brave people who have left their countries with their families, launched new lives and given back to their community. Ironically, earlier this week at the Jewish Federation board meeting, we held a discussion with committee chairs around welcoming newcomers to Edmonton. We discussed our role and contemplated additional actions as we prepare to convene agencies, mobilize volunteers, and guarantee that our community warmly welcomes those who want to start a new chapter in Edmonton. While there is more to come, we will start with a welcome event, Challah and Hummus, on Friday, July 12. We will announce more details shortly about this event. If you recently arrived in Edmonton, please reach out to us by emailing If you are an Edmontonian who can assist us in planning and/or ongoing integration of newcomers, please contact us.  

What better way to cap off this Shabbat than to acknowledge the most famous Jewish newcomers to Edmonton, Zach Hyman, and his beautiful family. On behalf of Jewish Edmonton, I wish him the good ending to the story (“It doesn’t make for a good story unless you finish it”) so that we may read about it in a PJ Library book one day!  

Let’s Go Oilers!  

Shabbat Shalom,