Federation uses art piece to advocate about antisemitism

One of the top issues that arose from consultations for the Jewish Federation of Edmonton’s strategic plan was fighting antisemitism. The Federation released its 2022-2025 strategic plan in the fall of 2021. In October 2021, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) announced plans for an awareness campaign called Shine a Light on Antisemitism and the timing seemed to be perfect. 

A grant was submitted to create a mosaic to bring the Edmonton Jewish community together and have a creative outlet to voice how antisemitism impacts individuals. Once funding was received, the mosaic came together quickly, thanks to artist Lewis Lavoie and those who painted a tile for the project. 

The original plan was to unveil the mosaic at Edmonton city hall, but COVID-19 put a temporary halt to this. Instead, a virtual exhibit was created for the Federation website and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi helped unveil the mosaic during an online event.

Following this unveiling, the mosaic sat in the Federation office with very few people seeing it unless they visited the virtual exhibit on the website. Organizers of K-Days heard about the mosaic and approached the Federation with the offer to display it during the 2022 festival at Northlands with the potential of between 700,000 and 800,000 people who attend the event to see it.

The potential to educate more people about antisemitism through touring the mosaic around Edmonton was conceived.

COVID restrictions were lifting and JFNA announced plans for a second year of the Shine a Light awareness campaign with more grant funding available. The Federation submitted a project where the mosaic would be displayed in prominent areas with two goals in mind. One was to continue the education of antisemitism and the other was to advocate on behalf of the Jewish community about the rise of Jew hate.

Once funding was approved, the mosaic began its tour at the Alberta Legislature in November with an event that drew members of the United Conservative Party and Alberta New Democratic Party caucuses. The mosaic became an avenue to kickstart conversations about antisemitism. Not only did provincial politicians see the mosaic during its month-long display at the Legislature, but many school tour groups and other visitors who came through the building saw it as well.

To propel the Shine a Light campaign in December, the Federation created another webpage with resources and educational materials on combatting antisemitism paired with social media posts. The mosaic was moved to Beth Israel Synagogue for the month. During Chanukah, a meeting was held where members of the Edmonton Police Service and community leaders were invited to view the mosaic and discuss antisemitism.

The Federation received an opportunity to showcase the mosaic at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium while the Broadway Across Canada’s production of Fidder on the Roof was in town for a week in early January. Fiddler drew between 15,000 and 20,000 people who potentially saw the mosaic as they walked into the building. This collaboration was also featured in the local media with three television newscasts and the Edmonton Journal covering the story.

After Fiddler, the mosaic moved to Edmonton city hall for three weeks and helped Federation board and staff host a lunch and learn about antisemitism with the mayor, councillors, and city staff.

The Federation has received a $15,000 grant from the City of Edmonton’s community safety and well-being program. The funding will be used to have the mosaic tour local libraries and be on display at junior and senior high schools for teachers to use as an educational tool to discuss antisemitism with a toolkit that will be in development for this purpose.

The priority of education and advocacy from the strategic plan is well underway in part because of the Shine a Light on Antisemitism mosaic project. If you want to get involved with the mosaic project, please contact info@edjfed.org.