Since the start of this year, Israel’s new government repeatedly set off confusion and alarm bells in Jewish communities across Canada. Extremists in government advanced policies aimed at removing the checks and balances on their power, as well as encouraged violence against protestors, Palestinians, and others.

As we revealed in our JSpace-NIFC opinion survey, the vast majority of Jews in Canada oppose these policies despite months of silence from establishment institutions.

In this vacuum, synagogues, youth groups, and communal leaders have been turning to us for help educating their constituents about the government’s plan, why Israelis are protesting in such numbers, and what they can do to help. I’m proud to say that we are responding to a demand in our educational efforts that we’ve never encountered before.

Our cross-country tour spoke to a full house at First Narayever Congregation in Toronto

In February, hundreds of Canadians joined our cross-country emergency speaking tour featuring religious freedom activist Lihi Shmuely of our funded partner Israel Hofsheet. We spoke at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal, Temple Israel in Ottawa, the First Narayever Congregation in Toronto, and Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver.

Ben Murane of NIFC and Lihi Shmuely of NIFC-funded partner Israel Hofsheet speak at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom

Executive Director Ben Murane and Lihi Shmuely of NIFC-funded partner Israel Hofsheet speak at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal

During this tour, we were thankful also to meet with the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and Member of Parliament Ya’ara Saks.

Since then, we’ve been presenting weekly in-person and virtually across the continent about our work helping Israeli’s defending democracy and pushing back against extremism. We proudly accepted invitations by Temple Beth Ora in Edmonton, Temple Sholom in Vancouver, Shir Libeynu in Toronto, and Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.

(Missed our event at Holy Blossom with Haaretz’s Allison Kaplan Sommer and the Toronto Star’s Martin Regg Cohn? Watch the recording here.)

A packed room for "Covering the Front Lines of Israel's Pro-Democracy Movement" at Holy Blossom

A packed room for “Covering the Front Lines of Israel’s Pro-Democracy Movement” at Holy Blossom.

I’m proud also that representatives from NIFC have regularly addressed the weekly Sunday protests in Nathan Phillips Square organized by UnXeptable Toronto, including myself, two of our New Gen leaders, and our Advisory Council members Prof. Sylvia Bashevkin and former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen.

Syvanne Avitzur and Alex Richler, two members of the NIFC New Generations Leadership Council, spoke at the weekly UnXeptable rally in Toronto.

Personally, the most moving events were two workshops called “When Is It Okay to Criticize Israel?” that I led for teens and parents with Hashomer Hatzair Canada and again for Limmud Toronto. Putting aside my “advocacy” hat, these workshops delved into attendee’s diverse and highly personal reasons for when they decide to speak up — or to silence themselves — about events in Israel.

Afterwards, I especially bonded with parents of Hashomer students who spoke with me about their desire to raise their children as Canadians who feel connected to Israel, but never shy away from being involved in the fight for democracy and human rights from here at home. As a parent of little children, this weighs on my mind too.

All of this work demonstrates that Canadian Jewry is eager to learn about difficult issues in Israel. Canadian Jewry wants to understand and to take action. Leading that education and inspiring action is one of NIFC’s most important roles — and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done these past three months.

Attendees of Limmud participate in our discussion "When Is It Okay to Criticize Israel?"

Attendees of Limmud participate in our discussion “When Is It Okay to Criticize Israel?” at Limmud Toronto.

P.S. Missed an event and want to watch the recording? You can find our archive of past events right here.