Amid MS St. Louis apology, rise in anti-Semitism has Holocaust survivor afraid
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2018 8:35PM EST
The son of a Holocaust survivor says an uptick in anti-Semitism and mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh has his mother feeling afraid again.
“She’s scared,” Daniel Gruner, the son of holocaust survivor Ana Maria Gordon, said Wednesday.
Gordon was on the MS St. Louis when the ship full of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany was turned away from Canada. She was ultimately forced back into Europe, where she ended up in a concentration camp.
“She lived the horrors. First as a refugee, then as a concentration camp inmate,” Gruner said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday in the House of Commons for Canada’s rejection of the asylum seekers, vowing to fight against any future anti-Semitic acts. During the apology, he singled out the violence that took place in Pittsburg 10 days ago when a man opened fire on worshippers at a synagogue, killing 11 people.
“They were murdered in their sanctuary on Shabbat because they were Jews,” Trudeau said.
It’s an act of violence that has shaken survivors like Gordon.
“To this day, she’s fearful if there’s a large gathering of people and especially if there’s a large gathering of Jewish people. Going into a full synagogue still instills in her some fear,” Gruner said.
“What if one of those crazies comes in? We’re so many together. It’s so easy to do something.”
Jewish advocacy group B’Nai Brith Canada conducted an analysis of incidents of anti-Semitism in Canada in the spring of this year. They found that hateful incidents against Jewish people were on the rise for a fifth straight year and may be “becoming mainstream.”
Gruner personally agreed that anti-Semitism has been “coming back,” and pointed to countries like the U.S., Brazil, Turkey and Germany as experiencing a “resurgence” of far-right movements.
“We see it all over the place. We see more incidents of synagogues being defaced, swastikas appearing all over the place, cemeteries with tombstones overturned or defaced, even in schools,” Gruner said.
He even described an incident of the Jewish school his children attended being marred with hateful graffiti.
In part, he blames leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump for playing a role in the rise of anti-Semitism by not taking a stronger stance against it.
“When somebody says that after what happened in Charlottesville, that there were good people on both sides, and when one side was a blatantly white supremacist neo-Nazi demonstration, you know there’s something wrong. They’re allowing it to happen,” Gruner said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by MPs on Parliament Hill. NDP MP Charlie Angus watched the prime minister’s apology in the House of Commons Wednesday. He said the rise in hateful attitudes worldwide made Trudeau’s speech especially poignant.
“We have certainly seen a staggering rise of extremist speech coming from this president and his supporters, his supposed white nationalism which is basically neo-Nazism, targeting people, dehumanizing people,” Angus said.
“That’s what we saw in Europe in the 1930s…words have power and words can lead to incredibly damaging impacts on people.”
Other MPs also echoed concern about the rise in anti-Semitism, stopping short of pointing to the United States as a source.
“We all have to be vigilant for those who try to persecute others for their religious beliefs. So I think the apology was extraordinarily apropos considering the tragedy of Pittsburgh,” said Liberal MP Andrew Leslie.
“We are not immune from those who spread doctrines of hatred.”
Following the Pittsburgh shooting, Trump distanced himself from the shooter. He called the gunman “sick” and said he was “no supporter” of Trump. He also condemned the shooting as an "evil anti-Semitic attack."
Trump later went on to visit the synagogue that was attacked.
While the rise in anti-Semitism has caused concern, Gruner said there is still support to be found among communities rallying together in troubled times.
“Pittsburg was 10 days ago. On a Saturday, Shabbat. This past Saturday we all went to synagogue. Our synagogue was packed to the rafters,” he said.
Gruner said that just outside the synagogue, Christians, Muslims, and people who just happened upon the place of worship had surrounded the building in a human circle of peace. They were there to make the worshippers feel safe.
He said the Jewish community did the same thing around the neighborhood mosque after the Quebec City shooting in January 2017.
“It speaks to the fact that there is a dialogue. We do care for each other, we’re not hating each other,” Gruner said.
“But it’s terrible that we have to do that.”