The Reform Jewish Community of Canada, ARZA Canada, and the Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto (collectively, the Reform Community) are astonished by, and incensed with, the recommendation of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Office of the Integrity Commissioner to censure a trustee for calling out, on Twitter, antisemitic and anti-Israel material that was circulated to teachers by a Student Equity Program Advisor. The report from the Integrity Commissioner found in favour of Trustee Alexandra Lulka on all items pertaining to what could truly be called antisemitism. In the Integrity Commissioner’s conclusion, Trustee Lulka was in breach of one particular clause of the TDSB Board Code of Conduct (Code), saying her Twitter statement was discriminatory on a balance of probabilities. The test as to whether something is discriminatory is not simply whether one or more people feel it is. The statement on Twitter was in reaction to some of the materials, not all.
Trustee Lulka was correct to voice her concerns publicly. The inclusion of some of the links to materials that even the Integrity Commissioner agreed to as being antisemitic is especially egregious as it was done by a Student Equity Program Advisor, a role that should be committed to fairness, inclusion, and education. The disclosure that the advisor did not fully vet all the links before distributing them is clearly irresponsible.
Even if one thinks that Trustee Lulka was in breach of the Code, which the Reform Community does not, censuring her will have a chilling effect of silencing voices on not only antisemitism, but other forms of racism, as well. We encourage the Board to ensure that there is adequate training on the Code for board trustees, TDSB staff and teachers and its application. The Reform Community believes in a peaceful resolution to the Mideast conflict, a two-state solution, and human rights for all. Judaism consistently teaches the importance of tolerance and the acceptance of others, different from ourselves. Even more than simply preaching tolerance, we actively work to improve, open, and make our communities safer. Sending out mailings that include links that have antisemitic material perpetuates antisemitism. One cannot and should not be silent, even if some may misconstrue the context as an attack.
We are encouraged that TDSB will appoint a temporary internal writing team to augment development of resources, offer professional learning on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate and seek guidance from external bodies. We hope that there is no daylight shown to materials that are clearly antisemitic and will continue to support those who accurately call it out in an open forum.
We support the assertions by B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Weisenthal Center, and CIJA that the Integrity Commissioner’s conclusion in respect to discrimination was faulty and call for the TDSB to reject the unjust recommendation to censure Trustee Alexandra Lulka.
Len Bates Lee Weisser Stephen Wise
President, President, Chair,
RJCC ARZA Canada RRGT
The Reform Jewish Community of Canada (formerly the Canadian Council of Reform Judaism) provides vision and voice to build strong communities that, together, transform the way people connect to Judaism and change the world. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision ensure we can unite thousands of years of tradition with modern experience to strengthen Judaism today and for generations to come. More than 30,000 Canadians are affiliated with 25 Reform congregations across Canada who are also members of the North American Reform community which has at its core the 850-congregation strong Union of Reform Judaism, or URJ.
ARZA Canada is the Zionist Organization of the Canadian Reform community. With over 8,400 members, ARZA Canada connects with Reform communities throughout Canada, fosters connections with and strengthens our ties to the Reform Movement in Israel, and works to realize the vision of Reform Zionism.
Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto strengthens the Greater Toronto Reform community through sharing practices and advocating on behalf of the community.