Opinion

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- by Aly Boltman

Last weekend, I got copied on an email from Josh Richardson, who had sent members of the Emancipation Festival Board and volunteers (like me) pictures of the neo-Nazi stickers he and his family had just spent hours tearing down after finding them on a morning walk by the river.

I was on Manitoulin Island at the time, in my happy place, and I found myself slow to react beyond the initial wave of disgust. I had let it go in minutes. It was so unlike me. It was harder on my partner than it was on me. I watched him walk around with a set jaw and a worried mind all morning.

So I've spent a lot of time this week letting that sink in and asking myself why I wasn't enraged or more reactive, why I didn't forward that email to dozens right away, or post about it here, even before The Hub wrote an article or the police got involved.

I've spent a week thinking about this. And during that week, our local mosque was hit with eggs and tomato sauce, in an effort to desecrate their sacred space - our neighbours, our friends.

And after reading about it, I calmly emailed our synagogue President and asked if all of the outdoor lights were working, so that our cameras could better catch the perpetrators because we were undeniably next on the hit list. I was calm when I typed the email, and calm when I got the response.

When my friend texted me, new to our community, and says "I think it's affecting me so because it's my first experience of it here, in my new home. Like finding your new bedroom still has a monster in the closet (even though you knew it would be so)." - I just nodded.

If you know me, you know this isn't like me.

So here is the thing - after years of our synagogue having "incidents" - hate mail, attempted fires, graffiti carved into our front door, dog shit left in the synagogue mailbox as a "gift", and then my personal exposure - my four year old being told that Jews were bad people while at his childcare centre, anti-Semitic neighbours, anti-Israel and Jewish conspiracy theory posts and articles shared by friends - the answer is that I've become used to it. I expect it. I expect it for me, my kids.

And when I really think about it, that's completely pathetic. And inexcusable. I ask myself where I've gone, and who I've become?

To the members of my community stepping up right now and furious about what's happening all around us, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to share your anger, thank you for not getting complacent. To those of you staying silent, I wish you weren't. I wish you were stepping up. Because so many of us are tired of carrying the weight and we need more fighters now than ever before. We need a little air under our wings to reignite. Do you know what it's like to watch history repeat itself over and over, and what it's like to have to explain to your children that it will again? Does it seem right to you that in a time of easy access to information and education, we still, as a species, choose to get dumber and less informed?

You know what I would like?

This fall, during high holidays at our synagogue, while I'm in there and praying that my kids and me don't get shot, I'd like to see a protective circle of neighbours surround our space, a circle of non-Jews, making sure we are safe, banding together to remind us that the crazies are just the minority and not the norm. I'd like to see us do this for our Muslim neighbours when they are at prayer too. I'd like to see a huge turnout at the Emancipation Festival this year, and another protective circle at Harrison Park to ensure our black community feels safe too, feels the love. Maybe I am just foolish for wanting these things, but right now, we need the support. We need you speaking up, making good decisions for yourself, your province, your country and this planet. You are the only ones that can make those choices and turn this around. I won't be complacent if you won't be, either.


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