This weekend, a friend of mine invited me to take part in the 2013 International Development Conference held at U of T’s Scarborough Campus. Although I have only been at CJPAC for two weeks, I found that I was already applying what I have learned to what the speakers at the conference were lecturing about. There were sessions on human rights in the developing world, technology, agriculture, and languages. The conference also gave me a lot of time to speak to students from other schools about how our degrees would impact what our future careers might be.
My favorite session was a seminar on citizenship and participation in the political process focusing on what participation means in the developing world compared to what participation means in Canada. Although I would consider myself more active in the political system than most people my age, it was really sobering to see how hard people struggle for things that I would take for granted, like having a birth certificate or being able to vote. We discussed instances where citizenship has been used as a weapon against people who are perceived as threats to the state and also how minority groups in nations can be harmed by nationalistic ideologues who prevent them from obtaining documentation and mobilizing.
As a member of the Jewish community, listening to this lecture felt significant because, less than a century ago, it was my people who were struggling for recognition from hostile, often murderous, governments. Throughout history, we have faced extreme discrimination. From the destruction of our temple and forced conversions to repeated attempts of genocide, the Jewish people have faced countless attempts to invalidate and undermine our very existence. Not until the creation of the State of Israel did Jews finally have a place to call home, a place where we can rest assured that it is our interests and needs that govern the actions of the state’s leadership.
As I left the lecture hall, I couldn’t stop thinking about the importance of organizations like CJPAC, and how glad I am to be an intern here. The legacy of the MS St. Louis reminds us that even Canada has a history of intolerance towards the Jewish people. This should serve as a warning that if we as Jews are complacent, if we don’t advocate for ourselves politically, we run the risk of having history repeat itself. Although I haven’t been with CJPAC long, I am extremely impressed with how my mentors and colleagues stand with Israel, and how they work tirelessly to advocate for the Jewish people here in Canada by encouraging active political engagement so that our voices can be heard.
Until next time,