JBuzz Musings September 25, 2013: Gilad Shalit receives warm welcome from Jewish community on Canadian Tour

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Gilad Shalit receives warm welcome from Jewish community on Canadian Tour (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Gilad Shalit completed the Eastern portion of his four city Canadian tour, having visited Toronto and Montreal on Sept. 16 and 17, 2013 respectively, receiving a warm welcome and greeted by large crowds at both synagogues where he spoke; Toronto…READ MORE

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York University ‘may tie with Hebrew University’

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

York ‘may tie with Hebrew University’

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 11-24-11

Students at York University will vote next week on whether to link up with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

A referendum was initiated by politics student Jacob Campbell, who said he wanted to stand up for Israel and curb anti-Israel and antisemitic activity on British campuses.

If students vote in favour, York University Students’ Union (YUSU) will “work to build links with students at the Hebrew University” and will encourage York University itself to twin with the Israeli institution.

Mr Campbell said he decided to launch the twinning initiative earlier this year when the National Union of Students adopted a number of anti-Israel policies, since dropped. Last year a window in his student house was smashed after he displayed an Israeli flag.

Mr Campbell, who is not Jewish, also cited fellow students’ negative responses to the resignation of Lawrence Binitie, YUSU racial equality officer, who quit following an argument with a local councillor.

Mr Binitie was discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Jewish York City Council member David Levene when he told Mr Levene: “I would be ashamed if I were from Israel, or even Jewish”. He later added that he believed Israel’s “atrocities… are as severe as apartheid South Africa”.

The possible twinning will be debated at YUSU on Tuesday, with voting running from the following day until December 5.

Cameron Johnston: Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York University, B’nai Brit Says

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Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York U., Jewish group says

Source: JTA, 9-18-11

B’nai Brith Canada has called for “sensitivity training” for the faculty of Toronto’s York University in the wake of a complaint by a Jewish student over the remarks of a Jewish professor.

BBC called on the university “to investigate further” the incident in which a student in a class taught by Professor Johnston “felt marginalized and targeted by the way subject matter relating to odious opinions was presented.

“Clearly, a key message was miscommunicated, and sensitivity training needs to be instituted for faculty to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” BBC said.

On Sept. 12, Johnston began an introductory lecture to a first-year course with examples of extreme opinions and whether one should be entitled to them.

“All Jews should be sterilized” is an example of such an extreme view, Johnston had said.

Sarah Grunfeld, 22, a fourth-year student, stormed out of the class and reported Johnston to the Hasbara at York, an on-campus Israel advocacy group, which sent a news release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for the professor’s firing. The story went viral on social media.

In his defense, Johnston said he pointed out “that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-Semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous, and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.”

In a statement circulated by B’nai Brith Canada, Grunfeld said she stands by her initial concerns. Although the teacher “made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Johnston’s point was “without ill intentions [and] taken out of context.” It added that the episode “is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Student who mistakenly accused Professor of anti-Semitism unapologetic

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Source: Toronto Star, 9-15-11

The 22-year-old York University student who mistakenly accused her professor of making anti-Semitic remarks issued an unapologetic response to the ridicule that has been widely levelled against her.

“I understand that there may have been a miscommunication,” Sarah Grunfeld writes in the statement distributed Wednesday evening by B’nai Brith Canada. “But any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me.”

Since the story was first published Wednesday in the Toronto Star it has rapidly spread on social networking sites, where readers have been unabashedly and openly scornful of Grunfeld.

The incident has also been discussed in local newspaper comment pages and was picked up by U.S. gossip website Gawker.

Grunfeld accused social sciences professor Cameron Johnston of telling a class on Monday afternoon that “All Jews should be sterilized.”

In fact, Johnston — who is Jewish — was explaining to the students that not all opinions are valid or acceptable, using the example of Jewish sterilization as a reprehensible opinion, with historical precedent.

Here is Grunfeld’s statement in full, including a preface from B’nai Brith:

“Sarah Grunfeld, fourth year York University student has made the following statement relating to the recent incident in Professor Cameron Johnston’s class at York University, and has asked B’nai Brith Canada to circulate it to interested parties on her behalf. This statement of her position is only to be used in its entirety:

“I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

“I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply ‘misheard’ or ‘half heard’ what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his ‘miscommunication’.

“This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

“It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Jewish professor forced to defend himself against anti-Semitism claims

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Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.

Brendan Kennedy/Toronto Star

Brendan Kennedy Staff Reporter

A half-listening student, a hypersensitive campus and the speed at which gossip travels on the Internet conspired to create a very damaging game of broken telephone for one York University professor this week.

Cameron Johnston, who has been teaching at York for more than 30 years, has been forced to respond to allegations that he made anti-Semitic remarks in a lecture on Monday afternoon after a student misunderstood his comments and began sending emails to Jewish groups and the media.

Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.

He didn’t notice Sarah Grunfeld storm out. Grunfeld, a 22-year-old in her final year at York, understood Johnston’s example to be his personal opinion.

She contacted Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York — an Israel advocacy group on campus — who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired.

Blogs and Facebook groups picked it up, and in a few hours the allegations spread within the city’s Jewish community, albeit mostly online.

Sensitivities around anti-Semitism are particularly heightened at York, which has a large Jewish population and a history of toxic relations between supporters and critics of Israel on campus.

“I’m terribly upset,” Johnston said Tuesday. “I’m very proud of the fact that in the history of my teaching career I’ve stood for the best values of what constitutes a meaningful human community.”

Johnston, who is Jewish, said his religion likely influenced his choice of words, why he used “this example of a completely reprehensible opinion” with historical precedent.

During the Second World War, Nazi scientists experimented with mass sterilization on Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.

“I think it’s a very good thing that people are sensitive to this kind of remark, and I think it’s a very good thing that someone would respond immediately and deal with it if they thought that they heard an anti-Semitic comment,” Johnston said. “But in this case, it’s a misreading.”

The irony for Johnston is that he was trying to teach his students that ideas have consequences.

“So I’m pretty shocked to find the consequences — what I was talking about in lecture — is that I get seen as an example of prejudice.”

Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

“Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she said. “. . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

Sheldon Goodman, GTA co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which speaks on behalf of the city’s organized Jewish community, called the incident “a very unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic,” he said.