Federation responds to rise in antisemitism


April 2024
Jazmin Rymberg

In an address at the Hamilton Police Services meeting on Jan. 25 at City Hall, Jason Waxman, president of the Hamilton Jewish Federation, advocated for enhanced security measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the Jewish community in Hamilton. Addressing the officials, Waxman underscored the imperative of collective responsibility in safeguarding citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic background. 

The crux of his presentation revolved around the financial challenges the Jewish community faces in shouldering the costs of off-duty police protection. Despite the support from the Hamilton Community Foundation and responsive actions from the police force, concerns persist regarding the sustainability of current security arrangements. Highlighting the economic strains on non-profit organizations and religious institutions within the Jewish community, Waxman emphasized the diversion of essential resources away from core missions when burdened with security expenses. With a staggering $206,743.85 spent on police protection since Oct. 7, the Hamilton Jewish Federation faces a looming budget deficit, jeopardizing vital community services and outreach programs. 

Waxman urged Hamilton Police Services to acknowledge the disproportionate targeting of the Jewish community, as evidenced by the police’s own hate and bias report, and to recognize the community’s vulnerability in various spheres, including education, employment and public spaces. Reports of harassment and vandalism against Jewish individuals underscored the pervasive nature of the threat, with staff members of the Hamilton Jewish Federation receiving alarming death threats. Against a backdrop of escalating hate crimes—26 incidents logged between Oct. 7 and Jan. 12, 2024, with 21 targeting the Jewish community—the urgency of proactive security measures becomes apparent. 

Beyond immediate security concerns, Waxman stressed the importance of fostering a sense of security and trust. By providing protection at no extra cost, the city would reinforce its commitment to inclusivity, diversity and the protection of fundamental rights. He urged city council to explore collaborative solutions that ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community without imposing undue financial burdens. As other Canadian cities have embraced similar models, Hamilton has an opportunity to lead by example, strengthening its global reputation and upholding the values of inclusivity and diversity. 

Waxman concluded his remarks by urging a united effort towards a future where the protection of diverse communities is a shared investment, where principles of justice and security are upheld by city leaders and law enforcement agencies alike. By working collaboratively, Hamilton can pave the way for a safer, stronger, and more harmonious future for all its residents.

How to report an antisemitic incident

In response to the surge in antisemitic incidents in Hamilton, the Hamilton Jewish Federation and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) launched the Legal Task Force Initiative, which aims to provide swift and comprehensive support to victims of antisemitism. 

If you or someone you know have been the victim of an antisemitic incident, please do the following:

1. Identity the incident: Speak to relevant authorities such as school principals, HR representatives at workplaces.
2. Fill out the online forms at jewishhamilton.org/report-hate

Once the necessary forms have been submitted, Federation will follow up with the Board of Education and the Hamilton Police Services Hate Crime Unit. A lawyer from CIJA’s Legal Task Force will reach out to the individual affected to provide legal support and guidance. Collaboratively, a plan of action will be devised to address the incident effectively. The plan will be put into action, or if necessary, legal proceedings will commence. 

In light of recent events,  CIJA’s Legal Task Force has expanded into a national pro bono “law firm” with more than 200 volunteer lawyers across Canada, including Hamilton. The initiative serves as a complement to the efforts of the Hamilton Jewish Federation in combating antisemitism. Because of the growing demand for support, the Legal Task Force has structured its operations into nine areas of concern, ensuring that volunteer lawyers can provide specialized assistance to those in need.