Cotlar at Limmud TorontoHuntsville, Ontario, Oct. 27 – Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler said the country needs to toughen security measures against terrorism, while preserving the nation’s democratic freedoms. Cotler addressed the recent terror attacks in Canada in remarks to some 500 Russian-speaking Jews participating in the inaugural Limmud FSU Canada. Cotler, a Canadian-Jewish leader and human-rights activist served as the honorary chair of the weekend program.

“Canada is a country that takes pride in its openness, freedom and democracy, but at this point, the Canadian government needs to take the right measures to ensure that it remains not only peaceful but also secured in a way that we combat the threats,” said Cotler. “Security has to be expanded, but not at the expense of freedom. We need to protect democracy, but also to protect our citizens,” he added.

Livnat + TorontoIsrael’s Minister of Culture & Sport, Limor Livnat, was also in attendance and added: “I salute the prime minister of Canada on his strong support of Israel. The recent terrorist event in Ottawa was not only directed against the Canadian Parliament. It was also directed against the democracies of the free world.”

Limmud FSU Canada, in collaboration with UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto and The Jewish Aganecy, took place at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, ON, and offered a wide array of sessions, from “Not Just ISIS and Hamas: The threat of Islamic Radicalization on Israel and on the Western world” to “Canadian Jews: A unique community or just American Jews in the making?” Other sessions focused on the crisis in Ukraine, Jewish life in the Russian Empire, the Russian-speaking Jewish elite in Russia; and such esoteric topics as “The Shadchan – the Art of Jewish Matchmaking” and a Kosher Wine workshop. Limmud FSU Canada also featured programs for children.

Limmud FSU TorontoThis was the first time Limmud FSU was being held in Canada, where local Russian-speaking Jews are seeking to develop their own programs and conferences. Canada is home to about 330,000 Jews, including an estimated 70,000-plus Russian speakers, many in the Greater Toronto area. The contemporary Russian-speaking Jewish community in Canada – among the centers of Russian-Jewish immigration globally – is shaped by three waves of immigration, starting with the major exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s; Jews from countries of the former Soviet Union including those who first went to Israel, between 1990 and 2001; and since then those who first immigrated to Israel in the 1990s. A large percentage, nearly 220,000, of the country’s overall Jewish population lives in the Greater Toronto Area, including about 20-30,000 Israelis.

Chaim Chesler, Matthew Bronfman, Limor Livnat, Irwin Cotler and Mitchell Bellman (IFCJ Canada)

Chaim Chesler, Matthew Bronfman, Limor Livnat, Irwin Cotler and Mitchell Bellman (IFCJ Canada)

photos by Yossi Aloni