Prime Minister Harper’s Visit to Israel: A Community Professional’s View

canadian flag_0True leadership is having … the courage to speak out, to be unwavering and focused and, even when it is not what others want to hear, the conviction to say what needs to be said.

by Linda Kislowicz

Last week, along with 200 delegates from business, political, and community sectors across Canada, I had the honour and privilege of joining the Harper mission to Israel.

I have served as a Jewish communal professional for more than 40 years, and I have never felt more proud to be a Canadian and a Jew. Nor have I ever been as inspired as when listening to the words our Prime Minister delivered in the Knesset.

As a professional serving the Jewish community I have had many interesting and unique experiences. Involved in family services, informal Jewish education Israel experiences, and in a variety of community engagement and development programs, I’ve worked to develop resources that support local and global needs. In one way or another, I have been involved in trying to effect social change, whether on a micro level (one person at a time) or on a macro level (one social policy and institution at a time).

Part of my work has been to ensure that Canadian Jews are connected to each other and to Israel. I have defended and advocated for Jews and Judaism to ensure that our rights and needs were addressed and protected. I have worked to instill Jewish values among our youth – from preschool age through young adulthood. I have explained the significance that the land, the people and the nation of Israel hold in Judaism.

I have coached college students dealing with difficult challenges on university campuses. I have mentored young leaders, professionals and volunteers so they can reach their full potential.

Even with that extensive experience behind me, as part of the Canadian delegation on this historic trip, I was constantly reminded of the significance of standing up for one’s beliefs and convictions. I learned something very important and powerful: that true leadership is having the moral fortitude to demonstrate unequivocal support, the courage to speak out, to be unwavering and focused and, even when it is not what others want to hear, the conviction to say what needs to be said.

This is principled leadership. This is inspirational leadership. For me and, I suspect, for many others on the trip, this was the single-most compelling message we brought home.

In an age of preoccupation with balance and proportionality, it is vitally important to hear the truth spoken so clearly and unabashedly. That is how our prime minister distinguished himself. And that is what stands out most about this mission.

At the same time, the mission offered the delegation an opportunity to reciprocate with a show of support and solidarity to a leader who is prepared to do what he considers right, irrespective of the cost. We must not take this kind of leadership for granted. We must nurture it, applaud it and encourage it.

The experience also offered Canadian leaders from coast to coast a chance to come together as Canadians, as Jews and non-Jews, to exchange thoughts and learn from each while touring some of the most important historic sites in Israel and, with visits to Yad Vashem and the Kotel, to pay honour and tribute to the Jewish people.

The benefits of this trip will be exponential and will undoubtedly impact many people in many sectors. Each individual delegate now has the responsibility to ensure that they discuss with their constituents and communities what they saw and experienced – from the active display of democratic process, to the complexity of the issues in the region, to the internal social challenges, to the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Israel’s dynamism and vitality must be shared.

At a time when Israel sometimes finds itself alone, delegitimized, marginalized and isolated, it is particularly encouraging to be a Canadian Jew whose leader is Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He is a true friend and it was an honour to be a delegate on this mission.

Linda Kislowicz is President and CEO of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA.