PM Consults with Beth Tzedec
Jan 30th 2024

On Wednesday, January 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Beth Tzedec, engaging with about 30 community leaders to gather feedback on Canada's handling of Israel's war against Hamas. The meeting, which marked the first time the PM has personally consulted with the Jewish community since the October 7 attacks, provided a platform for local leaders, including Beth Tzedec lay and professional leadership, to voice concerns and seek clarity on Canada's stance in the ongoing conflict.

According to Rabbi Wernick, the event resulted from ongoing efforts by Beth Tzedec’s Spiritual Leadership Team (SLT) to cultivate relationships with politicians at various levels of government, including the Prime Minister’s Office.

"This was by design a relatively small and low-key meeting,” says Rabbi Wernick. “We wanted a substantive and intimate conversation, and it's hard to do that at a large event. This was clearly not a PR move on the part of Mr. Trudeau. It was a working meeting where we were able to voice our concerns and hear the official positions of the Canadian government.”

Topics discussed included Israel’s security, the relationship between the governments of Canada and Israel, and Canada’s recent vote for a ceasefire at the UN, which did not include a condemnation of the Hamas attack.

Participants also expressed outrage over the specious allegations of genocide against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). They highlighted the dangerous connection between such accusations and the rise of antisemitism worldwide. Attendees stressed the importance of countering these false narratives and reinforcing Canada's commitment to combatting antisemitism.

While participants left the meeting with the impression that Trudeau understands Israel’s security needs and recognizes that antisemitism contradicts Canadian values, some expressed disappointment at the PM's unwillingness to make specific policy promises.

Concurring with that sentiment, Rabbi Wernick also points out the historical significance of the positive political standing enjoyed by the Canadian Jewish community.

"It hasn't always been this way for the Jewish people," he says. "For centuries, we have lived in countries in which we have had no voice. It's significant that we live in a time and place where, as a Jewish community, we have access to the highest echelons of leadership. We don't take this situation for granted." 

According to Rabbi Wernick, the fact that the Prime Minister chose Beth Tzedec for this meeting was no coincidence.

"Beth Tzedec has a proud history of being a leading voice for Canadian Jewry. This meeting was a continuation of that history and of our engagement in our country and on the national scene.”