On December 12, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau issued a statement marking the first day of Hanukah, the holiday which celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over their Greek-Syrian oppressors in 167 B.C., as well as the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Trudeau’s statement didn’t mention the Temple, Jerusalem or Israel.
It did, however, acknowledge the “significant” contribution of Jews to Canada.
“This year, we have marked 150 years of Confederation – a chance to celebrate the many cultures, traditions, and beliefs that help make Canada such a wonderful place to live. Jewish Canadians have made significant contributions to our communities and our country, and continue to make Canada inclusive, open, and strong.”
In a similar statement marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr on June 24, 2017, Trudeau referred to Muslim contribution to Canada as “invaluable”.
“Canada’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and sources of pride. This year, as we mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we recognize the invaluable contributions the Muslim community makes to our national fabric.”
Since the 19th century, Jews have been deeply engaged in Canadian innovation, culture, business, and public policy.
Canadian Jews have a long and proud history of serving Canada during times of war. According to the Jewish community archives, 577 Jews died fighting in Europe in during World War I and 17,000 Jews – one in five Jewish males living in Canada at that time – fought with the Canadian armed forces in World War II.
Canadian Jews – who make up 1% of population – have also excelled in the sciences, the arts, architecture, law, human rights and philanthropy.
Canada has produced some of the world’s most celebrated Jewish architects, including Moshe Safdie and Frank Gehry, as well as international music icons Leonard Cohen, Rush’s Geddy Lee and Drake.
Many of Hollywood’s most famous Jewish comedians were born in Canada – Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Howie Mandell and Seth Rogen, to name just a few.
Prominent Canadian scholars include Toronto-born writer, historian and academic Irving Abella, Toronto-born professor and computer scientist Calvin Gotlieb, who has been called the “father of computing”, and Rudolph Marcus, Montreal-born winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Over the past two decades, Montreal-born mega-donor Seymour Schulich gave away $350 million, including a donation of $20 million to McGill University’s faculty of music, $25 million to the University of Calgary’s engineering faculty, $26 million to the University of Western Ontario’s faculty of medicine, $20 million to Dalhousie University’s law school and $15 million to Nipissing University’s faculty of education. In 2012, in a dramatic new commitment, he pledged $100-million in scholarships for top students in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Azrieli foundation, established by Israeli-born David Azrieli, donated $11-million to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and $16 million toward the establishment of a new autism research centre at the Montreal Neurological Institute. An endowment from Azrieli also helped establish the David J. Azrieli Institute of Graduate Studies and Research in Architecture at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2004.
Toronto-born businessman Joseph Rotman, who donated more than $15 million to establish the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and helped found Toronto’s Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District in 2005, was also a benefactor of cultural organizations such as the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company and the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation donates millions to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Toronto International Film Festival, University of Waterloo, University of Manitoba, McGill University, St. Michael’s Hospital, Wilfred Laurier University and many others. In 2013, the foundation made a transformational gift of $15 million to Mount Sinai Hospital to significantly expand its emergency centre.
Recipients of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman philanthropic donations include the University of Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, which opened in 2014.
Joey and Toby Tanenbaum’s numerous donations to the arts include a $3 million gift to help build the new gallery of Chinese art at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). They also donated over 1,800 antiquities from China, West Asia, and Europe, which is the largest single gift of artifacts (by value) that the ROM has ever received. They recently gave $500,000 to help make the ROM more accessible to people with disabilities.
Generic drug empire founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey, who were shockingly found dead in their Toronto home on December 15 and which is being investigated by police as murder or murder-suicide, donated millions to medical research and health-care facilities – including an important addition to Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care – and community centres in Toronto and elsewhere.
The Shermans were also major donors to the Liberal Party and hosted a fundraiser for Justin Trudeau in their home during the 2015 election campaign. Following the announcement of their deaths, Justin Trudeau offered public condolences on Twitter. “Sophie and I are saddened by news of the sudden passing of Barry and Honey Sherman. Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit,” he wrote.