Guest Post from NIFC Board Member Corey Shefman

Could it be possible that there is a silver lining to the election of Donald Trump?

No, you didn’t accidentally open the wrong newsletter. Hear me out on this.

The work we do here at NIFC, in partnership with our generous donors, talented staff, and partners in Israel and around the world, requires that the Canadian Jewish and progressive Zionist communities be engaged with the issues that matter to us. Our ability to provide crucial funding to organizations like ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) or causes like refugee rights in Israel is directly tied to the engagement of the community here in Canada.

In the aftermath of the November 2016 presidential election in the United States, nearly unprecedented protests swept across the United States and Canada. People who had never been to a protest or rally were finding themselves marching in solidarity with those whose rights the new American president might attempt to curtail.

Prominent in those protests, and in the meme-worthy signs that circulated on social media afterwards, were Jewish protesters. These members of our community are affiliated with new organizations like IfNotNow, and more established organizations like the RAC (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), and with progressive synagogues of every denomination.

NIFC and other organizations fighting for progressive change—for civil rights, equality and justice—have a rare opportunity to capitalize on this moment in history. While we may struggle to find our footing in the wake of recent political events, we have to play the hands that we’re dealt. In our conversations with current and potential supporters, it is clear that many Canadians feel strongly that we have an obligation to repair the world, particularly given its current state.

As a climate of polarization and intolerance increases in the US and abroad, NIFC’s commitment to tikkun olam, and to showing members of our community the real and substantial impacts they can make, is that much more crucial. For many in the Canadian Jewish community, it may come as a surprise to learn that there are alternatives to the traditional donor structures, and that they can support civil society in Israel by empowering organizations committed to racial, religious and ethnic equality, women’s rights, and other important issues where the impact of their donations will be immediate and apparent.

Last month, NIFC presented a session at Limmud, Toronto’s annual “festival of Jewish learning.” There, I debated NIFC president, Joan Garson, about whether funds are better spent educating Canadians about Israel or building capacity and promoting civil rights in Israel. When the votes were tallied, the latter argument won, but nearly everyone in the room agreed that the real solution was a balance between the two.

By educating Canadians about the realities of the situation in Israel, we will be able to harness the anger that so many of us feel about the spread of discriminatory attitudes and unjust policies, and turn it into positive change. By talking to Canadians about the Israeli government’s concerning drive towards laws that seem more authoritarian than democratic (like laws banning entry to the country of people, including Jews, who disagree with his government’s political positions), and also about the important work being done in the streets and in the courts by NIFC partners, we can build our movement in a way that will last well beyond this year or this political moment.

Now is not the time to get discouraged. The measure of our success as a community will be in our ability to engage with those who have been disaffected by these alienating and unjust ideologies. Help us turn the ultra-right-wing politics and policies against themselves by sharing your experience with NIFC with your friends and family. Visit our website to learn about our partners and projects, and the important work that they’re doing.

I’m proud to be part of an organization that is taking real action to resist the sort of politics that empower extremist right-wing groups, both by educating Canadians and by funding important work in Israel. If you know someone who would like to participate in this important work, contact our office. We’d love to have you.

Corey Shefman

NIFC Board of Directors

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