Avrum Rosensweig
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Avrum Rosensweig is the founder of Ve’ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian & Relief Committee, Canada’s only Jewish humanitarian organization (est. 1996). Ve’ahavta’s mission statement is to encourage all peoples to play a role in tikun olam (repairing the world). Through his leadership, the Jewish community has worked with Canada’s homeless population and Native Canadians, orphans in Haiti, villagers in Guyana, doctors in Zimbabwe, and peoples and childrens of all backgrounds in Israel, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, Turkey, Sri Lanka and many other countries. Last year Ve’ahavta launched a school for homeless/near homeless called the Ve’ahavta Street Academy, co-chaired by Hockey Night in Canada’s, Ron Maclean. Ve’ahavta has also joined Mia Farrow in her work in Sudan. Avrum has also written extensively over the last 25 years. He is a weekly columnists with the Canadian Jewish News writing on the Jewish people, Israel, people, slices-of-life and ideas. He has also been published in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Ha’aretz and other publications. He is a dad and loves his cat, Lilly.

Entries by Avrum Rosensweig

Yom Ha'shoah, The Visually Impaired And A Return To Aushwitz

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2016 | 11:57 AM

Recently, the Jewish world paid homage to the Holocaust through Yom Ha'shoah -- The Day of Remembrance.

On this day and others I realized I am a member of an incredibly creative people, the Jewish people who have raised the consciousness of millions of individuals about the Holocaust, genocides...

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Bearing Witness To The Memory Of The Holocaust

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2015 | 4:05 PM

My dear friend Eli Rubenstein, makes a major impact on the world, and does so somewhat unassumingly. I had no idea he was compiling a book to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the March of the Living (The March), a program whose mandate it is to facilitate annual trips to...

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Happy Father's Day to Every Kind of Father

(0) Comments | Posted July 8, 2015 | 3:01 PM

Happy Father's Day to the man behind bars who only sees his children in a public area, inside the prison.

Happy Father's Day to the man who left his family because he didn't have the strength or tools to stay with them.

Happy Father's Day to the man...

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An Open Letter to the Toronto Maple Leafs

(9) Comments | Posted May 3, 2015 | 12:27 PM

Dear Toronto Maple Leafs:

Since January it has been so difficult to watch you play; not because your expertise on the ice has diminished dramatically, but more so because it is obvious you were suffering terribly. 

I am 55 years...

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Why I, a Jewish Torontonian, Am Tweeting at Gazans

(6) Comments | Posted July 20, 2014 | 11:54 PM

The sandy and ancient earth of the Middle East is again absorbing blood.

Hamas and Israel are at war and the land beneath their citizens' feet is crying. As it does, an incredible marvel -- while not entirely new -- is happening, and that is tweeting behind the lines....

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The 2014 Ice Storm Killed Something I Loved

(0) Comments | Posted July 11, 2014 | 1:32 PM

As the lights flickered during the ice storm of 2014, as they dimmed, the trees outside looked beautiful.

They stood tall; most of them, using the strength they had built up over the decades, fending off the powerful winds and the weight of the ice.

To look at...

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When a Holocaust Survivor Meets a Six-Year-Old Roma Child

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 3:49 PM

Holocaust Survivor and educator, Nate Leipciger, recently visited Lulu Pusuma, a six-year old Roma girl in hiding in a Toronto church together with her mother and father.

The Pusumas, human rights activists from Budapest, Hungary, came to Canada after death threats and a beating from neo-Nazi skinheads with a...

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The Roma Family Taking Refuge in a Toronto Church

(0) Comments | Posted March 11, 2014 | 2:46 PM

It appears that the church members had installed a small window in the door, likely so the family could look out and determine who was on the other side of it. Even though the church is their temporary home, it was felt, through great respect, they had the right to...

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Two Jews Reflect on the Meaning of Christmas in Canada

(6) Comments | Posted December 24, 2013 | 9:12 AM

Nothing more than Christmas speaks to a time when we all want to feel good about the world and ourselves. Brotherly/sisterly love, peace on earth, goodwill towards all is a refrain that moves us, Jew and non-Jew alike.

As Canadian Jews we have both embraced this time of the year...

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A Holocaust Survivor's Message to Homeless Teens: A Better Life is Possible

(11) Comments | Posted August 25, 2012 | 8:13 AM

I am sitting in the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre at the Lipa Green building in Toronto, with Ve'ahavta Street Academy (VSA) students. VSA is a school for the homeless and near homeless. It is operated by Ve'ahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief...

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In Remembrance of Yitzchak Shamir, and an Elevator Ride with Him

(0) Comments | Posted July 4, 2012 | 5:23 PM

In 1994, while in the employ of the United Jewish Appeal and Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, I was given the task of overseeing former Israeli prime minister Yitzchak Shamir's trip to Toronto.

A day before his arrival to Toronto I learned that Saudi Arabian sheiks were staying at...

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What My Son Taught Me About Money

(0) Comments | Posted July 3, 2012 | 3:09 PM

My son and I decided we would set up a for-profit Lemonade stand on Canada Day.

We surfed the internet and came upon an instructional YouTube video on the secrets of creating this very thirst quenching summer drink.

My boy's beautiful little hands squeezed and twisted the lemons extracting the juice we would sell for 50 cents a cup. After boiling water and sugar, pouring the lemon concentrate into the pot along with some cold water and ice-cubes, and having Booby do a taste-test (at which time her mouth turned down all sour-like; so we added more sugar) our product was ready.

We created a sign to affix to a tree stating: A Lemonade Stand with a Smile, and prepared a melange of nuts and raisins to give away for free.

One of the key things required for our stand, I told my precious child, was a box of his money for change. I explained that if someone gave us a five dollar bill we would dive into the box and fish out $4.50 and return it to them. It was then the struggle began.

My son asked me why we would give people our money. I tried to understand his perspective and gave another example of giving change, drawing upon our experiences at No Frills with the cashier. As much as I presented the fundamentals of SK Economics (senior kindergarten) my son couldn't adjust to the idea that we would give away pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies that he loved so much.

A week prior, we had counted all of his change on the floor of his lime green and sky blue room and discovered that he had over $200. One of the coins dated back to 1943. In my son's rationally magic mind the coins were his, and giving them away to a passerby was tantamount to tossing a Backyardigan doll over the balcony. Why would we do that?


I stretched my Daddy-explanation muscles as taut as they would go, in an attempt to convince my son there was no other way to operate a profitable lemonade stand. But then it occurred to me that the idea of entrepreneurialism was exciting me, not him. My son is a collector and like many children, given the chance, he would gather and fill up our entire condo with tennis balls, because they are his favourite balls. He wouldn't sell them.

This refreshing concept became clearer later on in the day when he asked me if we might somehow find a million green, yellow and orange tennis balls by the side of the road, to keep and play with. I tried to temper his dream a tad and added that his idea was fantastic because we could open a tennis stand and sell a bunch of them to other tennis ball lovers. Once again, he looked at me with a puzzled and quizzical face and said, "Daddy, why would we sell the tennis balls. I love them so much?"

So there it was. On Canada Day 2012, something stunning occurred on a quiet street in North York.

My little collector and I gave away the lemonade, for free!

Every time a person walked by our wagon, instead of requesting the vast sum of 50 cents for the once to sour drink, we wished them "Happy Canada Day" and happily handed the individual lemonade we made from scratch. And it worked. Most of the passersby accepted the offer. The anxious woman walking her Shelties smiled widely after sipping our lemon libation and nodded in appreciation.

The young Mexican man, going off to work on our national holiday, said "muchas gracias" and "mmmm," followed by a "Happy Canada Day" acknowledgment. The mid-aged Pilipino woman with artistically painted toenails handed a cup to her elderly Russian, Latin professor friend in a wheelchair, while both of them congratulated us on our spirit and Canadian goodwill.

We received compliments on how "real" the lemonade tasted and how fortunate we are to live in a country like Canada, where free lemonade is still accepted from people we don't know.

Canada Day 2012 was special to my son and me because we offered a creation of our own to our fellow Canadians, with a price tag of joy and unity. By taking the money out of the equation a whole new world opened up to us, one in which sharing and lemons were the main ingredient, and the outcome, a stronger sense of brotherhood and sisterhood between us and our neighbors.

There is something to be said about being a collector of money, rather than a merchant banker. My son taught me that, or perhaps he reminded me of it that on Canada Day 2012, a most memorable and thirst quenching day.

(Please let me know please, if you have a million tennis balls to spare....

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Why I Love Canada: "Our Popular Last Names Are Smith, Singh and Ng"

(36) Comments | Posted June 27, 2012 | 9:10 AM

I love Canada because I've seen many soldiers walking in major cities in Mexico with M16s at their hips. Seeing a Canadian soldier in Toronto or any other city is an anomaly. We are a safe country.

I love Canada every time I stare at the expanse outside my balcony...

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Writing Themselves to a Better Future: Writing Contests for the Homeless

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2012 | 1:00 AM

"I am flesh and blood. I'm not just an idea." - Winner, Creative Writing Contest

A creative writing contest for the homeless with a top prize of $2000. Really?

About a decade ago, Veahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee, launched a contest for the homeless. It was a...

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Let's Celebrate Canada Day by Punishing Refugees?

(1) Comments | Posted June 3, 2012 | 9:22 AM

On June 18, the Toronto Board of Rabbis (TBR), wrote a powerful letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They asked the federal government to cancel its plans to cut basic medication for refugees. They also spoke out against the idea of designating specific countries as "safe,"...

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We Respect Our iPhones More Than Our Elders

(4) Comments | Posted May 6, 2012 | 1:00 AM

Buildings will eventually crumble and therefore will never really be an ongoing legacy for humankind. Our true legacy will emanate from our relationships with our children, family, friends and community.

While there are many positive developments over the last few generations having to do with human interaction, such as...

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That Immigrant Fixing Your House Probably Saw Hell

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2012 | 11:30 AM

The Vietnam War came into our homes in the 60s and 70s through the nightly news and newspaper headlines.

We learned that of the Americans who served in the war, 58,220 soldiers were killed and 150,000 were wounded. We knew thousands of Americans came here to avoid...

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A Sunny Day in Auschwitz

(3) Comments | Posted April 19, 2012 | 12:13 PM

Thursday, April 19th is Yom Ha'Shoah, a day when we remember those who perished during the Holocaust. "A Sunny Day in Auschwitz" is a short story about a woman, a child, who was one of six milllion Jews to die at the hands of the Nazis. On Yom Ha'Shoah, we...

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Ron Maclean's Secret Life as a Mentor to the Homeless

(12) Comments | Posted April 15, 2012 | 1:19 AM

Ron Maclean of Hockey Night in Canada, stood in a classroom at George Brown College (GBC) and told the story of Frank O'Dea, the co-founder of Second Cup, who was at one time a homeless panhandler living on the streets of Toronto. Ten students listened carefully to the account and...

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Hey Leafs, Take That Sorry and go Puck Yourselves

(5) Comments | Posted April 10, 2012 | 3:36 PM

Larry Tanenbaum's apology on behalf of the board of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment needs to be analyzed to be understood.

He begins by thanking "you" for your "unwavering passion and loyalty" to the Leafs. By doing so, he clearly sets a hierarchical tone for this...

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