Founder, The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian & Relief Committee
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.
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 pe...
The powerful aspect of Witness is that it stands on its own as a historical document and is an excellent, well laid out read for students of the Holocaust and those who are new to learning about this very complex time in history.
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 who lives on or near the street and hasn't seen his children in many years.
Toronto Maple Leafs, how did your confidence dissipate so thoroughly? Is it possible the challenge to the Toronto Maple Leafs does not only start and stop in the dressing room, during practices and throughout a game? Might it be the real trouble emanates from the psyche of the town in which you play and where I live.
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. The idea that Palestinians and I, a Jewish community worker in Toronto in 2014, are bantering back and forth while bombs and missiles fall in Israel and Gaza is astounding.
I think back to the ice storm and realize it has killed something I so loved, a sound that soothed me; a sight that reminded me of the freedom nature lends to our lives. How was I to know that with the magnificence of the ice storm, destruction ran ramped in ways I had considered, in ways that would change things forever outside my window, for me and for others?
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 ac...
Over the next few weeks decisions will be made about the Pusumas, a Roma family that has lived inside Toronto churches for about two years. Pronouncements will be heard that will conclude where they live and in fact, how the rest of their lives unfold. The Pusumas are hoping they will receive a fair hearing and that our government will act compassionately and justly with the knowledge that a very dangerous landscape faces them should they be forced to return to Europe.
To be a Jew this time of year, to be a Christian at Christmas-time, to be a part of the human race as one-billion citizens of the world celebrate with great gusto and light, the birth of Jesus, requires us to understand the complexities of the season. There are those who are blessed to join their family in a festive meal, and those who are not. There is vast wealth from the Atlantic to the Pacific and there is painful, horrible poverty within those same boundaries. One thing we do know: it is this time of the year that we all hold a mirror to our souls.
I am sitting in the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto, with Ve'ahavta Street Academy (VSA) students. VSA is a school for the homeless and near homeless. As a Holocaust survivor begins to relay her tale of struggle, I wonder, what are the addicts and former addicts thinking when the presentation is summed up with, "This isn't a very happy story"? But they are alike: They have all survived one more day.
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. But of course, as fate would have it, Saudi Arabian sheiks were staying in the same hotel as he was. What was I to do?
Under new rules to take effect on Canada Day, refugees from designated countries will no longer have access to even emergency health care, and will effectively lose the right to appeal the results of their refugee hearings. The following is a response to Jason Kenney's thoughts on refugee health care from a doctor and refugee lawyer.
My son and I decided we would set up a for-profit Lemonade stand on Canada Day.. My little collector and I gave away the lemonade, for free! 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 love Canada as a Jew, because religious Jews can walk to synagogue on Shabbat with their side curls and religious garb visible to all unlike France where such a display could be dangerous. We are a 'multifaith' country. אני אוהב את קנדה (Hebrew: I love Canada)
About a ten years ago, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee, launched a creative writing contest for the homeless. The prize? $2000. Now, a decade later, word has gotten out that the odds of winning are high, and the homeless are coming in droves to pen their stories. Stories that will help them find a better life.
We have abandoned our old folk, and done so effectively. Why? They are not wounded animals wandering off to the forest to lick their wounds and die. Seniors are not ugly because of their wrinkles or yellowing fingernails. Their folds and crinkles are exquisite like the trunks of an aging redwood. We are the unsightly ones.
Many people who are affected by war don't make it into the history books. One of them walked into my home the other day to install California shutters. He was born in 1960, the same year as I was. His name is Thic and he remembers well the corpses piled up outside his home after America changed her policy and pulled out her troops. Our world is populated by Thics.
It was a cool spring day, and the sunlight shone kindly down on Auschwitz. Beyond the barbed wire, villagers walked briskly to church in their Sunday finest. Eva walked in queue with the other women and children toward "the showers," a place the adults knew was the gas chamber. They were 200 meters away.
Ron Maclean of Hockey Night in Canada, stood in a classroom 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 watched as Maclean simultaneously jotted a phone number on the blackboard. "Frank got off the street," the hockey commentator said, "because he had mentors who helped him. "This is my home phone number."
Twice in his apology letter to Leaf's fans Larry Tanenbaum compliments the people paying the gate to see a very weak team, in the hottest hockey market, after missing the playoffs seven years in a row. It's like the minister handing around the hat during services, thanking the parishioners for their generosity, while rain drops drip through the broken church roof once again.