Hamilton Jewish Federation to host 1st international conference amid rising antisemitism

The Hamilton Jewish Federation (HJF) will host its first-ever international conference amid what the federation's chief executive officer describes as an "increase in hate crimes targeting the Jewish community."

Conference comes amid Kanye West comments, recent antisemitic hate incidents in Hamilton

Gustavo Rymberg is the chief executive officer of the Hamilton Jewish Federation. (Submitted by Gustavo Rymberg)

The Hamilton Jewish Federation (HJF) will host its first-ever international conference amid what the federation's chief executive officer describes as an "increase in hate crimes targeting the Jewish community."

"It could not be timelier," said Gustavo Rymberg in a press release.

"When anyone's civil or human rights are under threat, antisemitism is likely to grow. We must address antisemitism and educate the public, while always being alert and ready to call out acts of hate."

The three-day conference from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21 — called #nomoreantisemitism — will feature keynote speakers, an exhibition with book sales, and various displays and booths from community organizations.

Some of the keynote speakers are Dr. Robert Rozett from the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Dara Horn, author of People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.

HJF said in-person tickets for the keynote presentations on Nov. 19 and Nov. 21 are sold out but online tickets are still available.

Sessions on Sunday include a stream for advocates and the general public at McMaster University's David Braley Health Sciences Centre as well as an educators stream at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Event comes amid Kanye West's antisemitism

This all comes as Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, has faced global criticism and lost numerous sponsorships from big brands like Gap and Adidas for his string of antisemitic remarks.

He recently suggested slavery was a choice and called the COVID-19 vaccine the "mark of the beast," among other comments. He was also criticized for wearing a "White Lives Matter" T-shirt to his Yeezy collection show in Paris.

The rapper, who has won 24 Grammy Awards, has earned a reputation lately, less for his music and more for stirring up controversy. In 2016, he was hospitalized in Los Angeles because of what his team called stress and exhaustion.

It was later revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Jewish groups have pointed to the danger of the rapper's comments at a time of rising antisemitism. Such incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high last year, the Anti-Defamation League said in a recent letter to Adidas urging it to break with Ye.

Demonstrators on a Los Angeles overpass on Saturday unfurled a banner praising Ye's antisemitic comments, prompting an outcry on social media as celebrities and others said they stand with Jewish people.

Recent antisemitism in Hamilton

Hamilton also has recent antisemitism.

In September, police arrested a 22-year-old man who reportedly removed a Star of David from a home's window and destroyed it.

In a separate incident, police arrested a man who reportedly wrote anti-Semitic messages around the city's core with black marker.

There's been a wider problem with hate in Hamilton, with the city seeing a record number of hate crimes in 2021.

Hamilton Police Services recorded 21 hate crimes last year — more than 2019, 2018 and 2017 combined.

Police also said there were 108 reported hate incidents (87 of which weren't considered crimes), a 35 per cent increase from 2020. But the figure is around average when compared to past years.

Almost all reported local hate crimes and incidents last year in Hamilton targeted Black, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ communities.

The rise in hate incidents is part of a national trend, with Statistics Canada data showing 3,360 of them across the country compared to 2,073 in 2017.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters