So, here we are. It’s November, we’ve been in lockdown mode for three-quarters of a year, it gets dark at like 3pm, and all we have to look forward to is the air hurting our faces. Why do we live in Toronto again? Oh, right—to be part of a fabulous Jewish community and get access to programming like Holocaust Education Week! Wait, did you say it’s all online now and can be accessed from anywhere? Ah.
Holocaust Education Week
If you’ve never participated in Holocaust Education Week (HEW) because the locations were too far, or you couldn’t convince your one Jewish friend to join, this is your moment!
HEW usually takes place the first week of November, so it’s a bit late to tune in live for most of it, but you can still access much of the recorded programming and register for the upcoming events.
This year’s programming includes book launches, conversations with Holocaust survivors, and more. Be sure to catch all of the film screenings through the end of November and into December; two films that piqued my interest are Holy Silence, which explores the Catholic Church’s response to the Holocaust, and Feels Good Man, which shows how the innocuous meme Pepe the Frog came to symbolize the alt-right.
The film series incorporates discussions with researchers (and George Takei). I’m especially interested in the discussion around Soros’, Puppets: anti-Semitism and COVID-19, which as HEW states on their website, examines “the historical underpinnings of conspiratorial antisemitism, and how social media and memes have been central to their spread”. Prepare to learn about the rise of meme culture and how it has been used to spread anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, particularly during the COVID-19 era. Did you know that anti-mask conspiracies have co-opted Holocaust imagery and antisemitic arguments? Tune in to learn more.
Liberation75 is the world’s largest international event to mark the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust. It was originally scheduled for May 31-June 2 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre but of course, COVID-19 threw a wrench in those plans and a virtual conference is being planned for the Spring of 2021.
In the meantime, you can check out their online programs. Liberation75 aims to “explore the past, present, and future of Holocaust education and remembrance through captivating discussions and presentations, interactive workshops, survivor testimony, films, artistic and musical performances, unique exhibits, ground-breaking technology, and more”.
Upcoming dates include November 19—‘Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz’ (screened at TIFF 2018)—and more in December. Keep your eyes out in the new year for announcements!
In-person art & galleries!
If you’re a visual art type of person, the independent downtown art gallery FENSTER is one of the only non-virtual exhibits to remain open in Toronto. It’s simply a gallery window in the Toronto Makom storefront, which presents rotating exhibitions of new work connected to the Jewish experience. Mark your calendars for December 2, when you can tune in to watch a conversation on art and identity by a group of Canadian and U.S. artists who identify as Black and Jewish—meet Ella Cooper, Rebecca S’manga Frank, Sara Yacobi-Harris, Kendell Pinkney and Anthony Russell.
This online event of discussion and multi-disciplinary art was inspired by the current exhibition in the FENTSTER window gallery, Witness by Ella Cooper (go check it out in person if you haven’t yet!), and the program has been developed by Kendell Pinkney and FENTSTER curator Evelyn Tauben. This program is presented through the participation of various Canadian Jewish organizations including the Miles Nadal JCC, No Silence on Race (check out their op-ed in this month’s edition here) and Jews of Colour Canada.
The Ontario Jewish Archives
The Ontario Jewish Archives has adapted to the current circumstances by mounting many of their exhibitions online (including the fascinating Southern Africa Legacy project), but they have also continued their tradition of in-person exhibitions at both the Prosserman JCC and the Schwartz-Reisman JCC.
Next time you are at these centres, be sure to check out the Athletes and Artists photography collection and explore the exhibit on Toronto’s Garment Unions, which showcases an era when Jewish immigrants dominated Toronto’s garment trades as workers, union leaders and manufacturers.
As the OJA states on their website:
“It was a time when low wages, long hours, and hazardous working conditions were the norm; when striking was a common part of the working class experience; when the Russian Revolution and other political developments influenced the ideologies of a new generation; and when Spadina was the focal point of Jewish working class life”.
Koffler Centre for the Arts
The Koffler Gallery is another organization that has managed to facilitate both online and in-person programming.
Most recently the gallery had an archive on Natalie Brettschneider, curated by visual artist Carol Sawyer, and next up is the exhibit “A Heap of Random Sweepings”, coming in January. If you’re reading this article on the day it comes out, you can catch the 2020 Vine Awards Online Ceremony, which awards Canadian Jewish Literature (in Fiction, History, Non-Fiction and Young Adult/Children’s categories), with the winning authors attending virtually! Be sure to check back regularly for announcements of upcoming gallery conversations.
That’s all for this month, folks! I hope the arts are helping you through these times. It’s a consolation that we can still learn, connect, and remember together. Contact me on Twitter at @LaraBee713 and let me know what you’re tuning in for in November!
Header image designed by Orly Zebak.
Lara Bulger has a deep-rooted commitment to the arts. With a Bachelor’s degree in Music with minors in Film and English, plus a Master’s Degree in Arts Leadership, she is passionate about the capacity of art to bring about social change. Lara is currently pursuing her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, focusing on documentary film and its social, political and cultural impacts.