Preventing Violent Extremism in London, ON

Rabbi Catharine Clark @ Congregation Or Shalom
April 4, 2017 ▪ London, Ontario

Recent threats of violent extremism have had two main effects on our congregation, one negative and one positive.

The negative effect is that these threats have diverted volunteer and financial resources from our core mission. Our congregation exists to help our members celebrate weddings, mourn loved ones, observe Jewish holidays, and fulfill commandments like visiting the sick and alleviating the suffering of the poor. These activities require committed volunteer leadership and money.

In response to the threats of violence, we have had to focus instead on security. Rather than board meetings to plan for Purim and Passover, we have had to hold meetings about responding to various security contingencies. Rather than budgeting for better food at Shabbat Kiddush or fancier decorations at Purim, we have had to divert money to security upgrades. Rather than spend every available classroom minute on teaching our young people about Jewish customs or current events in Israel, class time has been spent reassuring students that they are safe. Our synagogue, like every synagogue I know, has limited volunteer and financial resources, so it is discouraging to have to divert these resources from our purpose because of the threat of violence.

On a positive note, we have strengthened our bonds with the larger community. The Jewish community in Canada is far from the only minority community to be imperiled in recent months. The threats to the safety of others has opened our eyes to how our peace and security is connected to that of Muslims, First Nations, Hindus, LBGTQ+, and every other minority in Canada. Thus, we are spending more time on interfaith activities, work that is enriching in its own right.

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