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Concordia Chanukah Rally

And now, to write about what happened tonight at Concordia:

I arrived at about a quarter to five, unsure what to expect in terms of turnout – after all, this event had been organized less than 24 hours in advance, and students are in the middle of final exams. No sooner did I get there but I caught sight of people walking in with sound equipment and others carrying large Israeli flags. After a few minutes went by, the crowd in the lobby began multiplying exponentially. There was a bit of confusion as to the location of the event, and then everyone was asked to enter the H-110 auditorium and have a seat. By the time the event began, the auditorium was more than half full; by the time it ended, it was well over three-quarters. Definitely an amazing accomplishment in terms of sheer numbers!

Noah Sarna, co-president of Concordia Hillel, spoke first. He welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, and told us that we were there to celebrate our freedom, just as the Maccabees proclaimed theirs. Noah spoke briefly but powerfully, and then passed the microphone over to the president of McGill Hillel.

He spoke more at length about the issues that Concordia is facing, and how this is big news not only at Concordia, but at McGill, in the greater Montreal Jewish community, across Canada, the US, Europe, Israel, and around the world. “We are a small people,” he said, “with Am Echad, Lev Echad – one nation, one heart!” (Judging by the amount of e-mails of support I’m receiving from around the world, I’d have to say he’s right).

Next to speak was Rabbi Reuven Poupko, who is very active in community and campus affairs. Rabbi Poupko definitely knows how to work a crowd. He spoke passionately about how targeting Hillel is antisemitism, no matter how the CSU tries to cloak it. He said that Hillel is being targeted not because of any law, but because it is a Jewish students’ organization. And that the CSU only believes in freedom of speech when it agrees with what is being said.

At that point, some pro-Palestinian hecklers began shouting from the back of the auditorium, hoping to agitate the crowd. At first, heads turned as they distracted us. Rabbi Poupko addressed them directly, claiming that if they truly believed in freedom of speech and democracy, they would be right down there in support of Hillel. He then began talking about how there is no democracy or freedom in most of the Arab world, and how despite the abuses and lack of freedom, the words “human rights” are only used in the context of criticizing Israel. “When democracy and freedom comes to the Arab nations of the Middle East,” he shouted over the heckling, “then there will be peace!” This drew loud cheers and a standing ovation, but it wasn’t as loud as the cheering when he declared, shouting into the microphone, “AM YISRAEL CHAI!”

That was the signal for the time to light the menorah. The crowd was implored to ignore the hecklers and face the front, and Hillel led everyone in the singing of the Chanukah brachot while they lit the electric menorah. The singing drowned out whatever heckling was still going on – which was minimal – and as soon as we finished the brachot, we went straight into Chanukah songs – Maoz Tzur, for example – and then began singing Israeli folk songs, leading off with “Am Yisrael Chai”. Dancing broke out at the front, with circles of men and women doing the hora around the Israeli flag. Everyone stood and clapped and sang along.

This went on for about twenty minutes. Then, Noah Sarna once again stepped to the microphone and thanked everyone for being there, and stressed the importance of leaving peacefully and not getting drawn into a fight. Before we left, we all stood and sang Hatikvah together, proclaiming once and for all that the Jewish voices at Concordia will not be silenced!

The scene in the lobby afterwards was pretty calm, with most people just talking amongst themselves and their friends. At one point, I saw people with cameras running outside. I followed to see what was going on. A police car was there. I couldn’t see that well because of the crowd but apparently, Palestinian activist Samer Elatrash was arrested, ostensibly for violating the terms of his bail (after being arrested for participating in the anti-Netanyahu violence on September 9th, he’s only allowed on campus for classes and exams). The cameras seemed to be busy interviewing Elatrash’s buddies, and I’m sure that that’s the message that the mainstream media will carry – not the overwhelming message of peace and freedom that the rally was all about. And as much as that bothers me, I know what I saw. I know what happened. And I think that despite efforts to disrupt things, Hillel and the Jewish community organized an event that was an overwhelming success.

I invite anyone who attended the event to e-mail me with their firsthand accounts. I’m only one person, with two eyes and two ears (and no camera), so the more stories the better. If you give me permission I’ll post them.

Concordia has been hijacked. It’s time to reclaim it as an environment of equality, openness, and freedom for all.

Update: I accidentally and erroneously referred to Samer Elatrash as a CSU vice-president. This is incorrect. The reference has been removed, and I apologize for the error. Mr. Elatrash is, in fact, a former member of the CSU council of representatives, not of the executive.

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • A. M. Wilson 12.06.02, 1:17 AM

    Congratulations! I’m so proud of you and those who went for standing up for yourselves and for free speech. Keep up the good work!

  • Mike G 12.06.02, 1:23 AM

    Great report, and impressive to read how peaceful and positive the audience was (in contrast to other recent events one might name). Cheers to Hillel, shame on Concordia.

  • Shlinkin 12.06.02, 1:32 AM

    Segacs, you are an amazing journalist. The anti semites at “the link” (and they can be boldly called anti-semites, after that horrific sexist goebbels fest this week) must be horrified that an alternative voice is finally appearing.

    We all know how this will appear in the media. But who cares anymore. Take back Concordia. Take back Montreal.

    Nothing scares the aryan youth at the C-SSU-U more than jews standing up for themselves. Their fear of jews forms the basis of their ethos – the strong jews at Concordia tonight is their worst nightmare.

  • segacs 12.06.02, 1:41 AM

    Thanks for the compliment, Shlinkin, but I’m no journalist. I’m just a pissed-off former Concordia student who likes to speak my mind.

  • dennisw 12.06.02, 1:51 AM

    I am proud of you kiddo. Proud of your friends too. You have brought great honor to the Jewish people. At the same time you have done the right thing.

    May G_d bless you for standing up to your local Jihadists. They are as rabid as their Pallie cousins.

  • Lowell 12.06.02, 2:16 AM

    It’s kind of fitting that his name is ElaTRASH, isn’t it?

    Thank you for standing up for yourself, in the face of some awful hatred and intimidation. You do us all proud.

  • ellie 12.06.02, 2:17 AM

    Keep up the good work.

  • Yoni Freeman 12.06.02, 2:26 AM

    Long Live Israel
    Down with Palestinian Terrorism and Anti-Israel Propaganda.

    Israel’s war on terrorism=US war on terrorism.

  • Meryl Yourish 12.06.02, 3:44 AM

    Bravo. Mazel Tov. I’m ashamed for suggesting that Jews give up the fight the other day.

    Never again means never let it get that far, as well.

    I’ll be falling asleep with an ear-to-ear grin thanks to the events of tonight, and your account of the same.

  • Bill Herbert 12.06.02, 3:48 AM

    Excellent report. Has Hillel tried to contact any other Canadian media besides the Montreal Gazette?

    Also, would you happen to know what other media attended? I’m simply astonished that no Canadian newspapers have been covering this.

  • Whackadoodle 12.06.02, 4:38 AM

    Arrived here via Instapundit, viewing your blog from Atlanta, Georgia. Good work & keep it up. I’m not Jewish, but I would have gone to your rally!!


  • Dave 12.06.02, 4:57 AM

    Ok. The most surreal moment happenned after all the heckling died down and Rabbi Poupko “lit” the electric chanukia. The Jewish kid (The one that introduced Svend Robinson) that hangs with Samer Elatrash and Leith Marouf started singing along to the prayers and the songs. Samer left but Leith stuck around and when the dancing happenned, I swear Leith and his gang started clapping along… It was strange but, maybe it gave me a glimmer of hope.

    Of course afterwards, they made it a point to sit during the singing of Hatikva and Leith called us all fascists outside while upset over the arrest of his buddy Samer. Oh well. Maybe someone should go to station 13 and give the boy some latkes? He’s too skinny!

  • Daniel King 12.06.02, 3:21 PM

    Happy to hear about your successful celebration standing up to hypocrisy.



  • Talia Gur-esh 12.06.02, 5:35 PM

    Hi Segacs,
    I was there tonight as well (in fact, in the top picture thats me holding the flag), as you stated it was definitely the best Chaunkah event ive ever attended. The sense of unity was astounding.

  • Yehudit 12.06.02, 5:49 PM

    Yasher koach to all of you. The best news of this hanukkah week for me.

  • Gil Shterzer 12.06.02, 8:12 PM

    While facing suicide bombings and other shit here in Israel a problem like you had in Concordia, of people trying to silence Jewish voices, is something I’m not familiar with. Being able to live my life as a Jew without anyone trying to pick on me for my religious looks obvious to me, but I guess it’s a privilege reserved to those who live in Israel.

    Well done for your struggle.

  • segacs 12.06.02, 11:14 PM

    Gil, shout it loud and clear. That’s what Israel is all about. That’s what we’re trying to fight for here. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • buzz 12.07.02, 1:01 AM

    Very inspiring; I’m full of love and admiration for your strength and pride.

  • Hanthala 12.07.02, 6:58 PM

    Dave, the reason we clapped along with the rest of you after the ligthing of the minorah (can someone please give me the spelling on that?) is because we don’t oppose Jews or Judaism. I had never attended a Hanukkah celebration–on a Muslim Holiday no less–and I have much respect for people’s spiritual beliefs. I was shocked, on the other hand, to hear the Israeli national anthem. Was it a religious celebration or a political pep rally? After all, Muslims are forever criticized for wanting a Muslim state–something I don’t want to see, anywhere–and for mixing politics and religion, with sometimes disatrous effects as shown by groups like Hamas. Yet mixing another religion, Judaism, with politics can have as disatrous of an effect as shown by the settler fundamentalists whose motivation for increasing settlement (while further dispossing Palestinians) across the Occupied Territories, thereby further agravating the conflict, is religious. Incidently, it is these organizations that Hillel was recruiting for and the B’nai Brith and CJC condoned Thursday night. This leads me to believe that what I saw was a Kahanist pep rally, using religion as a cover.

  • segacs 12.08.02, 2:44 AM

    Hanthala, Judaism is both a culture and a religion, and a core part of our national identity as well. With rare exceptions, most Jewish people identify with Eretz Yisrael, and Israel is a Jewish state in both a religious and a national context. It is also a democracy. If the two seem incompatible, it’s because you’re used to the traditional American and Canadian definitions with separation of church and state and all that, but that isn’t the case with Israel.

    The objection to Muslim states isn’t because they’re Muslim, but because they’re undemocratic (i.e. they’re totalitarian regimes where freedoms are nonexistant and minorities are persecuted).

    I understand that your vision is a secular state in the region currently containing Israel. But the whole point of Israel’s existence is to be a Jewish state, for the Jewish people – a state where Jews who are being persecuted in other parts of the world can be welcomed with open arms, and a state where Jewish culture makes up the core of the culture. That’s Israel’s “raison d’etre”, if you will. I realize you object to that, but you can’t just separate Hatikvah from the lighting of the candles in a clear-cut way like that. The two are intertwined.

    (And by the way, the usual English spelling is “menorah”, but it’s a Hebrew word, so any English variation is fine.)

  • Shlinkin 12.08.02, 3:55 AM

    Hanthala. So good to see you don’t hate jews, just Israelis. This will provide much comfort to the dead.

    Just don’t whine about all the anti-islamism when we fight the butcher of bagdaddy, hokay? Hokay. Its nots i-slam (airplanes into buildings) the coalition hates, just the arabs. Surely you understand.

  • Hanthala 12.08.02, 9:18 AM

    Sneaky, I think (or maybe I should hope given the scope and audience on this site) that people can read for themselves that I don’t at all hate Israelis. Segacs, I don’t find the argument convincing and it still sounds like a double standard. The Jewish state is no more of a democracy than any state which grants special status and priviledges to people based on religion or ethnicity. Moreover, Judaism is a religion, not a culture (ask the Yemenis).

  • Shlinkin 12.08.02, 12:48 PM

    Sneaky. I like that. How original. You sure got some wit there, Hanthala. Is that what they teach at those Hamas camps?

  • Shlinkin 12.08.02, 7:27 PM

    I will answer for Hanthala, as she has the cat surgically removed from her tounge. She/he/it can’t mention the islamic political decreption because THEY CAN NEVER ADMIT THEY ARE WRONG. Ever.

    Don’t believe me? Try making one of the SPHR dmit error about anything. ANYTHING. They would rather blow themselves up (and I exagerate not) (I also spell not).

  • Lent 12.08.02, 10:07 PM

    Hanthala is interested in obfuscating the truth of the Arab Islamic (aka Palestinian) cause. A cause led for 30 years by a nazi the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Husayni who met with Hitler, toured some concentration camps and liked what he saw, organized an SS division in Bosnia, helped the pan-Albanian Muslims in Kosovo persecute and kill Serbs, Jews and Roma, planned with Nazi officials the liquidation of Jews in the British Mandate of “Palestine”, called for the slaughter of Jews when Resolution 181 was pronounced in Nov. of ’47, and when the Yishuv declared the State of Israel in 1948, etc. When Arab nationalism which easily took the form of nazism had birthed guys like Nasser and the Grand Mufti above, its legacy was to continue this ideology with terrorist animals such as Arafat.

    Hence we can see when “Palestinians” foment anti-social behaviour in Concordia (or anywhere else for that matter), that the philosophical basis of same is rooted in Arab Islamic nationalism (i.e, fascism) which brooks no opposition or dissent. Bibi was unwelcome because they believe that any Jew (or anyone else for that matter, ex. Stockwell Day’s comments) who speaks his mind regarding the truth of the Palestinian issue should be silenced by nook or by crook.

  • Hanthala 12.09.02, 12:20 AM

    Wow. So, according to your logic, in order to speak up for Palestinian human rights, one needs to speak about neighbouring states first. Poupko said as much. I don’t see the logic of it. You are all making some pretty serious assumptions about my identity, and based on that, dictating to me what my responsibilities are. As if Palestinians are responsible or accountable for the actions of neighbouring governments and/or of Muslims and pseudo-Muslims (ie. Ben Laden) internationally. Not racist, huh? Could have fooled the rest of us.

  • Hanthala 12.09.02, 12:27 AM

    Segacs, I can hear your comments about culture. There are atheist Jews after all. I still have a problem with a state that has had to resort to ethnic cleansing in order to declare itself a democracy. Israel is not a democracy, it is a democracy for Jews only. Arab-Israelis do not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis (within the green line-outside, of course, they are living an apartheid). There are the laws of return, of absentee ownership, of land ownership, etc. that make Israel a racist state.

  • segacs 12.09.02, 5:46 AM

    Judaism is a religion, a culture, and a national identity. You can’t just say it’s one without being the others. Everyone identifies with it in a personal way, and telling someone that their culture is “not a culture” is quite offensive, I feel.

  • Lent 12.09.02, 5:53 AM


    Why don’t you spend your time and energy raving about all those Islamic States (and principally) the Arab Islamic ones, covering huge land masses and not having a whit of democracy in them, instead of picking on little Israel? While you’re at it, you can comment on the Jew-free nature of most of them, after the benevolent Arab dictators cleansed them of Jews (about 800,000 of them). Oh I’m sorry, you’ll blame it on those “zionists”.

  • Lent 12.09.02, 5:20 PM

    “As if Palestinians are responsible or accountable for the actions of neighbouring governments and/or of Muslims and pseudo-Muslims (ie. Ben Laden) internationally. Not racist, huh? Could have fooled the rest of us.”

    Quite frankly , most of this diatribe, which passes for discussion on your part, is nothing but rhetorical nonsense. You never addressed the fact that the leadership of the Palestinians itself was fundamentally nazi in character. Nor the fact that they have participated in the Arab Islamic nationalist (fascist) movement from its growth at the begining of the 20th century. Never mind. It seems what passes for discussion on your part is to regurgitate the same old Arab Islamic refrain, about “occupied territories”, “oppression”, etc. etc.

  • Shlinkin 12.10.02, 12:43 AM

    Hanthala is a real advocate against ethnic cleansing. Uh, what the hell is terrorism?

  • Hanthala 12.10.02, 1:08 AM

    Where did I advocate terrorism? Are you assuming that because you also assumed that I’m Syrian? You make a lot of assumptions Slinky and guess what? They’re….racist 🙂

  • Shlinkin 12.10.02, 12:52 PM

    Hanthaliar, you are like a f**cking broken record with your “racism.” You are the racist, hanthaliar. And a poor debater, as well.

  • Jonny 12.12.02, 12:34 AM

    Hanthala, surely as a member of a minority group, you must realise that deliberate acts to isolate other minority groups, such as the jewish community at Concordia, will have a negative impulse on all minorities?

    I am a minority, when people critisize the Chinese, I am a Chinese, when people critisize the Muslims, I am a Muslim.

    Right now I am a proud proud Jew!

  • Jeff 12.13.02, 4:25 AM

    Unfortunately, we are a school who wants to be active politically…But has yet so much to learn about doing so in a fair, MATURE manner.I am a student in politcs (1st year), and what I’ve come to realize about Concordia, is that its a place that not only has much tension, but divisions which makes for a very uncomfortable environment for the entire student body.If only we can learn to live without hate, and forget all of our differences, or try to work on them in a rationale manner.
    I am very neutral on both parties. I am an observer, and what I see is a school that is used as an area in these parties’ favor in order to make their voices heard. I think I’m not alone when I say this:Let’s stop creating such a hostile environment at school, and find solutions as how we can do so by uniting together…Maybe some of you don’t realize that life is precious, and demonstrating hate just makes it even more precious.Lets continue to have peaceful rallies, which can maybe bring about positive change…

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