From May 21 to May 26, a group of 23 Ottawa community members, including four Past Chairs of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa — Stephen Greenberg, Ron Prehogan, Ian Sherman, and Hartley Stern — embarked on a mission to Israel. This journey, experienced by Jewish and Christian participants, underscored the urgent necessity to move beyond passive reactions to antisemitism and supporting Israel actively.

During their visit, they encountered the resilience and courage of the Israeli people firsthand. They heard heart-wrenching stories from families affected by Hamas' brutality, paid respects at the gravesites of victims, and witnessed the profound strength of individuals like Omri, an amputee soldier. These experiences highlighted Israel's indomitable spirit and the critical need for solidarity.

The mission also included acts of support like gleaning fields to feed families in need, and assisting organizations like Brothers for Life. These efforts emphasized the importance of taking tangible actions rather than merely expressing outrage.

The delegation urges the Ottawa community to combat antisemitism vigorously and ensure political leaders address these issues. They call for proactive involvement and assert that silence equates to complicity. The message is clear: act now, support Israel, and fight against antisemitism with unwavering resolve.

Dear friends,

All of us have acquired genetically or through experience, defence mechanisms that protect us. The physical dangers are easier to recognize and react to: we fear, we flee, or we fight. Emotional threats are more complicated, and so are the ways we protect ourselves.

Our recent extraordinary mission to Israel, experienced by 23 Jewish and Christian souls from Ottawa, brought home the urgent need to overcome our natural inclination to say, “antisemitism is terrible; Hamas is evil,” then shake our heads in dismay, circulate eloquent emails and editorials, and rail against these forces among ourselves. It is not bad to be angry and to vent, however neither of these emotions are helpful to us personally, or to Canadian Jews, and Israel.

During our mission, we once again experienced the extraordinary resilience of the Israeli people, as well as the power of individuals and a vibrant civil society making a profound difference.

We spent several hours at the Hostage Forum and Hostage Square, likely the most dynamic building and property in the world at this time, where we heard the painful stories from family members of those still held in captivity and from some whose loved ones were murdered, some slaughtered. To Michal, Shalom, and Moran, and to so many others, our hearts will forever be with you as we together continue to sing Hatikvah, our anthem of hope, despite your living 24/7 with such emotional turmoil given Hamas’ brutality and psychological torture. You represent a brilliant and vibrant demonstration of the togetherness of Israel and the Jewish people, and our collective resilience.

We cried together when we saw the site of the murders at the Nova Festival with the resultant memorials, where only seven-and-a-half months earlier Israelis and others from around the world danced all night, dreaming of peace. In honour of those murdered, we recited El Maleh Rachamim and Kaddish.

We were in distress listening to Chen Kotler talk about her friends at Kibbutz Kfar Azza where 300 Hamas terrorists invaded a beautiful community on October 7, killing 64 Jews and kidnapping 19 others, with 5 hostages still being held in Gaza captivity.

We were speechless as we stopped at the bus/bomb shelter where Hersh Goldberg was sheltering with others, and where his best friend Aner Shapira sacrificed his life as he threw back seven grenades fired into the shelter by the terrorists thus saving several lives. Despite these heroic efforts, Hersh was kidnapped by Hamas.

We were stunned staring at the room where six young female soldiers at the Nachal Oz IDF base were burned to death. Nachal Oz is viewed as an epicentre of October 7 when Hamas took over this base, which is located a mere 200 metres from the Gaza border, and where 400 terrorists arrived and killed 60 Israelis.

We also met people who experienced extraordinary pain such as Ottawa native Jacqui and Yaron Vital whose daughter Adi, the fierce lioness, was murdered by Hamas on October 7 in front of her two young children; the parents of the fallen soldier at the military base; and the young amputee, Omri who we met in the Sheba Hospital’s Integrated Rehabilitation Centre. Omri lost his left leg on Day 91 in Khan Younis when a house collapsed, his leg was mangled, his shoulder dislocated, and the right side of his face disfigured including a severely damaged eye socket. What an incredibly courageous young man who filled the room with admiration and love.

We will always be amazed at the superhuman strength and courage of these individuals, and we found it humbling and inspiring to listen, and to be with them, to love them and to support them. Accompanied by her parents, we had the opportunity to pay our respects at Adi’s graveside in Beit Shemesh Cemetery where we also visited the graves of beloved Ottawans Rabbi Reuven Bulka Z’L and Howie Osterer Z’L.

Our mission, however, was also designed to not simply shake our heads but to crystallize ways in which we could overcome our natural inclinations to protect ourselves and to act. And so we barbequed for soldiers who were so happy to see us. We gleaned the fields as volunteers picking 2.5 tons of Kohirabi at Leket, Rishon Lezion, sufficient to feed 1,000 families in need; and we packed lunches at Crave Restaurant in Jerusalem embossed with handcrafted messages of hope, love and prayers for the soldiers.

It was so inspiring to see what the Shuva Brothers are doing at Shuva Junction, feeding the soldiers and equipping them with other needs 24/7; to meet Zaka volunteer extraordinaire, the heroic Irene Nurit Cohn, the first female member of Zaka; and then on our last day, to visit Brothers for Life in Kfar Truman where beautiful lands were transformed into a facility created some 20 years ago which is run by injured Israeli veterans to supply critical and immediate help to other injured Israeli combat veterans, including some from October 7 – “Brothers for Life” who took it upon themselves to transform the terror and torture they experienced into an opportunity to help others.

And when we danced joyfully with thousands at the Kotel on Kabbalat Shabbat, the message we heard clearly was that Israel is not going away, and that Jews are not going away. To the rest of the world, Get used to it!

Collectively, we felt a compelling need to go to Israel at this time, and we thought the best way to do it would be with a mission where we knew we would see things and meet people that we never could see or meet as individual tourists. And we felt the need to be with other members of our own community to share what we were experiencing, both during and after the trip.

Every mission is different and the context within which we visit Israel also changes. This was undeniably a remarkable mission because it came seven-and-a-half months after the most horrific attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and amidst an existential war with Iran and its proxies. And at a time when Israel has been deserted by the global community and is in such great need of our love and support.

We were all so moved and inspired by what we saw and experienced and we have come home with a pledge to ensure that we tell as many people as possible what we saw and that we attempt, in any conceivable way that we can, to support Israel and to vigorously fight back against antisemitism.

As our Christian souls on this trip remarked immediately upon landing back in Ottawa: “Missing our Israeli family ... very much. What an incredible experience being able to share in your culture, community, history, suffering and laughter. Every day was deeply meaningful and impactful. So much to reflect on and we’ll never forget this week as long as we live. Prayers and well wishes to everyone. Very much looking forward to seeing you all again soon, perhaps next year in Jerusalem! L’Chaim! 🇮🇱 ♥️.” We thank Adam and Salem, for standing with us as Jews and “on the right side of history.”

As Shifra Scher remarked, “at the end of the day, regardless of how we look, what we believe, our financial position, or how we identify, we are all the same. We are all simply and gloriously human beings. And, as we witnessed, we have unbelievable power. The list of experiences we witnessed displaying the incredible strength, courage, ingenuity, and overall potential of a human being goes on and on. And as painful and infuriating as it is to accept that people exist who channel all of their G-d given strengths for evil, we are comforted by the overwhelming opposite that we were fortunate to experience. We are comforted seeing the indomitable spirit of the people of Israel who rise to the occasion and tap into reservoirs of strength that they themselves likely didn’t think they were capable of.”

Our message to you is:

There are things you can do to counter antisemitism on our campuses, and to support the brave soldiers of the IDF who are not just fighting for Israel but for Jews everywhere. Work with your friends and business colleagues to ensure that your MPs, MPPs, city councillors, university presidents, unions, and professional associations are actually listening and speaking out, and asserting that they are in fact complicit in antisemitism by being silent; that the true genocide is being conducted by Hamas, not Israel; and that you will vote for and support those that are listening to you. Nor will we sit on the sidelines and accept the unconscionable laundered propaganda that Israel and the Jewish people continue to face. We heard the admonition very clearly from one of the soldiers: “The Honeymoon is over; stay Jewish!” These soldiers are fighting the battle for Israel in Gaza. We must fight the antisemitism battle here in Ottawa with equal strength and fervour. 

So please, overcome your natural defence mechanisms and shout your anger from the roof tops. In the words of our closing speaker, the esteemed Irwin Cotler, we are facing a toxic threat to our democracy and the laundering of global antisemitism, the embers of which were burning long before October 7. The hostages are prisoners of crimes against humanity. Israel faces a multi-front war orchestrated by Iran and is then singled out for indictment, not just for Jews but for Canadians and the broader international community.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss how we can all make a difference, with the inspiration and the knowledge that we too are capable of so much more than we often give ourselves credit for.

We thank Rabbi Idan Scher for his determination and persistence in making this trip happen and for the exceptional leadership that he and his rabbinic colleagues continue to provide to our community.


Shabbat Shalom and Am Yisrael Chai,


Stephen, Ron, Ian, and Hartley