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Ontario Jewish community hoping to grow runs afoul of Israeli envoy

Of a Canadian city’s outreach to doctors looking to move, the Montreal-based diplomat calls it “cynicism or just irony” to “actively work to weaken Israel’s ability to treat our wounded.”

Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, as seen from the city of Detroit. Credit: Daniel J. Macy/Shutterstock.
Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, as seen from the city of Detroit. Credit: Daniel J. Macy/Shutterstock.

Thanks to a new Canadian law, Israelis and Palestinians who are already in Canada or are certain close relatives of Canadian citizens living in the country are eligible for fee-exempt, three-year study or work permits.

“The scale of this humanitarian crisis is devastating, and the situation on the ground is challenging. Israelis and Palestinians in Canada will continue to find safety here, and we will do what we can to help loved ones who have fled the region, as well as eligible family members who remain in Gaza,” stated Marc Miller, Canadian minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“We will continue to remain flexible with our response so we can meet the unique needs of those who require our support,” he added.

Dan Brotman, the executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation and Community Centre in Ontario, Canada (near Detroit), told JNS that the development solidified many Israelis’ existing plans to resettle in Canada.

Brotman saw this working with his community’s J Welcome Home project, which helps Jews relocate to Windsor, where its Jewish population of 1,500 hopes to increase.

The program offers free consultation, helps schedule exploratory visits, secures employment and housing, and provides newcomers with grants of up to about $3,700 for moving expenses.

The majority have come from the United States, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, Brotman told JNS.

“If one has already made the decision to move abroad, we encourage them to consider helping to grow a smaller Jewish community like ours,” he said. “It is better that they move in partnership with the local Jewish community than move and remain unaffiliated.”

“Our only incentive is to grow our community,” he said.

Inquiries from Israel began to spike in March during protests of Israeli judicial reform, when the Jewish People Policy Institute reported that many Israelis were seriously considering leaving.

Dan Brotman
Dan Brotman, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation and Community Centre in Ontario, Canada. Credit: Courtesy.

On Nov. 29, J Welcome Home Windsor ran one of its latest free virtual workshops to discuss how the program works. An Israeli-born member of the community who has lived in Canada for more than 20 years and a South African relocating the following month to Windsor through the program addressed the online participants.

“The majority, although not all, of the attendees were Israeli, in keeping with the trend that we have been seeing, given the push of both judicial reform and the war,” Brotman told JNS.

After the workshop, the group received many inquiries from Israeli doctors who attended and sought more information about the long, complex relicensing process.

Cynicism or irony?

J Welcome Home Windsor invited the same doctors and others to an information session on Dec. 20 to hear from Dr. Zoia Sherman about her journey moving to Canada from Israel more than 30 years ago.

“The people we work with have already made the decision to move abroad, and they contact us because they want more information about life here, or are interested in moving through our program,” Brotman said.

A day after the webinar, he posted on Facebook: “We had the privilege of hosting nearly 50 Israeli doctors for a workshop focused on the intricacies of relocating to Canada.” Those comments spurred a public spat with Paul Hirschson, the Israeli consul general in Montreal.

“Is it cynicism or just irony that while you actively work to weaken Israel’s ability to treat our wounded, the executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation ‘Stands with Israel’” Hirschson wrote on the Facebook post.

Hirschson discussed his response with JNS.

“Couldn’t he have had the decency to say, ‘We’ll put this on hold for a few months,’” Hirschson said. “The single most sensitive profession—the only profession, doctors and nurses, that Israel has asked for volunteers for. To brag about it. The timing is shameful. It’s how it looks and smells at this time in history.”

Windsor Canada
Source: Facebook.

Brotman told JNS that he was reporting a fact and that the workshops were marketed, in English, to Jewish physicians and not exclusively to Israeli ones.

“If you are a foreign-trained doctor considering practicing in Canada, I highly recommend watching this session for comprehensive insights and guidance,” the original posts said, directing readers to the group’s webpage.

The webinars and online posts were “very cynically exploiting the timing of the Oct. 7 massacre,” Hirschson told JNS. The Israeli envoy believes that Montreal’s Jewish Federation “wouldn’t in 1,000 years campaign to convince Israelis to come here” after the crisis.

Brotman denies any such motive but contends that Toronto’s UJA Federation has openly marketed to Israelis in local Jewish media off the heels of Oct. 7.

“I’d be interested to know why Paul decided to pick on me and Windsor, rather than directing his animus” at Toronto, said Brotman.

Vigorously defending Israel

A Boston native, Brotman made aliyah and served in the Israel Defense Forces before moving to South Africa, where he ran a company that connected local entrepreneurs to Israel, often on trips.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he accepted his current job. He has “defended Israel vigorously since Oct. 7 in the media in Windsor,” he told JNS.

Beyond the social-media post, Hirschson told JNS he questions the perceived optics of Brotman’s new consulting business, which helps new immigrants, believing that he’s “cynically exploiting the timing” of the Oct. 7 attacks to bring in more Israeli clients.

Hirschson thinks it is “taking advantage of Israel’s weakness to advance two projects of his.”

Brotman told JNS that he launched his business, Rootless Mobility, at the beginning of 2023 “with the full permission” of the local Jewish Federation.

He added that his clients range in religious beliefs and country of origin—mostly, Europe, Australia and New Zealand—and that any client looking for specific Jewish assistance is steered to the community’s organization.

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