Source: Unsplash

A Jewish mom living in downtown Toronto can’t believe her 10-year-old daughter was recently harassed during recess by a loud and aggressive crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Given that the protest occurred in the middle of the school day, she has as much of a hard time understanding why the protesters — mostly from two nearby public high schools — were allowed to leave class to scream and shout on downtown streets and harass other young students.

The mom, a former human rights lawyer who did not want to be named for safety reasons, says the protesters marched by the elementary school’s playground on an afternoon just before March break.

She says their chants of  “Free Gaza,” “Free Palestine,” and “From the River to the Sea” caused her daughter and a fellow Israeli student to burst into tears.

To make matters worse, some of the young kids outside with her daughter started chanting right along.

She said 10-year-olds know that “Free Gaza” is a derogatory term.

When the protesters say “From the River to the Sea,” what they mean is that Israel should be eliminated.  It is antisemitic, she added.

”It created quite a commotion in the schoolyard,” she said, adding that some of her daughter’s classmates started mocking the two girls for crying.

One child even heard, “We hate the Jews.”

She has no issue with the teachers or principal, who were very caring. She learned that the protest was part of several planned for that day in the Toronto area.

Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said he’s not familiar with the incident in question but the policy is that students are marked absent if they are not in class and don’t have parental permission.

He added that the students’ parents are contacted about the absence.

That doesn’t seem to matter much given the Toronto school board’s lax attendance policies and the fact that the mom is living in a very left-wing part of Toronto.

It seems that parents likely don’t care if their kids leave class in the name of alleged social justice.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t sit well with this mom.

”I am outraged that our publicly funded spaces and institutions are normalizing antisemitism and  calling it free speech,” she said.

She added that it has become clear to her that, while compassionate and caring, the school staff don’t have what is needed to fight antisemitism. 

Whatever the intended purpose of their presence, having the Safe and Caring Schools representative observe a protest seems to condone it.

The school is not able either to stop parents with no affiliation to the Middle East from dropping their kids off each day sporting keffiyehs, she said.

The mom registered what transpired as a hate incident with B’nai Brith and UJA.

She feels the bigger issue is what constitutes “safe and legal” when it comes to antisemitic comments.

“It’s like the government is waiting for people to say ‘we hate the Jews’ or ‘kill the Jews’ or to kill someone to actually make it count as hate speech,” she said.

“And a keffiyeh is no different to a Jew than a KKK outfit is to a black person, yet somehow it’s socially acceptable.”


  • Sue-Ann Levy

    A two-time investigative reporting award winner and nine-time winner of the Toronto Sun’s Readers Choice award for news writer, Sue-Ann Levy made her name for advocating the poor, the homeless, the elderly in long-term care and others without a voice and for fighting against the striking rise in anti-Semitism and the BDS movement across Canada.