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MP COTLER STRESSES SECURE DEMOCRACY AT FIRST TORONTO LIMMUD FSU

Not for the first time, Jewish Canadian MP Irwin Cotler was banned earlier this year, along with 12 other Canadian politicians, from travel in Russia by President Vladimir Putin. This time it was in response to Canadian sanctions on Russia for its role in the wide-spread Ukrainian unrest.

Cotler reacted to the March announcement on his official Twitter feed, posting, “I see my travel ban from Russia as a badge of honour, not a mark of exclusion.”

Also on Twitter, the former law professor wrote, “I was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1979. I did not stop fighting for human rights then, nor will I stop now.”

It was therefore fitting that Cotler headlined the inaugural Canadian Limmud FSU last weekend in Huntsville, Ontario, where — on the heels of Wednesday’s jihadist-inspired Ottawa Parliament shooting — he emphasized the need for secure democracy in the peace-loving country.

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“Canada is a country that takes pride in its openness, freedom and democracy, but at this point, the Canadian government needs to take the right measures to ensure that it remains not only peaceful but also secured in a way that we combat the threats,” said Cotler in front of an audience of some 500 Russian-speaking Jews.

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“Security has to be expanded, but not at the expense of freedom. We need to protect democracy, but also to protect our citizens,” he said.

Canada is home to an estimated 70,000-plus Russian-speaking Jews, a significant proportion of its 330,000-strong Jewish community. Toronto’s Jewish community is considered the fourth largest in North America.

This weekend’s inaugural Limmud FSU Canada conference was launched in collaboration with UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Included in its eclectic menu of topics were the Islamic State, the crisis in Ukraine, Jewish life in the Russian Empire, the Russian-speaking Jewish elite in Russia, and more light-hearted sessions such as “The Shadchan – the Art of Jewish Matchmaking” and a kosher wine workshop.

As in other international Limmud conferences, the whole family was invited and at the picturesque Canadian resort, nature walks, theater and programs for children were also on offer.

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In addition to Cotler, who served as the honorary chair of Limmud FSU Canada, as a nod to the landmark event, the conference was attended by Israel’s Minister of Culture & Sport Limor Livnat, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Russian-Canadian businessman Marat Ressin, philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, who serves as Limmud FSU chair, and co-founders of Limmud FSU Chaim Chesler and Sandra Cahn.

Limmud, originally a conference for UK Jewish educators in the mid-1970s, has since the 1990s sponsored pluralistic conferences around England, and eventually in some 80 communities around the world.

Eight years ago Limmud FSU, for emigres from the former Soviet Union, was founded by Chesler and Cahn to serve young Russian-speaking Jews scattered in the Diaspora. The organization operates in the FSU, as well as the US, Israel, and — as of last week — Canada.

Read more: MP Cotler stresses secure democracy at first Toronto Limmud FSU | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/mp-cotler-stresses-secure-democracy-at-first-toronto-limmud-fsu/#ixzz3HLkhb9HM