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Toronto school promoting Israeli military deemed ‘charity’

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At the start of March, 36 students at TanenbaumCHAT, Canada’s largest private high school, traveled to a state that has slaughtered 15,000 children over the past seven months. The Toronto high school described it as a “Solidarity Mission to Israel.” In its description of the trip, the school reports that students were “BBQ-ing for soldiers on an army base”.

The group also met privately with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who reportedly told them, “You are here — the first school since 7/10 — standing with us, and we stand with you. There are many voices against us, but I say to you all, be proud, stand strong. Together we will prevail.”

The students who participated in the “Solidarity Mission” reported back to the entire school about visiting a state committing genocide.

In another pro-war extracurricular, TanenbaumCHAT sent “almost 700” students on fifteen buses to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pro-genocide rally in Ottawa on December 4. The school also sent 150 students to a November 15 rally in Washington, D.C. promoting Israel’s killing in Gaza.

As Israel has unleashed a holocaust in Gaza, the school has repeatedly posted to its Facebook about initiatives it has organized to support that country. They recently hosted a “FUNDfair to raise money for Israel” and all grade 12s were given a copy of Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel Noa Tishby’s book Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth. The head of the colonial Jewish Agency and a mother of a captive in Gaza have also spoken at the school. An April 18 Passover message by the school’s head, Jonathan Levy, focused on the genocide in Gaza, describing “the centrality of Israel” to TanenbaumCHAT.

The registered Canadian charity has long promoted the apartheid state. According to TanenbaumCHAT’s statement of purpose, “Israel engagement pervades our curricular and extracurricular programming and it is a shared vision — part of the consciousness of all our teachers and educators. Through connecting with our staff, guests and visiting speakers, our students develop relationships with Israeli peers and other Israeli role models. Students enjoy special Israel weeks and IDF days.”

The school has an Israel Engagement club, organizes an Israel Gap Year Fair and a program in which young Israelis who spend a year in Toronto are seconded to the school. They also organize student trips to Zionist events such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C.

Israeli officials often speak at the school. Last year Israel’s minister for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, Amichai Chikli, visited the school as part of an initiative to substantially increase Israel’s investment in North American Jewish schools ($53 million was announced).

Canada’s largest private high school hosts “IDF Days” that fundraise for Israeli military initiatives. A summary of a 2020 IDF day noted that students “showed their support for the Israel Defence Forces by wearing green, eating green and donating green! Proceeds from the delicious green-sprinkled donuts that were sold during 10-minute break are being donated to help the well-being of Israeli soldiers on active duty on behalf of TanenbaumCHAT thru the Association for the Soldiers of Israel — Canada.”

As part of supporting a foreign military, TanenbaumCHAT has also induced students into joining the Israeli military in possible contravention of Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act. A year and a half ago the school honoured a member of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal, earlier the IDF Orchestra performed and in 2019 Colonel Barak Hiram spoke to the students about “being a new recruit and a seasoned commander in the Golani Brigade.” The school’s website advertised a fund that assists students wanting to join the Israeli military. It noted, the “Continuing Studies in Israel Judy Shaviv Memorial Fund ‘Keren Yad Yehudit’ assists graduates to serve in the IDF, study or volunteer.”

The high school also celebrates graduates who have served in the IDF and has them speak about joining the Israeli military. According to its site, “During Shavua Israel (Israel Week) in February 2020, Seth Frieberg ’08 [graduate] spoke to students about his experiences as a Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. Bringing into focus his personal connection to Israel, he noted that ‘this was basically 14 months where every day I was doing something that, for me, was a meaningful and substantial way to give back to Israel.’”

Registered charities are not allowed to support other countries’ militaries. Canada Revenue Agency guidelines state that “supporting the armed forces of another country is not” charitable. Last year a formal request was submitted to the CRA to investigate whether TanenbaumCHAT was complying with its rules. It’s unclear if the Revenue Agency acted as its audits are private matters. But the CRA should investigate the school and revoke its charitable status if it has contravened its policy.

The school has received large amounts in tax-deductible donations. Since the start of the century, TanenbaumCHAT has declared receiving $300 million in direct donations. Additionally, the school has received $60 million from other registered charities. With around 1/3 covered by taxpayers, the total public assistance to TanenbaumCHAT amounts to $100 million since 2000.

It’s scandalous that even a cent in public money is going to a school sending students to barbecue for soldiers committing genocide.

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