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Archive for the ‘jewish’ Category

The Truth about White Lies

Posted by E on February 2, 2020

Elisa WhiteLies collage edited

In 1995, a young woman named Elizabeth Moore was featured in a Macleans article. Her story of endangerment and defection from a white supremacist group caught the eye of two CBC film producers, Dennis Foon and Phil Savath. Right away, they contacted Moore through Canadian Jewish Congress Executive Director Bernie Farber, who had been quoted in the same article – and offered to option her life rights.

In 1996, Moore signed a contract for $12,500 to sell her life rights – “The Life Story of Elizabeth Moore” – to the CBC. The contract stipulates that Moore was selling “her life from her childhood to 1995, and surrounding her involvement with the organization known as ‘The Heritage Front’”. Paragraph 12 (b) reads “The information [Moore] provides in connection with the Life Story is accurate and factual to the best of her knowledge”.

Elizabeth Moore White Lies Contract

In 1998, a movie titled “White Lies” was broadcast on national television and publicized widely as “A True Story” that was based on “the life of Elizabeth Moore” – character names and events were changed but according to the press, the film was based on Moore’s experiences in the Heritage Front and was only “nominally fiction”. 

The media blitz that accompanied the film’s release lavished the filmmakers with praise. An Emmy nomination soon followed. The Globe and Mail printed an effusive review of the film, featuring side-by-side photos of Polley and Moore, with the caption reading “Polley (left) plays a young neo-Nazi in a movie based on the real-life experiences of Elizabeth Moore (right).”

Journalist Doug Saunders quoted Elizabeth as saying the film “accurately” represents her real-life experiences:

“Although the film is nominally fiction, Moore has found it an unnervingly accurate portrayal of her experience. “I’ve watched the film now about six times and I’ve never gotten through it without crying,” she said.”  

IMG_1739

The trouble is, the “True Story” depicted in the film that was released in 1998 does not belong to the woman whose name is on the contract. 

 

white-lies-uk-cover TRUE STORY

In 1993 I was a teenager recruited into the ranks of Canada’s most dangerous white supremacist group, the Heritage Front. I was the only girl in the core of the movement, and was groomed for a leadership position. I wrote articles for their magazine Up Front, gave speeches at rallies and spoke to the press on their behalf, including representing the organization on the Montel Williams Show.

I was sixteen years old when I met my new father figure, Front leader Wolfgang Droege, and was introduced to notorious Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, who welcomed me into his townhouse on Carlton Street in Toronto. As an abused, poor, runaway teenager who emigrated from communist Romania five years earlier and whose father died two years after that, I didn’t have a safe family to look out for me.

This is when Zundel stepped in and became a grandfatherly figure, teaching me that Jews controlled the world, the Holocaust never happened, and Hitler (whose portraits hung from his townhouse walls) was right to eliminate the mentally and physically handicapped, the homosexuals, and of course the Jews.

By the time I turned 17, Heritage Front co-founder and second-in-command leader Grant Bristow (later revealed to be a CSIS mole) started what would become known as the It Campaign – a campaign of terror waged against anti-racist activists and indigenous leader Rodney Bobiwash, who organized protests against the Heritage Front.

Bristow single-handedly instructed dangerous white supremacists tricks of the Intelligence community – how to break into answering machines, impersonate reporters, stalk your victims and terrorize them, disguise oneself to avoid arrest. Those emboldened skinheads embarked on a harassment campaign with street attacks, beatings, car tires slashes, spray-painting and fire-bombings of an aboriginal centre, synagogue, bookstores, the Morgentaler abortion clinic, a Jewish Kitchener woman’s home and Runnymede House, a Children’s Aid group home for young girls.

I knew I had to get away from the Front’s escalation of terror. This realization came on the heels of me admitting to myself that I was gay. As a core insider I had a lot of information I could access, and had earned the trust of HF leaders as well as Zundel himself, for whom I worked as an assistant and errand-girl.

At age 18, I spied on my former friends for four months, handing off my information to Martin Theriault of Montreal’s Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice. I stole Zundel’s international mailing list, turned whatever information I could to police, and defected. In March 1994 I appeared as the star witness against Wolfgang Droege and 2 other white supremacists at a trial that resulted in convictions and jail sentences

While I was in hiding and going by a different name in Ottawa (they knew me as Kat), the CBC released White Lies, advertising it as a “TRUE STORY” – the story of another ex-Heritage Front member who joined the group after I defected, Elizabeth Moore.

However, the TRUE STORY advertised by the CBC did not belong to the person whose name was on their contract. 

 

THE EVOLUTION OF A LIE 

A significant portion of White Lies is made up of my lived experiences – proven experiences that were documented in the media at the time, in court transcripts of my sworn testimony at the Heritage Front trial, and a 1994 documentary made for a television show called “It’s About Time.” I would later find out (from Moore herself, no less) that a CBC producer had scoured public records and interviewed people who knew me, in order to fabricate a movie purportedly about Moore.

For the record, I did not consent to any of this. Nor did anyone involved in the production bother to ask permission.

Several scenes in White Lies are derived from this documentary, which was part of a Vision TV series called “It’s About Time”. It was filmed in 1994, shortly after I testified against Heritage Front leaders. I had just turned 19 and was wearing a cheap $20 wig I’d picked up in Halifax to disguise myself, right before I flew back to Toronto for the trial.

This documentary proved critical in Moore’s decision to leave the group. Two decades later, she told me that she still owned a VHS copy.

During a 1995 interview with the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS), Moore credits watching it during a Heritage Front Thanksgiving party in October 1994, before “something in [her] snapped” and she decided that she wanted to say the same things I did.

Here’s a clip from that lengthy interview, where Moore talks about that crucial moment and tells how she met with Bernie Farber (coincidentally, also for four months) before parting with the group without any incidents or threats – an interesting admission for someone who just told Macleans that she was “a marked woman” worried about getting “a letter bomb in the mail.” 

At best, White Lies is a gross conflation of two very different young women’s experiences inside a white supremacist organization, with one woman being singularly rewarded and credited as the film’s inspiration, while the other one’s lived experiences are scavenged for profit. 

At worst, it’s an egregious case of exploitation where one impoverished, immigrant teenager’s lived experiences were appropriated by a well-connected middle-class woman who – for the next 22 years – marketed and monetized the movie as exclusively her own story, gaining numerous speaking engagements, jobs in the film & television sector, and even a secondary film role. 

As the years went by, Moore’s appropriations extended beyond the conflations portrayed in White Lies. In September 2017 she appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, accompanied by Bernie Farber, when Farber falsely communicated that she – along with me – had SHUT DOWN THE HERITAGE FRONT, despite no evidence whatsoever to back up such a significant lie. It was the first time either Moore or Farber ever stated such a thing – yet once the lie was communicated, they stuck to it.

Since 2018, Moore has posted photos of her appearance on The Agenda as promotional material across her social media sites. This episode is also the flash opening of Moore’s website; as of today’s date, every visitor to her site is greeted by an automatic replay of the show and its fraudulent statements, paving the way for more speaking engagements and consulting gigs obtained under false premises. 

In January 2019, Moore appeared on CTV’s The Social and represented herself as a “disenfranchised teen” from a “troubled family”, despite multiple interviews over the previous 20+ years in which she had never made such a claim. In fact, the most consistent statement in ALL of Moore’s videotaped interviews and newspaper articles between 1995-2019, is her description of loving parents who paid for her university education and were very supportive and concerned. 

After analyzing White Lies frame-by-frame and comparing it with evidence from public record, court files and recorded interviews of both myself and Moore, I’ve come to believe that as much as 75% of the film consists of events that can be linked back to me. An in-depth breakdown of the most significant scenes is posted in the next section of this article.

Less than 50% of White Lies can be attributed to Moore herself, and consists primarily of her relationship with nice, middle-class parents, fellow university students, and a romantic relationship with a skinhead (being closeted, I never had a boyfriend while in the HF).

Despite all the incontrovertible evidence I’ve compiled – even Moore’s own words – that shows how my life served as inspiration for White Lies, the Canadian press has remained silent, with one notable exception:

In April 2019, the Canadian Jewish News published a misleading article titled “Reformed Heritage Front Members involved in Lawsuit authored by Ron Csillag, a Facebook friend of Bernie Farber. Nowhere in the article does Csillag acknowledge his preexisting relationship with Farber.

Ron Csillag friends with Bernie Farber - Edited

Csillag’s article strives to create a false equivalency between me and Moore, with Csillag reporting that my lawsuit is about “a fictional movie about a fictional young woman who falls in with a fictional hate group.”

Although he didn’t interview me prior to publication, Csillag already had a copy of my Statement of Claim. If he’d bothered to read it front-to-end, he would have realized that my claim does not focus on White Lies itself; rather, it involves fraudulent appropriations made repeatedly since 2017 – well within the Limitations Act. White Lies serves only as the principal conduit that kick-started and enabled a 20+ year appropriation of my identity. 

As of today’s date, producer Dennis Foon’s website continues to allege that White Lies is inspired by “a high school girl, Elizabeth Moore” – and no one else. Despite Moore’s email admission in which she states that Foon researched my life for OVER A YEAR, and despite evidence that he recreated several of my lived experiences, the CBC has done absolutely nothing to address or correct this blatant exploitation of my life. 

Since 2015 I have made repeated attempts to contact Foon. Other than blocking me on Twitter, he has refused to acknowledge that I exist – much less add a single line to credit me for also inspiring his derivative film, or apologize for the fact that my life was scavenged for his script.

His fellow White Lies director Kari Skogland has also ignored my messages – something I didn’t expect from the female director of the acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale – ironically, a story about impoverished, powerless young women being exploited.

Dennis Foon IMG_1692

In the ‘Bonus Feature’ of the White Lies DVD, Foon gushes about how excited he was by the prospect of making a film about a “normal”, “educated”, regular, “middle-class” white girl from the suburbs, with “nothing particularly deviant or crazy about her” (i.e. not abused, poor, gay or particularly vulnerable, as I was) who attended university being caught up in the white supremacist movement.

Before I forget – Dennis Foon is also a Facebook friend of Bernie Farber’s, whose name shows up in the film credits. 

Dennis Foon Farber friendship

For a long time I was upset with the producers who participated in what I view as a blatant exploitation of my life – the life of a girl who did something brave but had no prospects, protection or legal representatives to ensure that her life would not be cannibalized and used to profit others, while she herself lived in abject poverty.

Only in the last couple of years, as I started digging into Elizabeth’s inconsistent narrative in anticipation of my lawsuit, did I realize that her attempt to deflect all blame onto Foon had been a lie.

Early in 2019 I was given a copy of the 1995 CAERS interview with Moore, a nearly 2 hour-long recording. After watching it, I came to believe that Elizabeth’s appropriations started 3 years before the film’s release. This discovery suggests that from the start, Elizabeth provided the filmmakers with a fraudulent depiction of her life inside the Heritage Front – not an accurate representation of her lived experiences but rather a conflation of my unique story with her own. 

In sum, White Lies is not a fictional story. While some characters and events have been conflated or fictionalized, it is heavily inspired by what took place in Toronto in the early to mid-1990s – enough to have the label “A TRUE STORY” printed on the VHS cover.

A STOLEN LIFE – Breakdown of Appropriated Scenes 

The majority of scenes in White Lies are derived from my lived experiences as a teenage girl who rose up the ranks of a white supremacist organization, turned against them, spied on its leaders, and defected.

1. The opening scene is based on a 1993 incident at Riverdale Collegiate which generated HUGE publicity in Toronto at the time. The high school auditorium was filled with youth attending an anti-racist event where Martin Theriault, the man who eventually helped me defect from the group, was the headlining speaker.

Howard Gotlib, the former principal of Riverdale Collegiate, remembers that I was present at this meeting. Janice Dembo, a former employee with the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, also remembers me walking up to the microphone to ask Theriault a question. 

Riverdale collegiate anti-racism rally 1993

One World Week - Riverdale Collegiate recreation

2. Scene where teenage “Catherine” submits an essay to her teacher and is given a failing mark is taken from an incident I was questioned about in my 1994 trial cross-examination, where I spoke of an essay about Anne Frank that I submitted for my ninth-grade class at Jarvis Collegiate Institute, which had upset my teacher.  

1994 trial transcript page25

  1. The scene where teenage “Catherine” sends an essay titled “Christmas is Dead” to the neo-Nazi group “NIM”, short for National Identity Movement, (a composite amalgamation of the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel) is taken directly from the essay I wrote for Up Front magazine’s inaugural December 1991 issue. I was sixteen years old when I wrote it under the alias “Elisse Deschner” and it was called “A Politically-Correct Santa?”  

White Lies Christmas Santa collage

4. Scene where teenage girl “Catherine” is introduced to the Mrs. K, NIM’s German-born leader who is modelled after Ernst Zundel and played by Lynn Redgrave. “Catherine” quickly becomes Mrs. K’s protégé and begins to work at her house, recording videos and eventually becoming the fresh, young face of the group. – I worked for Zundel as an assistant and even stayed at his place a few times when my home life was unsafe. I helped him with mail-outs, donors correspondence, folding booklets and newsletters, and organizing his books and videos.

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 12.17.37 AM

5. Teenage “Catherine” quickly rises up the ranks and becomes an official spokesperson.

I represented the Heritage Front in multiple interviews to the press – both in Canadian media and internationally. Here are photos of me at 17 speaking to the CBC and appearing on The Montel Williams Show, as well as a photo of me, age 18, standing side-by-side with my mentor Wolfgang Droege, in a 1992 Globe & Mail article that describes me as the Heritage Front’s softer, female face.

Hategan interview CBC

Elisa on Montel Williams Show

Elisa and HF leader Wolfgang Droege

image2 - Copy

  1. “Catherine” records messages for the group and distributes flyers – aside from also distributing flyers (everyone did), I am the only woman who ever recorded messages on the official Heritage Front hotline. Elizabeth Moore never did. All the messages she wrote/recorded were on a separate, proxy hotline called the “Euro-Canadian Freedom Front” based in Kingston, ON, but not on the actual Heritage Front line.

  2. “Catherine” attends rock concerts and rallies – this scene is derived from the Roma Restaurant concert on November 13, 1992 where the band RaHoWa played. I was videotaped giving a speech that night, right before the concert started – you can see the band equipment and drum set in this photo.Elisa Heritage Front talk 1992 Roma Restaurant

Elisa Heritage Front June1992

Elisa HeritageFront rally2

8. “Catherine” attends KKK rallies – I attended 3 such rallies between 1992-1993, two in London, ON area on Martin Weiche’s property (including the one pictured below) and one in Michigan, USA, at the memorial of Pastor Bob Miles – closest to the experience depicted in White Lies. At the Michigan compound, I witnessed white supremacists selling guns illegally, firing them, and one of the Heritage Front men I drove with smuggled an illegal gun back into Canada. This incident is described in one of the 1993 affidavits I gave to the Ontario Provincial Police.

cross-burning 1993

9. “Catherine” gets trained to fire weapons – at age 17 I was trained to fire a shotgun and used a .22-calibre rifle I received from another HF member (mentioned in a 1993 affidavit), a similar rifle to the one Sarah Polley fires in the movie. Moreover, I owned a registered Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) which I was forced to relinquish as a bail condition after my 1993 arrest on charges that were dismissed in 1994. My weapons training is discussed in my 1994 “It’s About Time” documentary – scroll up for it. 

Sarah Polley shotgun White Lies

10. “Catherine” gives speeches and is filmed for publicity campaigns. Later, as “the new public face” of NIM, she participates in a TV interview in which she discusses the issue of repatriating immigrants back to their homelands and mentions Louis Farrakhan in her answer to justify racial separation – reenacting nearly verbatim my answer to Montel Williams’ question in November 1992, at age 17 – five years before White Lies was made.

While under the careful watch of NIM’s male leader (a character based on Wolfgang Droege), Sarah Polley parrots my answer while wearing a grey top and white shirt, the same outfit and hairstyle I wore on The Montel Williams Show.  Even the background set, with its three panels divided by black columns with tiny horizontal lines, appears to have been replicated in White Lies.

Elisa Sarah Polley White Lies collage

11. “Catherine” visits a member of NIM in prison: I believe this scene is inspired by my conversations with Zvonimir Lelas, a member who spent a year in prison for spray-painting synagogues, and told me how the movement had betrayed him. I also joined Front leader Wolfgang Droege when we tried to visit the Metzgers of White Aryan Resistance while they were incarcerated at the Don Jail. Here’s a photo of me protesting outside the jail on that day, filmed by a local news crew. IMG_1743

12. NIM’s leader is involved in courthouse battles – these scenes are derived directly from Wolfgang Droege’s Toronto court appearances and clashes with Anti-Racist Action, where I was filmed accompanying him. 

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 12.23.52 AM

Wolfgang Droege and Elisse courthouse1Wolfgang Droege and Elisse courthouse2

13. “Catherine” witnesses and takes part in a beating, and her group is involved in fire bombings. In “It’s About Time”, I talked about an incident in which a man was almost beaten. Also, while I did not witness the firebombing of Mona Zentner’s home in Kitchener, I was quoted in articles and on CTV National News in relation to my belief that the Heritage Front was responsible – this is part of my 1994 trial testimony.

The firebombing of NIM’s headquarters was inspired by the 1995 firebombing of Ernst Zundel’s Carlton Street townhouse, known as The Bunker. 

Kitchener Mona Zentner house firebombing

14. Teenage “Catherine” infiltrates left-wing organizations – In my House of Commons testimony on June 13, 1995, I testify about Bristow pushing me to spy on left-wing organizations. “I was directed by Grant Bristow to obtain information on legitimate organizations in Toronto such as the Irish Freedom Association, North American black nationalist groups and others. Bristow told me he wanted to build a file on these groups.” […] “He also knew that I was a supporter of the Irish nationalist movement and that I had gone to a meeting of this organization called the Irish Freedom Association. He was very curious about that, so I provided him with written documentation of names, addresses and things I had researched. He wanted me to continue that as well. It was just intelligence-gathering.”  

15. Teenage girl is horrified at the escalation of violence against innocent people and decides to approach an anti-racist activist for help – This is based on experiences detailed in my 1993 affidavits involving the It Campaign spearheaded by Bristow, repeated in my 1994 trial testimony and “It’s About Time” documentary, and 1995 House of Commons testimony:  

“Starting in the winter of 1992, I first became aware of a massive terror campaign on our group’s part, targeting anti-racist groups and individuals. It was launched by the head of the Heritage Front intelligence, Grant Bristow. Front members and supporters were approached and encouraged to go after designated targets. I was one of those approached by Grant Bristow. In the first weeks of January 1993 several individuals would get phone calls day and night from supporters or members of the Front in order to make their life miserable and create a climate of tension and fear. Such a climate was used to stir up a potential confrontation with members of anti-racist groups.” […]  Grant Bristow was the coach and the designer of the campaign, which lasted until my public defection to the Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice in November of that same year.” 

Terrorism Heritage Front

16. A conversation between NIM leader and “Catherine” in a diner, where he hints that NIM had something to do with recent terror attacks – This reflects my conversation with Wolfgang Droege, which made me believe they were behind the recent fire-bombings in Toronto and Kitchener, and is part of my 1993 affidavits and my 1994 interview with CTV National.

17. Teenage “Catherine” works with anti-racist activists and “proves herself” by turning over a membership list she downloads from Mrs. K’s computer – I stole a partial membership list while stuffing envelopes at Ernst Zundel’s house and turned it over to Martin Theriault. My spying and stealing of membership lists from the HF and Zundel was mentioned in my court testimony, as well as touched upon in the 1994 “It’s About Time” documentary.

Reenactment of Hategan stealing Zundel files

18. Teenage girl defects –> I was 18 when I defected; Elizabeth left uneventfully at age 21, deciding to leave on the very night she watched the “It’s About Time” documentary about me.

Moore experienced no threats or harassment as a result of leaving the Front. Her self-described “defection”, along with her claims of endangerment and being a “marked woman” in the 1995 Macleans article that caught the eye of CBC producers and led to the White Lies movie deal, are a fraudulent appropriation of my lived experiences.

IMG_1761

Hategan spies on the Heritage Front

HF leaders convictions after Hategan testimony

19. There is a secondary, fictitious character named Erina who ultimately commits suicide – another instance where something that happened to me is ripped from the headlines and rolled into the film. News about my suicide attempt at age 18 came out during my cross-examination at the trial of Heritage Front members; articles describing it were published in the Toronto Sun and other newspapers. White Lies, of course, exploited it.

Elisa ToSun suicide attempt

If White Lies contains a SINGLE scene that is derived from my lived experiences and not Elizabeth Moore’s, the film should not have been mass-marketed as “The true story of Elizabeth Moore” or “Based on the real-life experiences of Elizabeth Moore” – either by the film producers, the CBC, or Moore herself for the last 25 years. In my view, such advertising and profiting from my experiences is fraudulent and morally unethical. 

However, this is exactly what happened. As you can see in this breakdown, it wasn’t just one scene but more than a dozen, which encapsulate well over 50% of the film.

White Lies was viewed by millions of people across Canada; I have no way of knowing how much was earned through VHS and DVD sales (or spinoff speaking engagements), or if Moore received any royalties.

Even after cross-examining Moore in September 2019 as part of the lawsuit, she was unable to produce a single photograph of herself in the company of Heritage Front members, or any proof that she had been an official member – much less authenticate that White Lies represents her experiences. Outside of her brief appearance in Hearts of Hate, a documentary that featured dozens of white supremacists, there is no proof that she ever did more than write a handful of articles and operate a Kingston, ON telephone hotline before selling the rights to “her life story”.

CONFRONTING MOORE — “THE TRUTH” EMAIL 

In January 2013, I received an email from Elizabeth. She had read one of my books and wanted to connect. We had never actually met inside the Front because she joined their ranks around November 1993, right after I defected and went into hiding. We were both excited to meet each other. Over the next couple of years, we became good friends and talked about each other’s experiences within the Heritage Front at length. Elizabeth read my 2014 memoir Race Traitor and praised it, telling me that after my defection she had not been brought into the leaders’ confidence as I was, “because they didn’t want to trust another girl with sensitive info”. 

Moore FB convoFor two years, I didn’t have any reason to question Elizabeth’s motives or suspect that White Lies was not based on her life. That is, until February 2015 – when a conversation I’d had with her days earlier prompted me to google and find the film on YouTube. Just minutes in, I was struck by the horrific realization that the scenes playing out before my eyes were not renditions of Elizabeth’s experiences, but my own. 

It was a devastating blow – in one night, I came to understand that my story had been abhorrently exploited by the CBC and Moore herself, the woman I’d come to regard as my best friend.

When I confronted Elizabeth in an email she did not deny it, instead heaping all blame onto CBC producer and scriptwriter Dennis Foon: “What Dennis learned about you came from legit sources like court records, newspaper articles and talking to many people who knew you then. He did over a year of research on this and it certainly went far above and beyond me, my story, and what I could share.”

Elizabeth Moore confession White Lies

I was in shock. Not only had I just seen some of my most painful teenage experiences reenacted on screen, but the woman I’d considered a best friend actually ADMITTED that my life HAD inspired the movie – the movie that was credited exclusively as Moore’s life story, the movie she’d made $12,500 from (in today’s economy, close to $19K according to Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator) and which had earned her follow-up projects and speaking gigs. 

The years passed, but I refused to stop speaking about it. It was all I could do to bring awareness to the situation, since the statute of limitations to sue the CBC had passed. Moore started cyber-stalking me relentlessly; some days I’d see her IP on my blog 5 or more times a day. I called her a stalker, and that’s when she started telling people I was harassing her. Unsure if she planned to use White Lies to market herself in the future, I bought a bunch of previously-unregistered domains I thought she might use for a website, which stoked the animosity between us.

But then Charlottesville happened. Seemingly overnight, the press latched on to the reality of white supremacy posing a threat (something I’d written about since 2011), and governments started doling out huge grants to pretty much any organization that could slap together a decent proposal to show they were tackling white nationalism and hate. Predictably, a new speakers market was created, replete with income opportunities for former extremists with a story to sell. 

Within days of Charlottesville, Moore appeared on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, represented as “The pretty, public face” of the Heritage Front, its female spokeswoman (she never represented the HF as a spokesperson) and that White Lies represented her experiences. Bernie Farber, ever the kingmaker, had connected her to Blair Crawford, author of this error-ridden endorsement, with the wildly hyperbolic statement “Her story his (sic) unique and a huge lesson for humanity.”

Moore also told the Citizen that she had been “the only white student” in her class, a falsehood she would repeat between 2017-2019, both to the press and during speaking engagements. Incidentally, after 2 years of investigating her backstory, I’ve found no records of Moore ever making this claim prior to 2017, and her high school yearbook shows several other Caucasian students in her cohort. She lifted this line verbatim from my 1994 court testimony (which she attended, taking notes) and my 2014 memoir Race Traitor, where the line is repeated.

White kid line court testimony

Farber endorsement

One month later, Moore and Farber appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, where Farber made the stunningly fraudulent claim that Moore had been “The Face” of the HF, and that she (along with me) had “SHUT DOWN the Heritage Front”. At no time in the last 25 years had that statement ever been said about Moore, but they doubled down and ran with it. 

Within months, Moore created a website where her biographical section appropriated my experiences in the Heritage Front. For her website banner, she uploaded the September 2017 episode of The Agenda and set it to auto-play, ensuring that all visitors would hear Farber’s lies and believe she was responsible for shutting down the group I risked my life to dismantle.

She followed the bulk of my Twitter journalist contacts, Jewish community and synagogue friends, as well as my criminology and extremism-related followers and tried to immerse herself in the field. She described herself as “The verifiable inspiration for White Lies” across several social media platforms – going so far as to tell one Reddit user that White Lies was “100%” her own story and implied that I had been “a troubled young person” who identified with her experiences, rather than the other way around.

Within a year, she launched full-steam ahead into a new career as a public speaker, consultant and “expert educator” on far-right extremism, despite the fact that unlike me, she had never studied criminology and terrorism or worked/volunteered inside the criminal justice system.

Just like in the 1990s, this newly-resurrected career was established on a foundation of fraud and appropriation. And while she was featured in several high-profile interviews that led to paid speaking engagements, not a single journalist questioned her narrative. 

IMG_1749

In December 2018 I initiated legal proceedings against Moore, and in February 2019 my lawsuit was amended to add Bernie Farber, the man who facilitated and endorsed her career over the last 25 years, the man who invited her to join the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s Board of Advisors as an “expert” on the far right, who promoted her to journalists, secured the majority of her speaking engagements, and lied for her on The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

(BTW, Steve Paikin also happens to be a friend of Farber’s. In an email Paikin sent me in June 2019, he admits he’s known Farber for 25 years.)

Moore Farber CAHNA CAREER BUILT ON A FOUNDATION OF FRAUD

Why did I sue Farber? I believe Bernie Farber was integral in maintaining the fraud. He provided Moore with important recommendations, connections to journalists, and the full endorsement of the Canadian Jewish Congress during the time he was Executive Director. Just as he is doing today as the Chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Farber used his credentials and the Jewish Congress’ reputation to promote Moore and involved her in several CJC initiatives spanning a decade which generated publicity for both of them, thereby ensuring that Moore’s fraud remained unquestioned until I commenced litigation.

Elizabeth Moore couldn’t have done what she did for as long as she did it without the assistance of somebody like Bernie Farber or fellow CJC director Len Rudner (currently a Board member of CAHN), who were tasked to represent the Jewish community and – either unknowingly, negligently or intentionally – used their reputations to endorse a fraud (who also happened to be Rudner’s mistress at the time). Farber is as culpable, in my judgement, as Moore herself is in the unauthorized exploitation and monetization of my lived experiences.

Farber did not submit an affidavit in his defence, and therefore could not be cross-examined. I have no idea if he was paid for his participation in White Lies, but his name appears in the film credits and he profited from the publicity blitz that followed its release. 

Farber White Lies credits

Since 2015 I’ve researched Moore’s narrative in depth and I can state with utmost confidence that her involvement with the Heritage Front – during the time she claims she was a member – was NEVER documented in any news articles or media, with the singular exception of Hearts of Hate, a documentary that also featured me and dozens of other neo-Nazis. She never represented the Front as a spokeswoman. There is absolutely zero evidence that Moore “rose up the ranks” to become the Heritage Front’s “pretty, public face” and “mouthpiece”, as she claims. 

Moore also alleges that she was a teenager when she joined the Front (in one article she told a journalist she was 16, in others 17 or 18). These statements are false and plainly contradicted in her first article in Up Front magazine, a letter-to-the-editor that she mailed to the Front’s PO Box in 1993, prior to meeting any members in person. Using her middle name initial as an alias, Moore writes “I have yet to join the Heritage Front” because she perceived them to be sexist. She was 19.6 years old.  

IMG_1740

By the time Moore met any Heritage Front members in person, she was 20 years old. She herself admits this in an essay that has since been scrubbed from the internet but is published in at least one textbook – a 1997 essay titled “From Marches to Modems” which she wrote for a Bernie Farber-published report for the City of Toronto. “Elisse defected from the Heritage Front about the time I became active,” she writes.

I defected in November 1993, the month Moore turned 20 years old.

In a 2011 documentary titled “In God’s Keeping produced for her Ryerson University MFA in Documentary Film, Moore is captured on film saying she became a neo-Nazi not as a teen girl, but “in my early 20s“.

Moore Marches to Modems 1997

Excerpt from Moore’s 1997 essay “From Marches to Modems”, published by Farber

Moore was never a speaker at rallies – I was. All Heritage Front rallies were filmed, with the videotapes sold through a mail-form and at meetings. Moore does not appear on any archival tapes, because she never made a speech. She also never had access to Ernst Zundel’s data and I doubt she was in his townhouse more than once or twice. 

Even after being asked for material evidence as part of this lawsuit, Moore has not produced a single photograph of herself in the company of Front members, any corroborating affidavits, videotapes or evidence of herself either speaking at rallies or a single instance where she represents the HF as a spokeswoman. Farber himself has not provided a sworn affidavit to even attempt to corroborate her story.

Moore cannot even produce a Heritage Front membership card, despite claiming in her 2018 Macleans op-ed that she was “a card-carrying member” within months of being age 17 – in sharp contrast to her 1994 Up Front article where, at age 19 and six months, she confesses that she “has yet to join” the group.

What Moore does have in her possession, however, is a VHS copy of my “It’s About Time” documentary. I have no idea how many times she has watched it.

Facts don’t lie – throughout the year Moore was actively involved with the Heritage Front (approx. November 1993 – October 1994), she lived in Kingston, ON and attended Queen’s University. She was a 20-year old woman, and not the teenager depicted in White Lies. Although she wrote a handful of articles for Up Front, she never recorded telephone messages on the Heritage Front’s official hotline. Instead, she operated at arm’s length in Kingston, running a backup, alternate phone line called the “Euro-Canadian Freedom Front.” 

Over a period of 20+ years, Elizabeth Moore systematically changed the backstory of her time in the Heritage Front to align more closely with my experiences. Across the years, there have been dozens of inconsistencies and contradictions in Moore’s narrative about WHEN she joined, WHY she joined, WHAT SHE DID in the Heritage Front and WHY SHE LEFT, in her attempt to conflate her story with mine.

I believe that her most recent appropriation – the 2019 claim she was a “disenfranchised” and “troubled teenager” – is an attempt to elicit sympathy and add mitigating factors to her story, because the idea of a privileged, adult woman who suffered no beatings or abuse, and whose loving parents paid for her university education, is not as palatable to an audience that seeks to understand why youth are drawn to extremist organizations. 

In order to gain fame, enhanced credentials and portray what would otherwise be an insignificant role and non-dramatic experience, Moore appropriated sensational aspects of my life and build a platform where she profited from speaking engagements, a movie dramatization, documentary roles and other forms of monetization and publicity.  

WHAT IS A LIFE WORTH?

What would you do if someone stole your name and SIN number, and took out credit cards in your name? What if this individual built a business and career from your name and reputation? 

This would be identity fraud. You’d go to the police, and chances are you’d get assistance.

But what if someone did this for 25 years, and nobody cared? And you couldn’t fight back because you didn’t have the money to seek justice, or because the justice that could help your case has not been written yet?  Because he didn’t actually steal your name, per se. He stole everything else that makes up your identity: your lived experiences, the worst years of your life, the terrible things that defined you.

What if this identity thief built a veneer of respectability and authority in the community, and nobody believed you? What effect would this have on your psyche? On your view of justice and fairness in this country? 

What if, one day you watched a movie and saw YOURSELF reenacted on screen, but another individual credited as the film’s sole inspiration? 

What if you saw your identity thief get paid projects, media attention and praise after claiming to shut down a group they were barely affiliated with – a group that you actually risked your life to dismantle?

What would you do if you were denied publication in an academic textbook, but the person who stole your identity was included? 

What would you do if all the articles you wrote for a popular blog over a 4-year span were deleted after the man running it became financially supported by the same network of individuals who endorsed your identity thief?

What would you do if you didn’t have the money to fight back, and all the lawyers you contacted told you that there’s no precedent for your case because as long as someone doesn’t use your actual name, there are no laws on the books to prevent someone from stealing the unique events and personal characteristics that define your identity (down to your religion and sexual orientation) and passing them them off as their own, for profit? 

What would you do if the public believed that those who exploited your identity are the good guys, and you are the liar?

What would you do if you were being countersued for defamation by the person who stole your identity in the first place? 

Would you have any faith left in the justice system? Or would you share your story with every breath in the hope that someone, somehow, someday would just look at the evidence? 

An artist’s song or a writer’s book is their intellectual property; I could not, for example, take CBC’s “White Lies” and sell it as my own product because it would violate copyright law. And yet the film producers took my life from public record, reenacted it and sold it legally as their own product. By working with those producers, and representing herself as the exclusive source of the “true story” it was inspired by, Elizabeth Moore was effectively able to steal my life.  

What would YOU do if another individual stole your life story, sold it as her own “life story” and marketed it for the following 25 years?

I’ll tell you what would happen: 

You would lose hope. Hope in justice, in the legal profession, in this country where you tried to do the right thing but were exploited, over and over again. 

After having lived through all of this, you would feel that shouting your story from the rooftops is an act as crucial as breathing. 

I have nothing left but the truth – and I won’t have them steal that from me. Not anymore.

A WRETCHED LITTLE IMMIGRANT GIRL

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In this 1994 jealous diatribe published in Up Front magazine, Moore calls me a “Wretched Little Immigrant Girl” and ridicules me for testifying against HF leader Wolfgang Droege and two other members – a testimony that resulted in convictions and jail sentences, and contributed directly to dismantling the Heritage Front.

How ironic that in 2017 – 23 years after writing that article – Moore and Farber rewrote history by telling Steve Paikin and the Canadian public (for the first time ever) that Moore herself shut down the Heritage Front.  

What’s actually wretched is my experience of the justice system in this country. As a teenager, I risked my life to testify against three dangerous white supremacists. Despite the threats on my life and being responsible for 3 convictions, I wasn’t admitted into the Witness Protection Program; at only 18, Canadian authorities didn’t give a hoot whether I lived or died.

Conversely, Grant Bristow – who counselled many Heritage Front members to commit crimes and himself engaged in criminal activity, whose 5 years of well-paid undercover work resulted in NO arrests and convictions of any Canadian white supremacists – got away with it. In fact, he was given a house, 2 cars and a $3000-per-month stipend for several years after being relocated into the Witness Protection Program.

And yet, despite all the anti-racist community activists who were terrorized by Bristow’s harassment campaign, Bernie Farber invited him to participate in a 2011 speaking engagement where he received a standing ovation, and referred to Bristow as “a friend” in a 2017 Toronto Star article.

Farber Bristow endorsement TOStar 2017

As an adult, I witnessed a privileged woman and her well-connected friend profit from my lived experiences through a movie deal, speaking engagements and endless publicity – while I suffered the psychological and economic effects of the life she marketed as her own.

By stealing my teenage experiences, by taking credit for and appropriating my painful past, Moore took the only thing I ever did right, the one thing that made my whole wretched miserable life worthwhile — the knowledge that, despite everything I ever endured in my life — the abuse, the danger and threats against me by the neo-Nazi family who had groomed and exploited me — that I made a difference.

She took the only thing in my life that I felt the most proud of and turned it into a monetizing ploy to advance a false narrative because she didn’t have a marketable story of her own.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING?

A suicide attempt early in 2016 left me hopeless that I would ever see justice. I started to wonder why this struggle to bring awareness of my exploitation had become EVERYTHING to me. What was my life lesson? Why fight so hard for something nobody else cares about, at the cost of my health? 

Then, in December 2019, it finally hit me. Awake in bed, crying myself to sleep, hopeless and exhausted, I suddenly understood why.

All my life I wanted to push mine away, to repress everything that happened. For forty years I pushed away from the shores of my identity, while the real me watched from a darkened coastline, not knowing whether I’d return.

For forty years I was the little matchstick girl, standing on tiptoes in the snow outside a beautiful mansion, peeking into a world where I’ve never belonged. No parent helped me do my homework, packed my lunch or ironed my school uniform. No one celebrated my small victories or wept over my petty defeats, over the courtyard bullying or the horrible names kids love to call outsiders. If I was hit or called names, surely it was my fault. 

All my life, I ran away from my epigenetic hurts. I hid from life the way my deaf father Iosif, a brilliant painter whose work was never recognized by the hearing community, let his broken dreams turn into rage. Just like his mother Ana before him, cast off at age 19 with a baby because she wasn’t ethnically Hungarian – because speaking perfect Magyar and going to an Austro-Hungarian finishing school couldn’t scrub the Romanian from her blood, the barbed wire, the Jew from the coarseness of her hair. They changed their name, lied about their Jewish identity the way I hid my identity when I was a teenager on the run. 

Sometimes it’s easier to become the Other, the one who would otherwise break you. When you have no more skin left to grow another scab, healing becomes impossible. Sometimes it’s easier NOT to heal – because healing or forgiveness means acknowledging you are a victim.

For some, this acknowledgement has the power to take your breath away and crush you right back into the dirt you came from. Deep inside, you know that if you faced the truth of your victimization, you might never get off your knees. Sometimes it’s easier to become the enemy. That’s what happened to me as a teenager – a half-Jewish girl who became a neo-Nazi.

It was a surefire way to run from my past and feign the brutality of the aggressor, to go from powerless to powerful in a world where, for the first time in my life, I was the bully instead of the bullied – a strong and vengeful Athena instead of the wounded little girl I saw every time I looked in a mirror. 

So I dyed my curly dark hair red in an effort to look more “Aryan”. I tried blue contacts to cover up my brown eyes. I hated my nose and Romanian accent, the predictable “Where you from?” that seemed to follow me. But the Heritage Front still accepted me, because they fed on my pain – because the more I hated, the more my racist family loved me. 

The years I spent in hiding did nothing to improve my faith in justice. In 1994, while living at Adsum house, a homeless women’s shelter in Halifax, I signed up for a two-day intensive GED exam. I was nineteen years old, a ninth-grade dropout with no prospects, no family and no protection, living on the run after testifying against three high-profile neo-Nazis. At night, I still remembered the coldness of the knife held against my throat when Front leaders had questioned me about being a rat. 

A month later, my high school equivalency diploma, conferred by the Nova Scotia Board of Education, arrived in the mail. Less than a year later I would be accepted as a mature student into both Carleton and the University of Ottawa, and I’d choose the latter for its prestigious criminology program. By studying the psychology of crime and youth/women’s involvement in gangs and extremism, I hoped to get a better perspective on what had happened to me.

The hardest part of my university application wasn’t the arduous student loan application I had to complete, figuring out what my next meal would be, or starting a new life in a new city, using yet another alias and hoping that I wouldn’t be tracked down by the men who threatened my life – but coming up with two required reference letters. I was too ashamed to ask for help – scared of disappointing others if I failed, and wondering if anybody would see a modicum of potential in me, enough to vouch for my academic aptitude. 

Even with the help of student loans, I worked two jobs between classes – one under the table at a souvenir shop on Sparks Street, the other at Mags & Fags, a magazine & tobacco shop on Elgin. I was a regular at the Bank Street food bank and an occasional dumpster-diver. During this exact time, the CBC was making a movie based on the painful memories I was struggling so hard to repress. 

White Lies came out in the year of my second suicide attempt, the year I was first prescribed Prozac and could finally get through a night without PTSD-induced nightmares. While Moore was basking in a publicity blitz and CBC producers were attending Emmy and Gemini galas and getting nominations for a film that wouldn’t have existed without me, I did my best to block out my teenage years and pretended I was a different, normal girl. It was the key to my survival.

In 1998 I was living in a student rooming house and didn’t own a television set. I’d heard that the CBC had made a movie about Moore, but I don’t remember seeing the whole thing. Nor did I want to see it. It is entirely possible that I may have seen parts of it or a commercial, and blanked it out. 

Even after I clawed my way through university, winning scholarships, a place on my university’s fencing team, graduating magna cum laude (majored in criminology and psychology) – I didn’t feel I was enough. I hadn’t done it balletically, I didn’t glide through school with the flawless confidence of a girl whose achievements are celebrated by loving, devoted parents. No. I sweated, fought and bled for everything I earned.  

And so, as I lay in bed last month asking myself why I was fighting so hard to pursue a lawsuit with no precedents, despite the excruciating stress and the thousands of dollars it has already cost me – it came to me, an answer as luminous as the North star on that frozen December night:

For the first time in my life, I am fighting to be ME. Me – with all my scars, my accent, my shaking voice. I’m fighting for the truth, for my identity. No matter how ugly my past was, I am taking it back from those who appropriated it for profit. 

truth voice shakes meme

WHY I AM FIGHTING BACK

For $137, any Canadian can legally change their name – but the essence of your identity and likeness is not mutable or changeable because it is made up of unique lived experiences that compose the fabric of who you are.

I believe that human beings are more than a name – that, in fact, we are the product of our life experiences.  The sum total of who I am is not just my name – it is the combined sum of my lived experiences: my trauma, my courage, my fears, my faith and religious identity, my troubled youth and formative experiences, the events that I lived through and survived, the threats I endured and the challenges I’ve had to overcome. All of these experiences form my identity. 

So who am I? The hungry child on the streets of Bucharest? The scared teenager held at knifepoint? The young woman who tried to do the right thing only to see an agent provocateur’s crimes get covered up by CSIS, and unscrupulous filmmakers & profiteers exploit her life with impunity?

I am all of them. Like a dandelion bursting through the asphalt, I am defined by my survival, rendered courageous at the broken places. 

And now, the irony of fighting for my life – a life I hated, tried to end, depreciated for a lifetime; a life that had no worth for me beyond the pain that others sought to sensationalize.

Only then did my will to live kick in – to do this for the hopeless, the voiceless and unconnected, the underdogs whose stories go unheard, who can’t afford to fight back through the legal system. The poor and exploited who don’t have journalists in their back pockets and bands of cronies backing up a fraud. 

I am doing this for my dead deaf father – who didn’t think his artistic talent was good enough so he flawlessly reproduced the paintings of Impressionist masters; who grew embittered after being bullied by village boys, beaten by a world that doesn’t listen to deaf-mutes and immigrants, so he became the beater.

I am doing this for my dead deaf mother – raped as a young girl by villagers who thought she was an animal, who herded goats barefoot and slept in a barn, who was seen by her own mother as worthless, who never got justice so the anger coiled inside her breast and struck out at the world, passing its venom into her own child throughout a life entwined with misery and suffering.

I am doing this for me, despite the outrage and insults coming from activists who scorn me for suing people they consider worthier than me, above-reproach, whose character is never scrutinized while mine lays dissected, trampled in the mud. I am a wretched immigrant girl after all, and in this country the weight of truth depends on the perceived worth of those who speak it.

I am doing this for ME.   

All things and beings have their own, intrinsic, value – that is my lesson. 

Even the most “worthless” life, in the end, matters. 

Yes, even mine. 

 

Posted in canada, cbc, crime, csis, dennis foon, elizabeth moore, grant bristow, heritage front, history, identity, jewish, journalism, life, movie, news, politics, press, rodney bobiwash, sarah polley, truth, white lies | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Speaking Engagements coming up this spring

Posted by E on February 10, 2017

race-traitor-flyer-hadassah-talk

This spring I will be speaking at Limmud Toronto, for Hadassah-WIZO, at a couple of Toronto synagogues, at SUNY (State University of New York) and at Montreal’s Vanier Symposium on the Holocaust and Genocide. Please join me at any of these events and help continue the discussion against right-wing extremism, racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacist crime and the alt-Right.

My first talk is coming up on Thursday March 9th at 7:30 PM, at an event organized by Canadian Hadassah-WIZO CHW and sponsored by Toronto law firm Gelman and Associates, and Budovitch Legacy Planning. It’s going to be a fantastic & informative evening, so put it in your calendar and feel free to share the link!

Next, I am so excited to have been invited to be a presenter at Limmud Toronto 2017, which will take place on Sunday, March 19. Limmud is an international “festival of Jewish learning that celebrates the rich diversity of Jewish culture and heritage.” It takes place annually in several countries and brings together members of the Jewish community, who all connect and exchange stories and presentations on a wide array of topics of interest to the Jewish community ranging from politics, religion, family, education, feminism and history to cultural multimedia such as film, music and dance.

My presentation ‘Hearts of Hate: Confessions of a Teenage Neo-Nazi’ is at 12:00 PM and is scheduled for only 45-minutes but I look forward to connecting with everyone before, during and after the talk!

limmud-toronto-2017

There are several other events that I will update as I go along, but won’t do it too prematurely. I have made the decision not to post dates to my speaking engagements too early due to stalkers and potential threats from neo-Nazis. Early in January I had to file a police report about threats and harassment I received subsequent to being quoted in an article that appeared in the National Post in December 2016 and which critiqued a popular Canadian white supremacist named Veronica Bouchard, aka “Evalion”.

After being quoted just once, I was sent ugly messages via my website and blog – nasty messages targeting me as well as Joseph Brean, the journalist who wrote the piece, and another former Heritage Front individual whose name had also been included in the article.

Let me tell you, nothing beats getting threatening emails over the holidays and New Year. Following that article, I was in contact with other journalists who had covered “Evalion” in the news and were subsequently targeted for harassment and abuse via Twitter and email. White supremacists even went so far as to buy Brean’s firstandlastname.com domain and created a website where they are falsely accusing him of being a pedophile and hitman.

These are highly-seasoned, senior journalists who were threatened, and I was encouraged by one of them to go to police. I was connected to the particular hate crimes unit detectives via B’nai Brith, who also encouraged me to report this. Even though I’m no stranger when it comes to encountering online trolls, it still came as a shock that something like this could happen simply for being quoted in an article.

In the days that followed, I was additionally targeted for cyber-abuse from Veronica, the neo-Nazi young woman who was profiled in the National Post piece, along with her anonymous Twitter groupies. Things were said to me both in public and private that led me to feel seriously threatened and I had no recourse but to appeal to police. Thankfully, Veronica’s Twitter account was subsequently shut down but I’m certain it’ll pop right back up or under a different handle soon enough despite the fact there are several ongoing investigations into her alleged hate activities. Still, I don’t feel it’s in my best interest to announce my future talks until just a couple of weeks prior to the events.

I am also scheduled to speak at the Vanier Symposium on Holocaust and Genocide, at SUNY (State University of New York) and at a couple of Toronto-area synagogues. Please check back next month as I will update this post with the dates and details of those events. As always, I’m grateful for your support and look forward to connecting with you guys this spring!

Posted in activism, jewish, journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Genetic Memory: Remembering Your Ancestors’ Lives

Posted by E on April 25, 2016

intergenerational-trauma babushka dolls

Fifteen years after my family emigrated to Canada, I decided to spend the summer after my university graduation backpacking through France and Spain with Dina, my closest girlfriend. We scoured Paris together, rode the overnight trains, sweated under the intense heat of the Andalucian plains, took countless photos of Gaudi’s wonderful modernist architecture in Barcelona, ate churros con chocolat in the back alleys of Madrid.

I was drawn to the south of Spain, in part because Federico Garcia Lorca influenced so much of my poetry that I just had to see the house where he was born in Fuente Vaqueros, to see the mystical Granada he had loved and hated. I wanted to breathe in the same dry, white-hot air that had filled his lungs and infused his verses. And it was there in Moorish Spain, at the foothills of the Alhambra, that I heard the ancient Judaic language of Ladino for the first time.

Elisa AlhambraThe song was “Durme, Durme,” an ancient lullaby sang by the Sephardic Jews of Spain before they were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula by Queen Isabella’s decree. I don’t remember exactly how I came to hear it – I might have been standing under the awning of a shop, taking a break from the unrelenting heat, or while eating cold gazpacho out on a scorching patio. But as soon as the words entered my consciousness, I recognized them. I knew the song, somehow. I started to hum along with it; my mouth began to shape the words, almost as though they were a memory just hanging on the tip of my tongue.

The trouble was, I wasn’t Jewish. I didn’t have any Jewish ancestors that I knew of and my father had died long ago, when I was 13 – before I could ask him any questions about his background. So I chalked up the experience as a déjà vu oddity, one of those freakish yet ubiquitous experiences we all have once in a while, like thinking of someone just as the phone rings or dreaming of an old friend who happens to email us the next day.

A few days later I parted ways with Dina. We said goodbye in Marseilles, a sun-scorched, dusty place just outside the Italian border. I journeyed on to Rome, then Venice, where I found lodgings in a spartan Benedictine nuns’ convent and spent my first afternoons on the lagoon sitting on bridge steps near the canal, gazing at the mossy green water, writing poetry and sketching the images of stray dogs against alabaster buildings.

barracksThen it was time to travel eastwards into Europe. My ultimate destination was Romania, where I planned to track down relatives in my father’s old village and find out more about my family’s past. But before that, I wanted to visit Krakow, Poland so that I could make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp where millions of people met their deaths. I wanted to see the place in order to understand the scope of the brutality that had swept Europe only two generations earlier.

On the day I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, the sun was high up in the sky. The grass was knee-tall and swayed against my bare legs. The floorboards underneath my feet crackled and snapped as I walked among the barracks crammed with three-tiered bunk slots. Sunlight filtered in through gaps in the planks that formed the walls, smearing long, arrow-like shafts along the ground.

I thought of those nameless prisoners and something deep inside me stirred – the same familiarity I’d experienced when I heard that Ladino song back in Granada. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, and I swear I recognized that smell. The smell of burning ashes and wet wood, of fear and lost hopes.

I was here before.

I was twenty-five years old and World War Two had been over for close to sixty years but somehow I had been there, or someplace equally terrible. In the intense heat of that August afternoon, an ice-cold shudder passed right through me.

Elisa Jewish family historyI hadn’t expected this. At sixteen years old, I was recruited by a Canadian neo-Nazi group called the Heritage Front and sent to work for Ernst Zundel, renowned Holocaust-denier and publisher of anti-Semitic propaganda that was distributed worldwide. I left the group at age 18 and testified against its leaders in court, but it took several years for me to get over the guilt of having been part of such a hateful thing. To understand that as a minor girl, I had been exploited by group leaders.

In the years that followed I lived in hiding, and during that time I used many aliases. The surname I used the longest was Cohen – for whatever reason it felt natural that I would adopt a Jewish surname, and that one in particular seemed to speak to me.

Years later, after I managed to track down my uncle in my father’s village and started piecing together my father’s past, the truth came out. It came in the form of a pretty lacquered box that had been my grandmother’s most prized possession. It was inscribed for her, bearing the name “Anna” on its bottom. And when I opened it, the name Kohan was etched inside its lid – a Hungarian version of….you guessed it, Cohen.

Discovering that my father had been Jewish was a surreal experience. For so long I’d wanted it to be true, because so much would make sense. My collection of babushka dolls and Russian things, my affinity for Ladino music, my connection to Jewish people, klezmer and food, the fact that the Transylvanian region where my father’s family came from was a known place where Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews had intermingled.

For ten years I’d wanted to convert to Judaism, but it was only after I took a 23andme DNA test that the choice to become a Jew became simple. The results showed I had Romanian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Italian/Greek roots, and confirmed my heritage as a blend of Ashkenazi, Balkan and Sephardic. The Relative Finder tool even matched me to over two dozen third and fourth cousins with the surnames Cohen, Cohn, Kaplan or Kuhn.

For me, the process of conversion wasn’t simply a matter of embracing the hidden religion of my ancestors and their multigenerational persecution – it also allowed me to accept that the genetic memories I’d experienced all my life were real.

GENETIC MEMORY, AND WHY IT MATTERS

genetic memoryWikipedia defines genetic memory as a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time.

Why should it matter to you?

Discoveries in the field of genetic memory have immense ramifications on our society, particularly among previously-subjugated persons. What would happen if science proved that trauma was passed down in our cells, from parent to child? What if the anger and mistrust harboured by Aboriginal or African-American peoples isn’t something they can just “get over”? What if they are given a reason to sue governments for restitution based on genetic stressors that have impeded their ability to function?

Sure, one could argue that generations of abused and exploited people will produce offspring who mistrust their government because they grew up hearing tales of discrimination and injustice from their parents and grandparents.

But what if that pain goes beyond anecdotal tales about deceased ancestors absorbed by a marginalized community? What if the pain of a massive traumatic event suffered by a parent or grandparent continues to live within your body, in your physical tissues, in your subconscious anxiety and reflex reactions?

Increasing evidence shows that it can, and indeed it does.

I have researched genetic memory for the last decade, and especially over the last two years as I began working on a memoir that discusses the imprint of multi-generational trauma and suffering. Time and again, my research led me nowhere. The scarcity of scientific data is easily due to academic biases: which scientist is going to study the field if he/she expects their work to be derided by fellow academics who pledge irrefutable allegiance to the Darwinian model?

The History of Genetic Memory

Jean-Baptiste_de_LamarckIn the late eighteenth century, there lived a French biologist by the name of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. He was both a predecessor of Darwinian theory and one of its competitors. He was, in fact, one of the first men in history to propose an evolutionary structure to humanity’s existence. Darwin was a mere babe in the cradle when Lamarck began to experiment on organisms using the theory of genetic memory – rather than natural selection – to account for much of the evolution of all species.

He basically asserted that an organism can pass on its memories and experiences to its offspring, and that in and of itself constitutes our evolution.

A new biologist by the name of Paul Kammerer took up the Lamarckian torch in the 1920s, when he experimented on toads in order to prove the validity of genetic memory. Before his results could be released, however, the experiment was tampered with by Nazi sympathizers who sought to bury Kammerer and his work because of his political beliefs.

Since Lamarck and Kammerer’s work was dismissed and/or destroyed, the study of genetic memory has been dormant. At least, until the 21st century.

That’s when a miracle happened. It started with the new and exciting field of Epigenetics, which explores the concept that traits can be passed down to successive generations without alteration to the genetic code but via some other means, and that the experiences of one’s ancestors have a direct effect on our physical and emotional development today.

Sweden epigeneticsOne of epigenetics’ most quoted (and explosive) studies focuses on a 19th century province in northern Sweden which experienced seven years of famine followed by good harvest and abundance of food. Scientists from the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute evaluated this history of feast and famine to see how it affected the lives of offspring, and found that “life conditions could affect your health not only when you were a fetus, but also well into adulthood.” They concluded that parents’ experiences early in their own lives change the traits they pass on to their offspring. Scarcity of food in grandfather’s life was associated with a significantly extended survival of his grandchildren for many years, whilst food abundance was associated with obesity and a greatly shortened life span of the grandchildren.

intergenerational traumaBut genetic memory is more revolutionary, and goes beyond trait inheritance to argue that memories can pass between generations. In 2013 several animal studies suggested that behaviour itself can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory. There is evidence that phobias are also derived from ancestral memories.

In 2013, new research was presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. Brian Dias, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University, reported that mice inherit specific smell memories from their fathers — even when the offspring have never experienced that smell before, and even when they’ve never met their father. What’s more, their children are born with the same specific memory. Skepticism and quips/tweets such as “Crazy Lamarkian shit,” formed the kneejerk reflex of many scientists who preferred to stick within their comfort zone and deny that genetic memory could ever exist.

Even when faced with new evidence.

IMPRINTING PAIN AND TRAUMA

multigenerational traumaI don’t blame the scientific community for being afraid to pursue what many of us intuitively sense is a reality. Just imagine the floodgates of victims tearing open – the children of indigenous people who were massacred or sent to residential schools. The descendants of African slaves. The children of “comfort women” who were held prisoner and raped by the Japanese during WW2. The offspring of Holocaust survivors. All potentially suing the governments that exploited their ancestors for the brutality, fear and exploitation that still courses in their veins today.

It’s called Intergenerational Trauma.

Lamarckian theory drove the study of Orthogenesis, which nowadays has been called progressive evolution or autogenesis. This is the hypothesis that life has an innate tendency to evolve in a unilinear manner due to some internal, intrinsic driving force.

Do you know what this means?

It means that the fire inside us, that drive to survive and succeed that burns in our hearts and defines our species, that propels us to create art, to reach sublime peaks of achievement, is based on the building blocks of what has come before, but is still part of us.

There are so many trends in evolution that simply cannot be explained by natural selection alone.

IMG_9131How can you define, through Darwinian natural selection alone, that mysterious inner force in all beings to reach up to the sky, to conquer the universe? That emotion that wells up inside us when we look at a magnificent mountain, when we walk along the shoreline of a vast ocean, when we gaze up to the stars and feel something stir up inside our chest, something that cannot be defined in words alone.

Although I converted to Judaism, I don’t consider myself particularly religious in the sense that I don’t go to temple. Both my parents and myself experienced so much trauma in our early lives without ever being saved by divine intervention. I believe that organized religion and its stringent rules has contributed to more suffering and death than any natural disasters in the history of mankind. So I am not talking about God here.

What I am saying is that we are all connected on some level. We are all part of a grand design that is bigger than the archaic mythology that passes for organized religion. Rooted inside our cells reside the desires, heartaches, and yes – even the memories of every one of our ancestors. And it is this combined force that propels us forward, toward bettering ourselves and the world around us.

Carl Jung talked about racial memory, a collective memory of humanity as a species. To him this meant that the ancestral memories of our forbearers have become part of our collective unconscious and are in fact, continuing to shape our world.

Let me put it in a different way: every single thing that makes us who we are is shaped by our ancestors. Our food preferences, our penchant for hot or cold weather, our phobias and inexplicable fears, even our food sensitivities and idiosyncratic habits lie in our genes. A kitten will instinctively search for the litter box before its mother nudges it; it will automatically salivate at the sound of a can opener or an egg being cracked over a frying pan without ever having tasted eggs or canned food.

In the absence of any actual experiences, genetic memory is carried within our DNA, within the genome of our species.

Just as all rivers flow toward the sea, the blood that flows within our veins carries the memory of its first drop. It REMEMBERS – and makes us who we are.

If you would like to help me write my memoir REMEMBER YOUR NAME, please join me on Patreon.com and become part of the journey.

Posted in ancestry, DNA, jewish | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Esther and Easter: How One Human Being Can Change The World

Posted by E on March 27, 2016

Elisa Purim Easter2016By a conspicuous alignment of calendar dates, 2016 is a year when the Jewish holiday of Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people by Queen Esther, coincides with Easter Week (and also with Holi in the Hindu faith – the Festival of Love). Only this week, when the stars have aligned Purim and Easter, does it strike me how many parallels there are between these ancient holidays. Not just in the acts of charity toward the less fortunate that both Jews and Christians engage in, but also in the flourishing spirit of hope that surrounds us all.

It was a couple of summers ago, when I was visiting an old friend from university at her place in Cornwall, that I rediscovered the story of Esther. It was the summer I was studying in preparation for my conversion to Judaism, but that week religious texts were the last thing on my mind. I had stopped for an overnight visit at Joseé-Anne’s house on my way to Massachusetts, where I planned to spend the better part of a week in Provincetown and Cape Cod. I hoped to find inspiration for my new book Daughters of the Air, a retelling of The Little Mermaid, along the grassy dunes of Provincetown’s beaches.

We had just finished dinner and were sitting out in her backyard, sharing a bottle of red wine, as twilight painted mauve streaks across the skies. Joseé-Anne was chain-smoking, as she always did when we talked poetry. We gossiped about old schoolmates and professors and chatted about how hard it is to get published these days. I had just told her of my Judaism course when she turned to me and asked abruptly, “Do you know the story of Esther?”

flower of hopeI nodded yes, although at the time it was just a passing familiarity. An orphan raised by her uncle, kind-hearted Mordechai, in many ways Esther was the original Cinderella – chosen above all other maidens as the king’s new bride. Chosen for her beauty and quiet intelligence, Esther not only captured the king’s heart but was able to spark his compassion and thereby save her people from being put to death after an evil plan had been hatched by the king’s close advisor, vizier Haman.

“You need to learn about Esther,” Joseé-Anne repeated. “You need to absorb her spirit into yourself. This was a young girl who had nothing, whose people were persecuted, who was secretly Jewish and in danger. And yet she saved the nation of Israel. She didn’t do this with connections or money; she had nothing but her desire to change the world and save her people. And she did it.”

We fell quiet. Joseé reached over and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. “Find the courage that Esther had. If she could find it within herself to stand up against a king and be so brave, any of us can do whatever we put our minds to. It’s a matter of faith – being alone in the world and having faith that something greater than yourself is there, watching for you. Even in the darkest moments, when there is no light or hope on the horizon, if you believe as Esther did, you will find the strength.”

sunny_daffodilsBoth Easter and Purim are about hope. About rising out of the ashes of humanity’s frailty and finding kindness and compassion when faced with hatred, which almost always stems from fear of the unknown, of things and people who we perceive are different from us. Whether it was Jesus forgiving his Roman executioners, or Esther who managed to save the Jewish people from their executions, both holidays depict the triumph of a single person’s empathy and fortitude over the hatred of the many.

Purim and Easter both signify a new beginning, as well as the end of winter and the birth of spring. Along with Holi in the Hindu religion, they celebrate love toward all human beings. Together, they are holidays infused with happiness and hope for a new future.

This is a message I need to take to heart more than ever before – I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s disease back in December and survived a major depression and suicide attempt this January. A symbolic spring – the rebirth of dreams and possibilities – is something I need more than ever before.

If you can find it within yourself to help me on this journey, please send a message of support through Patreon.

Happy Purim  phoenix

Posted in depression, jewish, judaism, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bread and Circuses – The Illusion of Choice

Posted by E on September 14, 2015

media-small

Last night was the first day of Rosh Hashana – for those of you unfamiliar with Jewish holidays, it’s a special celebration that marks the beginning of a new year – 5776 to be precise. So for the last couple of days I’ve been busy cooking up a storm and cleaning the house for a dinner party on Sunday evening. But sometime between making sure that the Hungarian goulash would bubble gently on the stove for precisely 2.5 hours and getting the ingredients together for my first-ever (and incredibly delicious) Asian-inspired bourbon chicken dish, the idea for a new blog entry came to me. Paradoxical, considering that what I was doing (chopping veggies in the kitchen) was rather mundane – but since I get my best ideas in the shower or while brushing my teeth, it shouldn’t have surprised me after all.

shana_tova shanatova drawing

Over the last month or so I’ve been developing a basic guide to social media marketing for artists – writers specifically, but something that should benefit anybody in the arts who wishes to build a wider platform. I’ve written about 3-4 pieces that cover branding, crowdfunding and blogging, but suddenly – while checking on the brisket and roasted Romanian peppers (I should give you guys the recipe!) – it dawned on me that I neglected the most important factor of marketing – the bigger picture.

Just about anybody can call themselves a social media expert these days. As human beings bred to be social creatures, we all have varying degrees of proficiency. But what passes as social media instruction is often very superficial – just last week I read ads for a webinar that teaches wannabe “experts” how to bluff their way into getting hired by unsuspecting clients who might actually know more than they do.

I’m guilty of giving impersonal advice too, and who isn’t? The internet is full of advice that aims to be helpful. You’ll be told that you need to brand yourself – start a blog, print some business cards, etc. It’s all fine and dandy, and you’ll read the same advice practically everywhere. But how many such self-help webinars will tell you about the illusion of choice? Who will tell you that you’re actually working against a huge, invisible wave that nevertheless permeates every fiber of our daily existence?

media_consolidationThe Illusion of Choice

In order to really and truly understand the fundamentals of marketing, you must learn about the forces behind it. Specifically, you have to learn the rules of the game that, for better or worse, we’re all conditioned to play. A crucial piece of that understanding rests in accepting the fact that much of what we think we know – that is, the basis for our opinions – comes from a filtered, polluted and thoroughly biased process.

Many of us have heard of Noam Chomsky’s ground-breaking 1988 book Manufactured Consent. Chomsky based the title on a quote from a 1922 book titled Public Opinion by one Walter Lippmann, which delineates the social, physical, and psychological barriers impeding man’s ability to interpret the world. Yes, even back in 1922 (before the funnel-like conglomeration of the world’s media) there were concerns about human beings’ ability to discern the truth around them.

“The manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. […] the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough” – Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

media-moguls-1200x849The blame for such intentional ignorance rests both on the plutocracy of the status quo (who own or fund the printing presses, radio, TV and other forms of media) and also on the public itself who prefers ignorance over reality – much like the current obsession over Kanye and Kim Kardashian’s ass.

Lippmann’s discourses are that 1) the media is profit-driven, and 2) wants to play it safe, i.e. won’t publish anything too controversial.

1.The buying public: The bewildered herd must pay for understanding the unseen environment through the mass communications media. The irony is that — although the public’s opinion is important — they must pay for its acceptance. And we know that people will buy the most media at the lowest price: “For a dollar, you may not even get an armful of candy, but for a dollar or less people expect reality/representations of truth to fall into their laps”. (Wikipedia)

2.Nature of news: Officially-available public matters will constitute “the news”, and unofficial (private) matters either are unavailable or used as “issues” for propaganda. (Wikipedia)

Bread and Circuses

cicero bread and circusesI’d heard this phrase decades ago, as part of some subversive political zine or another, and knew that it dated back to Roman times, a poet named Juvenal and the violent “games” of the Coliseum. The meaning isn’t hard to grasp: in 140 B.C. Roman politicians passed laws to keep the votes of poorer citizens by introducing free food rations: they gave out free grain and entertainment, i.e. “bread and circuses”, which became the most effective way to rise to power.

I heard the phrase again last year from someone who had read my memoir Race Traitor and was shocked that it hadn’t received coverage in mainstream news. So many people have written to me privately and congratulated me for fighting fear and publishing a crucial part of 1990s Canadian history, a piece of our history that certain government factions would rather be forgotten.

juvenal2I told him that I’d done my best to contact the media, tapping every contact I’d had in the press. I was actually interviewed by a well-known journalist from the Globe & Mail, as well as a top programming director at the CBC. Neither interview ever made it to print (or air).

I refused to speculate why, but with the media monopolization that has taken place over the last few decades, it isn’t hard to imagine why a state-funded television network like the CBC would decline to air my story – despite the fact that in 1994 they had broadcast a Fifth Estate episode that featured Grant Bristow and my story. Back in 1994 Linden MacIntyre (who couldn’t be bothered to reply to my 2014 email, even after being connected to him via well-known human rights attorney Paul Copeland) had quoted the Toronto’s Regional CSIS Investigator as saying “We’ll tear her to shreds” about me. I was an 18-year old girl back then, a child, who CSIS wanted to “rip to shreds” because my affidavits described many of the criminal activities their agent Grant Bristow had committed. Grant, of course, was subsequently retired to Alberta and given a “shut your mouth” package totalling close to a million dollars.

revolutionGiven the media monopoly going on in the world today, it is increasingly difficult to get any airtime if you’re writing hard-hitting pieces that might challenge the government or status quo. I’ve received private messages of encouragement from mainstream journalists too afraid to cover my story publicly. What choice do they have? I understand their dilemmas – everyone has a mortgage, kids, needs to put food on the table.

Six media giants now control 90% of what we hear, read or see on television, on the radio, in the newspapers or at the cinema. In 1983, that 90% was owned by 50 different companies. Yes, times have changed, and if you want to be hired or stay employed in mainstream press, you have to toe the line and play by the rules. This isn’t a “conspiracy” – it’s a sad fact.

Timeline of Media Conglomeration

1941 – rules were created to ensure that a broadcaster could not own TV stations that reached over 35% of the population.

circuses21946 – rules were enacted that prohibited a major network from buying another major network

1996 – Telecommunications Act = rules went out the window, unprecedented radio station consolidation

2008 – the US Senate voted, without debate, to throw out FCC’s rules on newspaper broadcast conglomerations.

These six major corporations now own all the world’s major publishers and every major newspaper in western countries. They also own the news stations, leading to collusion and censorship in reporting.

Why am I writing this? Because whenever it comes to media manipulation and the corporations behind it, you’re bound to hear all sorts of opinions about who is running the show, and what their agenda might be. And frankly I am sick of the misinformation going on out there, even among progressives on the left and Anonymous. Tired of the implied and overt anti-Semitism that goes with the thought that these six corporations are all connected to Jewish families like the Rothschilds or Bilderbergs. This is NOT about Judaism, or “the Illuminati”. Such disinformation campaigns are hateful, disingenuous and serve to promote division among people. They’re just as evil as media disinformation campaigns that aim to vilify our “enemies” (i.e. the Russians – anybody in BRICS) before we go to war with them.

Orwell media memeLet me set the record straight: as a Jew, I’ve never benefitted from any largesse because of my ethnic or religious background. Because I told the truth about CSIS’ illegal actions in the 1990s I still can’t get my book featured by the mainstream press and I had to default on my student loans in order to have a life. I have absolutely nothing on my side but the truth (not that the truth puts food on the table).

Religion or a European background is NOT what ties people like the Rothschilds, the Bilderbergs, the Rockerfellers, the Oppenheimers or the House of Windsor together – because as a European and a Jew, I’m still poor. And let me assure you that nobody called me with the password to initiate me into the Illuminati 🙂

What keeps the elites in power is greed and unethical, unadulterated wealth – not religion, not ethnicity, not skin colour. The only God the .001% of elites worship is Money. Any charitable foundations they create are about tax write-offs. Any photo-ops with indigenous peoples or wartime refugees are to profit from potential lawsuits disguised as humanitarian causes, or potential territorial resources. When Queen Elizabeth shakes hands or takes a bouquet of flowers from a toddler, she’s more concerned about the colour-coordination of her coat & hat and renovating the plumbing at Windsor Castle with taxpayers’ money.

speak the truthWe’re talking about the .001% of elites whose God is Money. These are people born with diamond-encrusted gold spoons in their mouths, who have never known hunger, fear, or had to fight with all their might to achieve anything in their lives. Their only claim to fame rests on the laurels of being born at the right time, out of the right vagina.

And in the meanwhile the rest of us, the .999%, are fighting amongst ourselves for scraps. Allowing the biased, partisan, manufactured media to divide us along camps of left and right, black and white, Jewish, Christian or Muslim. This is not about money or religion, or sexual orientation (I’m a lesbian – but why would you care what I do in bed?).

It’s about POWER and CONTROL.

How can we ever succeed when the game is rigged? Simple – educate yourself. Inform yourself and others. It’s only the beginning. And even if with every passing year it’s more difficult to discern the truth – you have to keep trying. Because our lives have to have meaning above and beyond the pursuit of money. There has to be some meaning in all this – in all the tears and despair of a world where millions die of hunger, manufactured wars and preventable diseases every year.

There has to be.

life meaning

Watch this today. BE the change you want to see in the world.

Posted in activism, blog, books, cbc, censorship, freedom, globe & mail, grant bristow, jewish, journalism, media, publishing, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became A Jew

Posted by E on August 10, 2015

Elisa Jerusalem cropped

I became a Jew on the day I was born, December 17. Thirty-eight years had passed between the moment my mother gave birth to me in Romania and the day I was formally accepted as a Jew by rabbis in a North American synagogue.

After I’d completed a year of study, my mentor rabbi informed me that I was ready to take the next step toward conversion – writing a formal essay explaining why I wanted to embrace the Jewish faith, and meeting with a Beit Din. For those reading this who are unfamiliar with the term, a Beit Din is a rabbinical court assembly made up of three observant Jews (at least one of whom is a rabbi) who decide if a convert is fit to be accepted for conversion to Judaism.

Embracing Judaism was the last step along a journey of self-discovery that had taken me many years to explore, and I wanted to do this right – it was important to me that I should have a conversion process that followed the halacha (Jewish law) closely, which meant having a Beit Din made up of at least one rabbi, followed by a ritual immersion in a synagogue mikvah – a pool of water derived from natural sources.

It was the beginning of December and with my birthday right around the corner, it was only natural that I would schedule my Beit Din and Mikvah day on my birthday. How could I choose any other date? What better day to experience a spiritual rebirth and be formally acknowledged as Jewish?

The sun was shining brightly when I woke up early in the morning – too early in fact. The excitement and nervous butterflies churning in my stomach made it impossible to go back to sleep. ‘This is the last day I’ll wake up and not be Jewish,’ I thought. I busied myself by having a long shower, brushing and flossing my teeth, washing my hair and scrubbing my fingernails and toenails free of any traces of nail polish – there was to be no barrier between the body and the Mikvah water.

Brilliant sunshine illuminated the path toward the Beth Hillel synagogue where I would be formally interviewed. I knew it would be a beautiful day, and it turned out exactly as I’d imagined – how could such an important day ever be shrouded in clouds?

The rabbis met me in the lobby of the synagogue at noon. My Beit Din was composed of three ordained rabbis, all active members of the Rabbinical Assembly, although one had retired from his congregation. After everyone arrived, we walked over to the meeting room in the back of the synagogue. A long conference table split the room which could have seated twenty. The three rabbis sat on one side of the table, and I took a seat across from them.

“As we begin, I’d like you to tell us what brought you here and why you want to become Jewish,” Rabbi Levine said.

I summarized some of the key points that I wrote about in my conversion essay:

“The feeling that propels me toward Judaism isn’t as simple as breaking it down into words. It’s a feeling, an echo of something within myself that I am just now recognizing and giving voice to.

I feel that I have always been a Jew. I was born in the mid-1970s in communist Bucharest. Under Ceausescu’s dictatorship, Romania didn’t prioritize religion, choosing instead to indoctrinate their people to worship the State. I don’t remember either of my parents being religious in any way. We never went to church. I identified with my father’s family much more than my mother’s side. I stood out among my maternal cousins by being the black-haired, dark-eyed child who didn’t fit in. People said that my father and I ‘looked Jewish’.”

 Iosif Hategan age 15 Iosif and Ana

Above: me at age 11.  Centre: my father Iosif (Josef) at age 15.  Right: My father and grandmother Ana.

We emigrated to Canada when I was 11 years old. My father subsequently decided to return to Romania and died there when I was 13. I never had the opportunity to ask him all the questions I would have liked to know – Why did he hide his own heritage? Why did he feel ashamed of who he was?

I’ve had people tell me, Why bother to convert. Your father was a Jew, you don’t believe in Jesus as the messiah, so what’s the difference? But it bothers me that I am not recognized by all Jews as a fellow Jew because of my patrilineal descent, and I feel the need to undergo this formal process so that I can both learn much more about Judaism, and to feel like a “real” Jew.

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a family and a connection that has always been there, just outside the realm of my consciousness and yet was always there. Like a pulse that cannot be subdued.

After my father’s death, I lived in a rough low-income neighbourhood with my mother. As time went by, she grew increasingly abusive and I had no choice but to run away. Between the ages of 14-16 I lived in several Children’s Aid homes. In time, I ran away from an abusive foster home and returned to my mother’s apartment. At age 16 I was friendless and desperate. Eventually I became recruited by a neo-Nazi group, the Heritage Front. They became the family I felt I’d never had, and looked after me at a time when my only choice was to live on the streets. They also put me in touch with an internationally-renowned Holocaust revisionist and Hitler sympathizer, Ernst Zundel. Zundel gave me a job working in his basement printing press, fed me and looked out for me.

By the time I turned 18 I knew that what the group was doing was wrong. I wanted out of the organization but they were possessive of me and I didn’t know of a way out. I attempted suicide and eventually I turned to an anti-racist activist, who put me in touch with the director of a think-tank on extremist right-wingers. He, in turn, asked me to spy on the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel and collect information that could be turned over to the police.

defection 1994-2Hategan articleMetro Toronto

For half a year I gathered as much information on illegal activities, weapons and dangerous persons, as well as stole Ernst Zundel’s national and international mailing list, which consisted of people all over North and South America and Europe who had sent in money to fund Zundel’s Holocaust revisionist projects. In 1994 I testified in court and sent 3 Heritage Front leaders to prison, effectively dealing a serious blow toward dismantling the group.

I was only 19 years old. I lived in hiding and attended university in Ottawa under an assumed name. Upon graduating Magna cum Laude with a Criminology and Psychology double-major, I taught ESL in Seoul, South Korea and subsequently travelled throughout Europe the following year.

I spent some time in Krakow and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. Something stirred in me that summer – an inexplicable familiarity, a sense that I was connected to those places in some undefinable way. When I first heard Ladino songs, it was as though I could almost recognize them. The music seemed familiar somehow. Then there were the places in the south of Spain, as well as in Poland and Hungary that I visited – they felt as though I’d been there before. In Debrecen, the city my father was born in, I allowed my feet to take me where they wanted to go, and I ended up on a narrow, cobblestoned street, in front of a half-burned synagogue with smashed-out windows.

It felt like I had been there before. The feeling was strong, palpable, like a childhood memory – a memory that was just outside the realm of my consciousness.

I eventually returned to Canada and tried to lead a normal life. But something always clawed at the back of my consciousness, pushing me toward a Jewish path. I lived along Bathurst street, in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. I began to read books on Judaism and spirituality. Ten years went by since I first thought of undergoing a formal conversion to Judaism, but something always held me back – I first wanted to discover the truth about my father, my family’s past. I had to know our own past in order to go forward.

During a visit to my paternal grandmother’s village in Transylvania, I tracked down relatives, old family friends and neighbours, and asked questions. At my uncle’s house, among my deceased grandmother’s possessions, I discovered a box of mementos and photographs that I’d never seen before. The box was marked with the Jewish surname “Kohan” – the Hungarian version of Cohen. I finally began to believe that my suspicions had been true, and that my father had actually been Jewish.

Back in Canada, I ordered a DNA kit from 23andme, sent in my saliva sample and waited for a month to receive my results. When they came in, it was a surreal experience – one of the most significant days of my life. To realize that after so long, what I had suspected was actually true! I burst into tears of joy, knowing that I was no longer alone – at last I had a past, a history. And well over 20 relatives in the 23andme database with the surname Cohen, some of whom offered their help in piecing together our common ancestry.

23andme EH profile  23andme EH profile2 

Part of my conversion essay:

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a genetic memory, a family and a connection that has always been just outside the realm of my consciousness, yet was always there. The more I learned about Judaism through my study, the more I felt my bond to the past grow stronger.

My father’s denial of his religion and heritage was like an invisible wall that kept me from my past. But with each day and each hour, the wall becomes increasingly transparent. The bricks fall apart and I begin to see a glimpse of something beautiful and mystical on the other side. The shadows of those great-grandparents and the whispers of their lives comes through to me, through me, and out into my very own existence.

I have had thousands of Jewish ancestors from Poland, Russia, Galicia, Ukraine and Romania, whose truth, lives and stories have been wiped off in only two generations. One hundred years. That is all it took to wipe out my family’s connection to their own lineage and heritage.

I look at the world and wonder how many others walk around unaware that the blood of Sephardic conversos or Ashkenazim forced to hide their religion runs through their veins.

I aim to reclaim that heritage.

“Please read your Declaration of Faith for us, Elisa.”

I stood up and read the piece of paper which I had practically memorized over the past year.

declaration of faith Iosif and Elisa Anna-Philip

Left: my declaration of faith. Centre: my favourite photo of me & my father.  Right: grandmother Ana with her husband.

Afterwards, they asked me to sign it and I did so, then handed it back to them. I answered several questions related to holidays and ritual, and recited a couple of prayers. Then one of the rabbis asked me more about my father’s family. “Did you know the biggest group of immigrants to Israel after the war were from Romania?”

I hadn’t known this, and he smiled at me warmly and told me a story about his friends who had come from the same part of Transylvania as my father. Then our conversation touched on the Holocaust, and I mentioned the profound experience I’d had in my twenties when I visited Europe’s biggest concentration camp, the largest mass-murder site in the world.

Rabbi Fertig sat up. “You were at Auschwitz?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“What was it like?”

I gazed into the distance, recalling the summer of 2001 when I had backpacked across Europe, and how my journey to find my roots had led me to Auschwitz. “I went in the summer, when the grass was this high.” I said, lifting my hand to indicate waist-height. “It was a sunny day. A very beautiful day. The sun was high up in the sky, and there was such a vivid a juxtaposition of life and death. The grass was buzzing with crickets and frogs, filled with life….right up among those terrible barracks at Birkenau. I walked inside the barracks and felt that emptiness….the void, the echoes of the lives that had been lost there.”

Rabbi Levine stared at me for a long time. “So many millions perished in the Holocaust – and now you are returning to the fold.”

“I am but one drop,” I said quietly, my eyes filling with tears.

We all fell silent. After some time, Rabbi Brief asked me, “Have you chosen a Hebrew name?”

There was never any doubt in my mind what my Hebrew name would be – Elisheva, of course. The Hebrew version of my own given name. Better yet, it somehow ‘fit’ me. It felt more right than anything else.

“Elisheva Sarah.”

Rabbi Levine cleared his throat. “I am obliged to inform you that although a Conservative Beit Din is accepted by all conservative and affiliated denominations, some Orthodox will still refuse to see you as Jewish.”

I nodded. “Yes, I know this.”

“Do you have any questions for us?”

I hesitated. “Do you think….will I be accepted by a Reform synagogue?”

The rabbis looked at each other in amusement. “They’re going to love you,” the oldest of the rabbis answered. “Reform already recognizes you as a Jew because you have a Jewish father – so just based on the fact that you still went through this when you didn’t have to.”

Rabbi Levine peered into my eyes. “I read your conversion essay and I have to say it really moved me. You’re a very good writer. A very gifted writer.”

Something stirred inside me. Trying to fight back the knot in my throat, I said, “I’m working on a book to preserve the memory of those in my father’s village who have been forgotten. I want to do this for them – I’m the only one left who still carries their stories. Everyone else has passed.”

He nodded, and his eyes communicated such a deep empathy, such a sense of recognition and understanding, that I had to bite my lip to keep from tearing up. My eyes swept the room – the other rabbis were nodding, acknowledging me. I felt, in that moment, that they were seeing the real me – that part of my core I had kept hidden for so long. The vulnerability. The sadness and the truth of what I’d always known to be true. The real core of me.

Rabbi Levine pushed back from the table. “I am ready,” he said. He looked to the others: “I know it’s cutting this short, but I’m satisfied with this. I’m ready to make this woman Jewish.”

my Mikvah my mikvah2

We walked out of the synagogue and around to the side of the building, where another door stood open. A tall, thin woman waited for us there, her hair covered under a beret-type hat. She beckoned us in and we shook hands. “Welcome Elisheva,” she said, smiling at me. “You can leave your coat and stuff here. I warmed up the water really well for you, and have everything set up for you. Come and let me show you around.”

I smiled back at her, and Carol’s eyes glided to my hair. “You have long, gorgeous hair,” she said with a smile, and I instantly read between the lines. The hair was going to be a problem. Making sure there were no tangles was going to be challenging enough. But then she added, “I’m concerned that it might float up when you submerge. Every strand has to go underwater.”

The rabbis sat down on a small bench in the narrow corridor that led to several rooms, including the one where Carol was leading me. It turned out to be a small but perfectly clean bathroom with a shower stall and all the toiletries one could imagine.

She closed the door behind us and pointed out everything, careful to inspect that I wasn’t wearing any nail polish. I started to remove my earring studs and put them in my backpack while she explained what I already knew – I was to scrub off everything once again, wash my hair thoroughly and brush it so there were no tangles anywhere. Then, when I was ready, to walk through another door wearing little bootsies to keep from slipping and only the towel.

“The Mikvah is completely private,” she assured me. “The rabbis will only listen to the submersion and I will be the only one in the room with you. They will hear you say the prayer, but they cannot see you. I am here to make sure your privacy is respected and I myself will not look at you – when you descend into the Mikvah I will hold up the towel and respect your privacy. You can rest assured that your privacy and modesty will be respected at all times. So take as long as you need to get ready, and I will be on the other side of that door.”

After she left, I tried to keep myself from shaking. To think that I was so close to the Mikvah I’d read so much about, so close to the completion of a journey that had taken me years to achieve!

The bathroom was spartan and super-clean. A shelving unit ran beside the sink, and everything I could possibly have forgotten was there: nail polish remover, cotton balls, extra soap, toothpaste, shampoo, dental floss, even a small vial of Air d’Temps perfume that I planned to spritz on after the ceremony was complete (but forgot to, in the ensuing excitement). As Carol had promised, two different kinds of combs lay ready to tackle my difficult hair. I chose the one with the wider-spaced teeth and bravely stepped into the stone shower stall.

The shower itself was as I’d expected, with the worst part being – of course – running the brush through my well-shampooed (but not conditioned) curls. Needless to say, when it was all said and done I lost more than my usual amount of stray hairs, possibly because I was so excited, nervous and emotional about the ritual to follow that I brushed a bit too impatiently and managed to snap off some more split ends.

The last thing to go were my contact lenses. The Mikvah rules were that nothing could stand in the way of the water immersing the body, not even contacts. I placed the case carefully on the sink ledge and wrapped the fresh white towel around my body.

Then I reached for the door handle and stepped into the other room.

The room was low-lit, with several pot lights illuminating only the water – which was as blue as the sea. The Mikvah was larger than I’d imagined, much larger than a Jacuzzi but not quite the size of a swimming pool.

Am I really here? Is this finally happening? I wondered, gazing in awe at the water that would soon immerse every bit of my being. It’s so beautiful.

I kicked off the bootsies and held still while Carol the Mikvah Lady inspected me in order to pick off any stray hairs that may have fallen down my back. I checked myself also and found an additional long hair that I handed her.

After she discarded the loose hairs, Carol came back and stepped behind me. “You can give me the towel and go in now,” she said, holding the towel I handed her up in front of her – as promised, to protect my modesty. Although I’d wondered what it would feel like being completely naked in front of a stranger, I realized that I didn’t feel embarrassed at all – this felt like such a perfectly natural, even maternal process.

I walked toward the Mikvah and began to descend the seven steps that led down to the main pool. I held the railing and stepped down the seven steps–each one representing a day in the Creation story. Then an unexpected challenge arose: by the fourth step I could already tell that the water was too deep. As in, over my head. I’m not a swimmer by any stretch, and have never managed to hold my own in the deep-end of a swimming pool. I would never be able to touch the bottom.

Over the past year I’d researched anything I could find about other people’s accounts of their conversion ceremonies, but had never read about the situation that confronted me now – being only 5’2” tall, by the time I reached the lowest step I was already immersed up to my chin.

I gazed into the shimmering depths of the main pool and realized, not without a fair amount of trepidation, that I would never be able to stand upright in it. The water was high enough to go over my head. Although I love splashing around in water, I’m not a swimmer and have never managed to tread water in the deep end of a swimming pool.

An irrational fear seized hold of my mind. Has anybody ever drowned in a Mikvah? I wondered, cringing inwardly at the ridiculousness of the question. Worst case scenario, Carol the Mikvah Lady was here, along with three rabbis on the other side of the wall partition. Surely somebody would pull me out if I didn’t resurface after a while, right?

My desire to become a Jew was now confronted head-on by my fear of drowning. The combination didn’t make for a particularly mystical experience. Did I want to convert badly enough to risk drowning? Would you rather live as a Christian or risk drowning to become a Jew?

The answer came hard and fast: YES. Yes, I wanted it that badly. Badly enough to jump off into the deep end, where the water towered above my head – not knowing if I would bob back up or sink right to the bottom.

Over the months that led up to this ceremony, I’d imagined this day to be a peaceful, holy, life-changing process. In a way, this was still partly true – with that tranquil blue water so warm and lovely, lapping at my skin, an aura of serenity had surrounded me. But suddenly another part of me was seized with fear. As anxiety mounted in my chest, I realized that in order to become a Jew I would have to conquer my terror.

I took a deep breath and tried to balance myself on the lowest step, which was really hard because the salt water makes you buoy about, making it impossible to keep your feet firmly planted onto the tiled ground.

“Are you ready?” Carol’s voice resounded behind me. “Take your time. When you’re ready, I want you to take a deep breath and jump away from the step. When you’re fully immersed under the water, lift your legs up so that you don’t touch the bottom to make sure that for an instant, you’re floating free.”

I sucked in a deep breath, steadied myself….and then stepped off the ledge. Water flooded into my eyes, mouth, over my head, and suddenly I was up again, sputtering and flailing toward the metal rail in the corner. I seized hold of it and clambered up onto the last ledge again.

Carol looked at my ungainly flop and smiled sympathetically. “We’ll have to do that one over again. Your hair didn’t go all the way under.”

Strands of my hair had floated to the surface since I hadn’t sank deep enough. “Does this happen a lot?” I asked her.

She nodded. “You’re very buoyant – we all are – so what you’ll need to do is really let go and try to jump up a little when you step away from the stairs. The force of you jumping up will ensure you submerge all the way down.”

I took another deep, shuddering breath, and felt determination flow through my entire body. I hadn’t come this far to allow fear to stop me now. I thought about my father, my grandmother, about our family friend Steve Bendersky and the relatives he’d lost in the war, about the numbers tattooed on his arm, about the heritage that had been denied me. I thought about the people who had been killed over the centuries for being a Jew, about all who had walked down this path before me as converts and embraced their Jewish neshama.

I had come this far. I was ready.

It still felt scary, taking that plunge – but I no longer cared about drowning. I wanted to leap as far into that water as I could, to take it all into my heart, to let it remind me of my strength and ability to survive anything.

I was enveloped in a cocoon of blueness and warmth – the perfect heat of a womb made of nature’s own waters that seemed to have always existed in and around me. I opened my eyes underneath the water which coated every pore of my being and thought, This is the day I was born. Back then, and then again today.

No sooner did that realization hit than a force propelled me upwards – the force of my own buoyancy. I hadn’t drowned after all. In fact, I felt stronger than ever.

Carol’s voice echoed throughout the small room: “Kasher!”

I repositioned myself on the last step, filled my lungs with air, and leapt up again. I sank down into the depths of the Mikvah and didn’t fight it this time – I gave myself to it in body and soul.

When I bobbed back up, Carol called out “Kasher” for the second time.

I half-swam back toward the steps, found my balance again and turned to face the blueness. This would be my third jump. When I came back up again, I would be a Jew.

“Take your time,” Carol said softly. “If you want to take a moment to say a silent prayer – just for yourself.”

I closed my eyes and felt tears brimming behind my eyelashes. I mouthed the words of the Shema silently, for everyone before me, and then again for myself – that I be worthy of that painful, beautiful legacy and that I might contribute toward making the world a better place.

And then I took the biggest leap of my life into the waters that had always waited there for me. I lifted my knees up to my chest and spread my arms out to my sides, and the Mikvah embraced me.

And as I came up to the surface as a Jew, Carol called out for the third time, “Kasher.”

My voice shook as I spoke the words of the final prayer, Shehecheyanu, a prayer uttered by Jews for two thousand years: “Barukh Ata Adonai, Elohenu Melekh Haolam, Shehecheyanu, Vekiyimanu, Vehigiyanu, Lazman Hazeh.”

As soon as I said the last word, “hazeh”, voices all around called out “Mazel Tov!” I heard the rabbis break out into applause from the other side of the partition carved in the wall, congratulating me.

I turned around and emerged out of the water slowly, its warmth following me. Carol was beaming at me, holding out the towel. “Mazel Tov, Elisheva.”

I pitter-pattered back to the bathroom where I was shaking as I toweled off, got dressed as quickly as I could, and put in my contact lenses once again. I was too impatient to take the time needed to blow dry my long hair, and as a result I was still dripping water when I re-emerged into the little room where everyone was waiting for me.

The rabbis surrounded me and put their hands on my shoulders, breaking into song. As they sang, said their blessings and gave me all the official conversion paperwork, tears started to course down my face. They sang the old traditional Siman Tov/Shalom Aleichem song and I just folded my arms across my chest and bit my lip to unsuccessfully stop myself from crying. The oldest rabbi, probably close to eighty, wrapped his arm around my shoulders in a way a father might comfort a daughter and as he held me while I cried, I felt the warmth of his joy – I had come home.

Elisa and rabbis my menorah

Above: me with rabbis after the ceremony.  Right: a beautiful antique menorah – my conversion gift

In April 2015, a couple of years after my conversion to Judaism, I left for Romania in order to research my newest book, Remember Your Name. Because Bucharest is only a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv, I decided to make my first journey to Israel. I also fulfilled a secret wish I’d carried since my conversion – to go to the Western Wall and recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father.

IMG_9298 Jerusalem arches IMG_9131

It took me a lifetime to realize that my parents had been a by-product of their time – they had suffered so immensely that they had absorbed their oppression and passed it onto others. They made others suffer because that was the only way they could relate, after the pain they had endured. They hurt me because they themselves had been hurt. And then I too, as a child of their hatred, had tried my best to keep that light of hate alive – because I’d never known another way. So many scarred, wounded people have created the world we live in today, where suffering and oppression breeds brutality.

When I was in Israel, a new understanding flooded me – that my story doesn’t end with dissecting my own family’s hatred and buried identity. It doesn’t end with me converting to Judaism. I’m also digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts in Europe, and the internalization of hatred, the transformation of victim into oppressor. We see this everywhere today – oppressed becomes oppressor, persecuted people turn the brutalization they suffered into outward brutality – from the peasant workers’ 20th century revolutions that turned into communist dictatorships, to the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East.

It’s all a vicious cycle. A cycle where hatred and religion-fueled intolerance supresses the spark of divine essence, the oneness, that connects all beings. A cycle of hate and judgemental intolerance so brutal that it’s pushed me toward feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide for most of my adult life. Until I realized that the future of humankind doesn’t rest with governments and profit-driven policies but within us – that love is stronger than hate. Unity is stronger than division. Kindness reveals much more courage than brutality. That is where everyone’s G-d resides. In deeds of loving kindness. In recognizing our mistakes and showing forgiveness to those who harmed us. And in understanding that our differences are nothing in comparison to the beautiful light that shines within us all.

Elisa TelAviv sunset yad vashem vista

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

Posted in anti-semitism, family, hate, identity, jewish, life, news, religion, romania, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Heal your Wound, Transform the World

Posted by E on May 6, 2015

By now it seems that everybody in the world has seen yesterday’s Toronto Star article, which featured me and my journey toward understanding hate and its visceral, personal roots. I’m very grateful that Rachel Mendleson, a journalist at Canada’s largest-circulated newspaper, saw value in what I am trying to accomplish and worked so hard to share it with others.

Metro Toronto Screenshot 2015-05-06 2

The sad and painful truth is this: I have had hundreds of hits on my blog and website yesterday, but not many donations to the book campaign mentioned in the Toronto Star article. Which is the whole crux of the matter – for the last two months I’ve begged, borrowed and bothered people in order to fundraise for a project that I truly believe will make a difference in this world. But, with the exception of a few close, dear friends and a handful of people who believe in me, it’s all gone on deaf ears.

I cannot do this without your help. I’m not just talking money here – although without it, the research involved in this book simply cannot take place. But even dropping a word of encouragement. Sharing the story with others. Telling people on Facebook. Or just believing in me.

Anything at all.

But until now, everybody – yes, even YOU reading this – is probably thinking, Hey, this sounds like a cool project, so SOMEBODY’S going to help out. But the reality is, nobody will. We live in an age of indifference and self-absorption, where a guy on Kickstarter gets $50,000 to buy ingredients for a potato salad, and worthwhile projects and causes are bumped from the limelight in favour of potato-salad-guy or kong-fu-baby. It’s the reality of our time, where the trivial and the insipid have come to dominate social culture as we define it today.

So that somebody you’re thinking might be able to help me, after you leave this blog – well, that’s YOU.

There’s nobody else. If I had a dollar, even five dollars, for everybody who has checked out my blog over the last month but didn’t contribute anything, my book would have been funded by now.

There is just me. And you. And this moment – where you can decide to help me or you can walk away. This is, after all, your choice. But please don’t diminish that choice by assuming that there’s somebody else in line to help me out.

Because there isn’t.

If you DO decide to walk away, I don’t resent you. In fact, I’m kind of wishing I could walk away from it also. But the thing is, I can’t. My entire childhood and my adolescence was filled with hate, abuse and continuous trauma, and I realize today, in my 40th year, that running away from ugliness changes nothing. It’s cosmetic surgery of the heart, but doesn’t repair the wound inside your soul.

My wound goes deeper than my own childhood – it goes into the lives of my parents, and grand-parents, and great-grandparents before them. An epigenetic history of hate, oppression and suppression of the self. I carry in my blood the genetic memory of six hundred years of hatred, pogroms, wars, abuses and oppression. It’s a huge family tree of despair and longing to be remembered. Hence the name of my book.

remember meme

In Remember Your Name, I’m digging back into the personal transformations of innocents into monsters, as well as digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts (Sephardic conversos) in Europe, and the internalization of hatred and the transformation of victim into oppressor.

We see the consequences of this legacy of hate everywhere today – oppressed becomes oppressor, persecuted people turn the brutalization they suffered into outward brutality – from the peasant workers’ 20th century revolutions that turned into communist dictatorships, to the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East. Whether it means torching a police car or turning around and inflicting violence upon someone else, we as human beings are collective beings – which means that, even at our worst, we cannot constrain our emotions. They will spill out, for good and for bad, and impact the universe around us.

Right before I converted to Judaism in 2013, I had to write an essay for the rabbis at my Beit Din (Rabbinical Council) to explain why I wanted to become a Jew. This is a segment of that essay:

“My father’s denial of his religion and heritage was like an invisible wall that kept me from my past, but with each day and each hour, the wall becomes increasingly transparent. The bricks fall apart and I begin to see a glimpse of something beautiful and mystical on the other side. The shadows of those great-grandparents and the whispers of their lives comes through to me, through me, and out into my very own existence.

I feel terribly sad that I have had thousands of Jewish ancestors from Poland, Russia, Galicia, Ukraine and Romania, whose truth, lives and stories have been wiped off in only two generations. One hundred years is all it took to wipe out my family’s connection to their own lineage and heritage. I look at the world and wonder how many others walk around unaware that the blood of Sephardic conversos or Ashkenazim forced to hide their religion runs through their veins. But I aim to reclaim that heritage.”

By reclaiming this heritage, I reclaim the pain and the beauty of everyone whose blood gave birth to me today. Maybe I’m being idealistic or naïve, but I keep feeling that if I could SOMEHOW depict how pain and oppression, innocence and brutality, are so closely intertwined, then I might be able to show that there is no such thing as black or white in this world.

There is no ME or YOU. There is no Jew, Arab or Christian. We all laugh, we all cry. We all bleed.

We are ONE. Your pain is my pain, and my memories are your memories now.

Within each and every one of us there is the potential to be a victim and a victimizer, a tormentor and a tormented soul. There is love, and there is hate. And it is the uniqueness and beauty of our human experience which allows you to make that choice – the choice to get involved, to show kindness and compassion, or the choice to walk away.

Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Posted in ancestry, canada, commentary, hate, heritage front, history, jewish, journalism, love, media, news, racism, religion, revolution, romania, toronto, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The most important book I’ll ever write, and it needs YOU

Posted by E on March 20, 2015

remember meme

“This story needs to be told and widely read” – reknowned human rights lawyer Paul Copeland

Dear friends, supporters and occasional voyeurs 🙂

everyone who knows me is probably aware of how reticent I am to discuss the details of whatever it is I’m working on – it’s a weird idiosyncrasy common mainly among writers and is the result of a befuddling combination of nerves, superstition (if I talk about it, I’ll jinx it!) and just plain discomfort at being asked questions that demand answers you haven’t quite worked out yourself.

But it’s time for my manuscript to come out of its closet and introduce itself – until now, only a handful of close friends ever knew of its existence. Until last night, I kept it under wraps for many reasons – but now circumstances force me to appeal to all of you and share my first-ever crowd-funding effort for this book.

Please, PLEASE take a moment to click on this link and check out the detailed story behind this manuscript. I feel so strongly about it that I have no doubt it’s the most important, and powerful, book I will ever write. So please – even if you can’t spare a dollar, at least share the Project link among your friends, relatives and whoever you think would be interested in supporting a book that will hopefully make a difference.

REMEMBER YOUR NAME is a memoir that depicts a journey into the roots of hate, identity, human trafficking and self-discovery in Eastern Europe.

It’s also the story of my family, the story of my country, the story of my people.

We all have our own story, but that story doesn’t belong to us: it’s the story of the hometown we came from, the people who gave birth to us and the people who came before them; the kids we went to school with, the neighbors across the road. It’s the story of every individual who came into our path, who added their own presence, experience, emotions, light and darkness to the universe that became our own.

I picked GoFundMe over Kickstarter because of its flexible funding model – which means every single dollar you donate WILL actually reach me, whether I meet my funding objective or not. So please be part of my team and together, let’s make this book happen!

Remember Your Name is a memoir about memory, heartbreak and belonging. Tying together six hundred years of revolutions, cruelty, despair and transformation, this is a luminous journey of love, loss and hate into the heart of a memory that refuses to be forgotten.

I am deeply grateful for anything you can do to help. Thank you.

Posted in abuse, ancestry, hate, jewish, love, manuscript, media, revolution, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Auschwitz: Remnants of Sunlight

Posted by E on January 27, 2015

Auschwitz photos birkenau camp pics girl krystina

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I’ve thought for a long time about what I might be able to write, about what I could say to both honour and preserve the memory of such terror coming to an end. Do I write about the time when I was once surrounded by neo-Nazis and Holocaust revisionists who wove a network of neo-fascists across Europe, Canada, America and South America?

Do I write about old Steve Bendersky, who was like a beloved uncle to me when I was a child and whose arm bore the faded blue numbers that I once seriously contemplated tattooing onto my own wrist? Whose Shabbat candles I inherited after his death and which I still light every Friday evening?

Do I write about discovering my Jewish roots, and how my family tree research has come to an abrupt halt as I realize that it’s very likely most of my father’s relatives perished in the war?

If I started to write about the heartache that Auschwitz represents both to me and to Jews as a population, along with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians, gypsies and political prisoners in WW2, I would probably just sit here, start crying and be unable to stop, much less write a single word. So instead, I want to talk about my own memories of the concentration camp.

I visited Auschwitz once, during the summer of 2001, the year after I graduated university and worked as an English teacher in South Korea. Instead of doing something respectable like paying off my defaulted student loans, I decided that I had to journey back to eastern Europe that summer – I had to track down for myself the roots of the hatred that had surrounded my early life.

I took these photos at Auschwitz-Birkenau and I wrote this long poem, Remnants of Sunlight, which I published in my first poetry book. Today, on the 70th anniversary of the WW2 genocide that represents the worst of humanity, I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz than to republish this poem that is so close to my heart here, on my own blog.

Many of the verses and imagery encompassed here were scribbled while I stood there, in the empty barracks of Birkenau – it was a sunny, beautiful day, in contrast to the horror that surrounded me. The planks underneath my feet snapped and crackled as I walked among the barracks, amid the three-tiered bunk slots, touching the worn, rain-soaked wood that had once let in the cold, bitter winter winds that killed thousands of malnourished prisoners.

I listened to the frogs and crickets singing through the knee-high grass, and imagined that the lush, verdant greenery of my surroundings had sprouted up from the ashes and crumbling bones of countless nameless victims. I felt the great big emptiness of those awful barracks corrode through my entire being and leave a huge, empty hole in my soul.

And then I wrote this poem.

REMNANTS OF SUNLIGHT

  1. BARBED ROOTS

Last night, my fate made an unannounced appearance.

She presented herself for dinner uncombed,

long hair spreading like a silver service set

upon my Hungarian lace and Polish linen.

Her lips made the sound of a struck match

and then she dissolved like the flame

and suddenly,

folded between napkins and candlelight,

in clotted ink behind all the spice jars,

I discovered a journey –

 

A pilgrimage of crumbling pages

with scribbles and margins ripped

and a big part missing,

the part about how, one evening in August

my return is inevitable.

 

The coarse grains of history

have become threads between my fingers

as I hold my father’s funeral suit in preparation

and the smell of mothballs finds another fragrance

of yellowed books, copper and sulphur

lingering soft as the light of opals

and the mouldy cellar smell of a dead grandmother

 

chemical powders and twisted letters

weave like high country roads on my tongue;

the sound of predestination

is the hush of waist-high grass among barracks

and the ribbit of frogs leaping

out of a pond of ashes

 

right after graduation I know I must find him –

breathe in the last days of my father’s essence,

find out his ending

I have to revisit the house where my grandmother lived

locate the little girl who was my sister, now missing

 

the boulders that rained upon my childhood

must be swept out

from the floorboards of this house

that I have carried on my back

for more than twenty years

 

The dark house of my memories

where my father who disappeared breathes

the house that nightly perches on my eyelids

and ropes my hair down through the pillow

into the black earth of a country

I left when I was ten

 

I arrange to fly from Toronto to Paris one-way

then train onward to eastern Europe

 

Unfolding in the silence pressed among suitcases

packed with blossoms

brittle like paper, like blouses

I wait

in the centre of the Black Forest

 

weeds protrude through the planks underneath

and I smell the sun and the moon being burned

 

I inherited the wire

my hair grows twisted like that, all black

charred like Romany wagons

and muddy villages

the same colour as the evening branches I reach toward

through the smeared window

of the Krakow-Budapest train

 

Brushing my fingertips against the corrosion of metal railings

I feel the echo of locomotives flowing through them,

the breathing of doves perched on wooden fences.

I pick up little white stones shaped like petals

and a fire is burning in my palms

 

2. KRAKOW, 5762

 

Two hours before you catch

the connecting train

in the middle of nowhere

the birds sing louder, gravel paves the horizon.

Two hours to put down your backpack and breathe in

the smell of corn and sleepless kilometres

lingering like murmuring chords

 

Shadows of firs line your closed eyelashes

pad riverbeds and uncombed hair

an unlit street, a colour

splashing over your shoulder

a bridge rail glinting in the sun

 

you arch, the metal between your fingers

rocking in your palm

a rocks skips across the shallow surface below

emerging on the shore

in the stubble of raspberries and grass against trees

 

like a bell, your mouth

opens to echo the air

swallowing another voice that breaks out

like a burning rash, over autumns without hours

and railroads that glint in the afternoon sun

 

shadows juxtapose across your forehead

cloth is reduced to threads, even-numbered and silent

and the direction of the winds commands

the distant vapour of wheat to start an insurrection

 

your two hands on the railing testify unknowingly

by virtue of their existence

about the arid landscape and the sharpness of language,

the language of grandmothers in old photos

and numbered suitcases in dark rooms;

a language you don’t even speak

of a place you don’t even know –

letters, epitaphs, barometers

are the only coordinates left

in this geography of asphalt.

 

III. THE HIVE

 

The old woman with the glassy green brooches

today forgot to pencil in her brows

not that it makes any difference;

her eyelids still sag under the thick black India ink

but she doesn’t stop writing –

If I am dead, who will write these verses for you?

 

Now enters the smell of white chrysanthemum

carrying the musk of narrow wardrobes

and yellowed newspapers rustling underneath.

 

Outside the open window, bees are humming;

sunshine dust gathers languorous and heavy –

a few slender rays spread like fingers

across my rumpled blue bedspread.

 

From this high window I can see the entire city

how pretty Wawel castle is, how loud the wail

of the dying trumpeter across Rynek Glowny Square

 

and how empty of voices

although on another frequency that only stray animals make out

pressed between the dying weed and cobblestones

there is singing

 

no matter how many hot the day, she remains cold

papery like a delicate leaf in the morning rain

and still here, through the sunshine and foliage

climbing over the windowsill

the fingertips of ghosts continue to cling from the edge

 

in every vacant place, on every park bench

there is a hollowness that becomes testament,

then turns into voice

and the voice speaks the names – all of them

every one of them

 

Darting through my black hair

Auschwitz’s bees search for their stolen honey

buzzing through tall cannibal grass

buzzing in and out of the barracks

 

Don’t touch, don’t search my soul,

she leaves me a folded message on the table

not on such a beautiful day

so hot, so full of brightness

when the circumference of summer

becomes a fragile eggshell

with its yolk missing

 

IV. AT SUNRISE THE FORGOTTEN WILL WEEP

 

At sunrise the forgotten will weep

big tears of stone.

 

So heavy their tears,

they will roll down hills as great boulders

 

and smash into the grey buildings that had crushed

the beating hearts of the nameless

 

such great rocks will fall – thick like rain in the valleys

and the forgotten will once again weep

 

So wet will their tears be

that they will moisten the earth

and make it easier for fingers to dig out

 

fathers and grandmothers

brushing the dirt from their clothes

picking up suitcases, ready to come home

 

So hot the sunrise will be

that it will dry the blood on their faces

and clear a sadness fringed with eyelashes

 

It will call them by name

reacquainting them with the heat of the loved

with the sensation that somebody remembered

 

the names and the dreams they once carried

folded like secret letters

in the depths of their shirt pockets

 

V. FAR FROM THE APPLE ORCHARD

 

In my classroom in downtown Seoul, the windows are always open with voices.

Little kids squeal and climb up my back; we sing about the dog named Bingo

eat kimchi together for lunch, the heat of searing Korean spices

wafting away that other smell of smoke

 

On vacation in Beijing I climb the Great Wall through stinging air,

running up the steps as fast as I can, like a Tibetan mountain goat

trying to reach the heights of Tibetan mountain-dwellers

where the North wind rages so loudly, it silences everything

 

A year later, along the Ponte Vecchio in Florence,

I listen as Michelangelo would have, to the sound of hammer and chisel

drifting across the Arno. Here, the clang of iron is an invocation of beauty,

not the screech of a train coming to a stop, the crash of gates closing

 

Then, on the bus to Mombassa, along the bright coast

women with round syllables and laughter

sing a song of bronze bracelets and colourful khangas

 

So far from the dark, endless woods where songs turn to screams

where the faces of locals are stout and red

as though stained by the blood underneath their feet.

 

As far down as Cusco I feel the breath of cliffs on my back,

The spit of hot springs at Aguas Calientes. Up the trail to Macchu Picchu

I smell chickens in the alpine air: wild fowl, wet feathers, muddy paths.

 

I am like an apple, there are five parts to me –

seed, core, meat, skin, and stem.

Like an apple, I leave parts of myself everywhere.

 

I am the shell of a seed eaten up by villages of rock and dirt along the Danube –

swept along rivers rampaging out of their beds

there is nothing left but my war –

a forest of wolves.

 

The shaman anoints my forehead with red liquid.

His hands smell of fermented herbs, berries, cocoa leaves, leather.

You are a bird that refuses to feed or to fly/

but there is something in you which will not die.

 

My ears pick up the noise of the jungle, rushing water and tall blades of grass.

The heat inside the enclosed hut makes my body sticky;

The air is viscous and green with thunderstorms.

 

This may well be the first time I can see /

this strength that has always evaded me

the will of a body to survive in spite of itself –

a drowning rat clawing out of its own frailty.

 

How much determination is required to breathe?

There are certain things a body will do with or without approval;

(take in air, for example).

A body will fight for survival.

A body will survive pogroms, refugee camps, beatings

while the mind, just a seed raw and torn from its shell

stays wrapped in a peel of green apple skin

around a tea cup glazed with a Spanish windmill,

the last one of a set.

 

 

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I Know What It’s Like Not To Be Believed

Posted by E on October 30, 2014

woman-gagged

In light of the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal and the burgeoning public epiphany that sometimes women don’t speak of abuse not because they’re not truthful, but because they fear ridicule, public mockery, further abuse and being disbelieved in the court of public opinion (as well as actual courts), I must write this.

Over the last six months I put aside my blog and focused on generating media interest in my book, which is based on my experiences as a teenage girl inside a domestic terrorist group spear-headed by a CSIS (Canadian Intelligence and Security Service) agent, Grant Bristow.

After releasing my book at the end of March, there was a flurry of interest, but none from traditional media outlets. I quickly discovered that if you are not published by a large press, i.e. Random House or Penguin (who I walked away from back in 2011 for various reasons), nobody will believe you.

My experiences cruelly paralleled what happened to me back in 1993 – upon a secret mandate issued by CSIS to all provincial police forces to dismiss all my signed affidavits and eyewitness evidence (discussed in a 1993 episode of The Fifth Estate), I was denied entry into the RCMP Witness Protection program and forced to go on the run for my life.

It didn’t matter then that everybody knew a CSIS agent had gone rogue and established the violent paramilitary white supremacist group you might remember as the Heritage Front.

It didn’t matter that Brian McInnis, a cabinet aide to the Attorney General who leaked an internal confidential CSIS report about said rogue agent, was dismissed from his job and charged under Canada’s insidious Official Secrets Act.

It didn’t matter that assaults, hate-mongering and even two particularly vicious sexual assaults had been connected to the Heritage Front (and many believe, to the leadership).

It didn’t matter that said rogue agent encouraged others to join the conservative Reform Party (and served as bodyguard at Reform conventions), thereby leading to the destruction of this political party when the Toronto Sun broke that violent HF members were encouraged to join Preston Manning’s Reform party as a way to sway them to the far right.

No investigation was to take place.

The rogue agent would be cleared – because to clear him was to ensure CSIS’s good name, along with the name of the agent’s handler, one connected to the RCMP intelligence unit that preceded the inception of CSIS – the same RCMP unit responsible for dirty tricks against the FLQ that included breaking into offices and blowing up barns under the guise of being “French separatists”.

Grant Bristow CSISIt didn’t matter that neo-Nazis with criminal histories were taught by this CSIS agent how to stalk and gather information against political opponents, how to harass and threaten them over the telephone and even in person with impunity, while at the same time gathering a seemingly-endless cache of weapons to be used in what they believed was an impending Race War.

It didn’t matter that my credibility on the witness stand had already been established after my testimony was crucial to the convictions of three prominent Heritage Front leaders back in 1993.

In the end, I was just an impoverished, homeless, abused eighteen-year old girl and they….well, they were CSIS.

I was a nobody, and Grant Bristow was deemed enough of a hero to receive a standing ovation at a Toronto synagogue after an event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Congress – albeit they were among the same people who were targeted for attacks by violent skinheads and neo-Nazis who looked up to Grant Bristow, who worshipped him as their hero.

Although I was a lesbian, although my father was Jewish, although I sent three neo-Nazis to prison, I was not credible enough for ANY police division in Canada to open an investigation.

I was worthless.

I was a nobody.

Scores of weapons ranging from automatic rifles to M16s are still on the street because nobody bothered to sign off on a warrant to raid premises that stored illegal weapons intended for future terrorist actions.

But here we are, exactly twenty years later, and I have a book in my hands that details everything I saw and accounted for in my affidavits.

Hategan articleI thought the media were my friends. Upon the advice of my former lawyer Paul Copeland, I contacted various prominent members of the media, including Linden MacIntyre (before his retirement) – who I presume didn’t think much of my heartfelt plea to discuss the events I had witnessed, because he didn’t grace me with a single acknowledgement message.

I sent a message to a woman who had filmed a documentary about me for It’s About Time, a Vision TV program where she had worked before she climbed up the media ladder and eventually became DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING AT THE CBC. She had been one of the few people concerned about me, back in the day. Or so I thought, because of the care she took during my interview in the 1990s. Then again, back then she was a hungry, inquisitive recent film school grad with a vested interest in doing the right thing, not Director of Programming at the CBC. She hadn’t rubbed elbows with the elites yet, she hadn’t had a taste of what Canadian media is really like.

She assured me that she would send my manuscript and story throughout the ranks of the CBC – Canada’s taxpayer-funded Broadcasting Corporation. Surely someone there might be interested in speaking with me, even for a mere sound bite, in light of all the controversial CSIS operations in the Muslim community (where people with questionable guilt and motives are pushed into illegal actions by people who cannot, in good conscience, be described by any words other than agent provocateurs).

NOBODY bothered to contact me again.

FINALLY, I heard from a journalist at the Globe & Mail who is very familiar with political columns and often writes articles about the over-reaching grasp of our country’s shadowy intelligence agency.

We met for coffee in the Annex and had a conversation which lasted over an hour. He was interested, even flabbergasted, by what I had seen. And then came the punchline – when he asked me if the book was self-published. When I told him it was, it was clear that his mood had shifted.

Somehow, by the sheer fact that someone like Random House wasn’t behind me, he was never going to cover the story. In fact, it seemed like he lost interest and questioned whether what I had told him was in fact, factual.

I am used to being disbelieved by the police, but it was a first – to encounter this from people who are entrusted with impartiality.

It was in that moment when I experienced a visceral sense of deja-vu – the sensation of feeling like no matter what I said, or did, that nobody would believe me. That I was worthless. That I was a whore who was doing this for attention.

I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I felt exactly as I did when Wolfgang Droege, leader of the Heritage Front and best buddy of Grant Bristow, hit on me when I was sixteen, and when a knife was held up to my neck and I was threatened with death on suspicions of turning against them.

Yes, I know what it’s like to be treated like a rape victim. I know what rape feels like, and I know what it’s like to be alone in the world, to feel ashamed and dirty when everybody around you prefers to look the other way.

Back in the 1990s, I possessed enough information to send at least ten Heritage Front and Northern Hammerskins individuals to jail. Probably more, but it hurts too much to start thinking about all the What Ifs. Aside from learning how to hack into telephone systems and how to push people to the brink of suicide, I was taught another important lesson by CSIS – that the weight of truth depends on the perceived worth of those who speak it.

To the OPP and RCMP officers who had been advised by CSIS to disregard my statements, the intrinsic value of my evidence was judged by my worth as a human being – and as an abused, impoverished teenage girl with no education, family or powerful clique of good old CSIS boys to back me up, what I had to say meant absolutely nothing.

Thanks to Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service, millions of dollars were sank into ugly, bottomless pit that was Operation Governor. Falsehoods were spun to assert that Bristow had somehow “prevented” crime from happening, though the fabrications included in the SIRC Report tell us just how much their words are worth. And when I brought real, concrete evidence forth to prosecute dangerous individuals, they buried it.

And yet somehow, being that it is 2014 and I am a university-graduate and professional writer, I never expected this treatment from the supposedly-liberal, “bleeding-hearted” media. From journalists who work for the CBC and Globe & Mail. From people who are not supposed to make you feel like garbage for TELLING THE TRUTH.

But then I think, they too must be scared. Scared to offend, to push the wrong buttons, to stick up for someone who was victimized.

Not when the men in question are powerful. Not when the victim is a teenager, a piece of trash. Not when our government has bought an agent’s silence with a quarter million dollars.

And not when a book is self-published.

 

For further research, I have an extensive media library and traditional press documentation available to anyone interested in what really happened in Canada during the early 1990s: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/race-traitor-reference-media-library/ 

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00JA05FYM

Posted in abuse, canada, cbc, crime, csis, globe & mail, jewish, racism, rape, terrorism, truth, victim | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »