Anti-semitism at a Canadian medical school

December 14, 2022 • 11:30 am

Ayelet Kuper is not only an internist at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) at the University of Toronto, but also was senior adviser on antisemitism. She had that job for only a year, but that was enough. An article she just wrote for the Canadian Medical Educational Journal (click below to read, pdf here, reference below) recounts the pervasive anti-Semitism she experienced and encountered in the job. It’s worse than I imagined, especially in Canada, which I think of as a tolerant land.

But no—Kuper (who many didn’t know was Jewish) found the usual stuff: tropes about Jews being all-powerful, about being “white” and therefore not oppressed, and, especially, equated to Zionists, which to those who are thickheaded think means “approving the Israeli government’s policies”. In reality, it means, accepting Israel as a Jewish state an favoring its preservation. When you say you’re anti-Zionist, you are saying that you’re anti-Semitic.

Further, there is the false assumption that all Jews favor killing or oppressing Palestinians, favor everything the Israeli government does, and we see a total ignorance of things Jewish. This ignorance includes the widespread but false claim that James Temerty, after whom the school was named) was also Jewish. (That’s used to promote the “Jewish power” trope.)

There are links to this story at the Globe and Mail here (archived) and the Toronto Sun here. In fact, this set of “reflections” seems to have made a bit of a splash in the Canadian press.

Much of Kuper’s narrative is anecdotal, but the anecdotes, providing you believe the author, add up to a ton of Jew hatred. Further, as you see below, other people have since weighed in verifying Kuper’s claims of pervasive and growing anti-Semitism at TFOM—and other Canadian universities.

The re-framing of anti-Semitism:

However, growing support for antisemitism at TFOM has been carefully re-framed since the spring of 2021 as political activism against Israel and as scholarly positions held under the protection of academic freedom. The resultant physician advocacy has, however, been rife with dog-whistles, traditional antisemitic tropes,  and disingenuous claims of oppression. I personally experienced many instances of antisemitism, including being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others, and/or for other forms of gain; and that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies, including any claims to have experienced discrimination. More specifically, I experienced the now common strategy among those at TFOM who have made what I believe to be antisemitic statements to say that any Jew who calls them out is just racist and is lying in order to oppress Palestinians; this strategy was reportedly also explicitly taught to TFOM learners by faculty members during an off-campus event.

The myth of “Jews control everything”:

Although this allusion to the longstanding myth of “Jewish power” was only one of many antisemitic aspects of the leaked complaint letter, it is a reference to the traditional antisemitic trope that is, in my experience, invoked at TFOM more often than any other. In larger political contexts, Jews are routinely accused of controlling the media, the economy, and the actions of major nation states. At the local level within HPE, I have heard it said (in person and on social media) within TFOM that Jews control CaRMS (the Canadian Residency Matching Service, which manages the residency selection process), Jews control faculty hiring, and Jews control TFOM’s promotion decisions. To share a specific example, when a lecture on religious discrimination was instituted within the medical school in the spring of 2021, I was asked by non-Jewish learners why content about Jews was “being forced on the students by the Jew who bought the Faculty.” Those learners explained that they meant James Temerty, who with his wife had made a sizeable donation to the Faculty (which was subsequently renamed in their honour), and who is not Jewish; I was specifically told that a substantial number of students had assumed that the Temerty family was Jewish because of their obvious wealth. I have also heard repeated many times a pervasive belief in certain circles of faculty members and learners that anyone at TFOM who angers “the Jews” will have their career destroyed by “the Jews”–and I have had it explained to me on multiple occasions that this fear of Jews, instead of being a bias to be combatted, is actually the reverse: that those who fear Jews based on this egregious stereotype are actually the ones being discriminated against, since they have to cope with their fear of “the powerful Jews”!

Why Jews aren’t oppressed “people of color”

Several years ago, when I taught and debriefed antioppression training for medical students, I learned that white-passing Jewish TFOM students were being told by their peers that their pale skin means that they aren’t allowed to claim to have any experience of oppression. This transpired even in settings where white students with intersectional identities such as being 2SLGBTQIA+ or being female were simultaneously encouraged to talk about discrimination they had experienced due to those identities. I’ve been told by colleagues that being born in Israel and refusing to denounce the existence of my place of birth as a Jewish state means that I am inherently racist and that any discrimination I encounter as a Jew in Canada is therefore deserved. I was told by yet another TFOM faculty member that Jews mustn’t be allowed to speak on their own behalf about antisemitism and shouldn’t even be subject to the protection from discrimination as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code (which focuses on the impact of discriminatory acts rather than on their intent) on the grounds that what Jews call antisemitism isn’t real (so it wouldn’t make sense for us to be allowed to speak to the impact of something that did not exist). In another form of personal silencing leading to epistemic injustice, as a child and grandchild of Holocaust survivors I have been berated over the past several years (by non-Indigenous colleagues who claim to be acting as allies to Indigenous people) for using the concept of intergenerational trauma and told that Jews are “appropriating” the term.

She also mentions this, which I think is funny (but sad):

(For more on this issue, see David Baddiel’s book “Jews Don’t Count” and his brilliant explanation of Jews as “Schrodinger’s whites, white or nonwhite depending on the politics of the observer.”)

Finally, an update from the Globe and Mail:

This is devastating stuff. And it’s happening at a medical school – that in the postwar period had a quota system restricting the number of Jewish students.

If the current and future doctors of Canada think this way, what do less educated members of our society think of “the Jews” (a recently trending topic on Twitter)?

This is not just a problem at TFOM. Dr. Kuper says there were instances where Jewish students in other University of Toronto departments were forced to express their beliefs about Israel before being allowed to participate in school activities.

And this is not just happening at the University of Toronto. Dr. Kuper points out that antisemitism has been reported at other higher education institutions in Canada.

Since the article was published, Dr. Kuper says she has heard not only from “many dozens” of Jewish people at TFOM who said her paper resonated with their experiences, but also from Jewish academics elsewhere at U of T and other Canadian universities and medical schools. They have thanked her, she says, for encapsulating their experiences. She has also heard from Jewish Torontonians in other fields who have experienced antisemitism at work.

Maybe this isn’t “systemic” anti-Semitism, but it’s surely pervasive anti-Semitism. I wouldn’t have expected this from Canada. But anti-Semitism is growing everywhere, including the U.S., where it is by far the most common religious form of “hate crime”.

h/t: Christopher


Kuper A. 2022. Reflections on addressing antisemitism in a Canadian faculty of medicine. Can. Med. Ed. J [Internet]. 2022 Dec. 5 [cited 2022 Dec. 14];. Available from:

37 thoughts on “Anti-semitism at a Canadian medical school

  1. It’s shameful. I would have been less surprised if it were at the local hick school, but this is supposed to be the best med school in Canada. And Toronto is a very cosmopolitan city with an active (and very philanthropic) Jewish community. It makes me wonder what things are like back at my school, UCL/UCH now? My class was about 15-20% Jewish, as UCL was founded as the first British university to have no religious test for entry – The Godless Institution of Gower Street – it has always attracted a good proportion of Jewish students and benefited greatly from having them attend. I expect, sadly, the rot will have set in there too. I forwarded the article a contact at The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which monitors the issue worldwide.

    1. It’s mostly a Muslim thing, if you want my opinion. But atheists who “ally” with Palestinians because it looks good on their cred, adopt anti-Semitic views to suck up. I have actually never heard a white person express anti-Semitism in the context of his Christianity. We have Holocaust-deniers—it’s hate speech here, which sends it underground—but never as a Christian imperative. Just straightforward anti-Jew animus that doesn’t have to be God’s will. Ostentatious Christianity is not a feature of Canadian public life yet anti-Semitism doesn’t go away for all that. Ostentatious Islam is another matter that can’t be called out no matter what it says. “Oh, they’re excused,” we say, ever polite. “Look what they’ve been through.”

      I have a caricature in my mind of the kind of undergraduate medical student who would stand up in class and bait a professor about “the Jew who bought the faculty “. Incredible. Can’t imagine any of my classmates ever doing that. (Never mind that the Temertys aren’t Jewish.)

      I think there’s another story here that people are too squeamish to talk about, but the result of this rot is that it’s open season on Jews.

      I will say that the university’s task force on religious discrimination and bullying seems to miss the mark by focusing on Judaism as a religion. It’s not the same thing as to be Jewish, as Jerry has expounded on more eloquently than I can. A Jew who renounces his faith and professes atheism is not passed over thereby when the pogrom comes.

      1. In the US the right wingers are often antisemitic and this includes a lot evangelical christians. Thus, the chant at right wing rallies, “Jews will not replace us!” They are however very pro-Israel which is why Drumpf did things like move the embassy to Jerusalem and suck up to Netanyahu. And they also tend to hate muslims, so they get to double down on their biases. Evangelicals need Israel to exist so the prophecies in the new testament book of revelation can happen, at which time all the Jews will have to become christians or be killed and go to hell.

        1. Not everything has to be about Trump. Especially a story that takes place in.a country that Trump wasn’t elected to anything in.

            1. Dr. Kuper makes it clear in her article that she is not talking about right-wing or evangelical Christian anti-Semitism at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. She calls out no religions as the fount of anti-Semitism and alludes to the political variety only in wider Canadian society. ” . . .the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increasing antisemitism over the past two years, including national and international anti-vaccination movements that have used Nazi imagery and blamed Jews for everything from concocting or causing COVID-19 to making vaccines mandatory (through malign power and for their own financial gain); however, this particular discourse has thankfully not been prominent in medical institutions. (p. 3 in pdf.) [Emphasis added and digits keying to references removed for clarity.]

              Contrary to your statement, she believes that anti-Semitism at the medical school (where she works) is related mostly to the “Zionism = Racism” trope that has been fashionable at the U.N. and in left-wing “anti-racism” circles for decades. People tell her that they are entitled to espouse anti-Semitic views because of their opposition to Israeli government policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Jews are also regarded as white-adjacent as Jerry alludes to in his original post. These are all shibboleths of the progressive Left, not the far-Right. It is really quite focused.

              If you want to make it about Christians and right-wingers you are talking about something other than Dr. Kuper’s article.

        2. It wasn’t typical right-wing Evangelical Republicans doing that kind of thing and is definitively not the reason Trump supported Israel. A lot of his family is Jewish, but it is reasonable political move despite that.
          You can’t say that US right wingers are antisemitic without also saying of left-wing Democrats.
          The Australian government of the time recognized Jerusalem as the capital. They were right-wing and the new left government has suspended that recognition, but right wing here is million miles from ‘Jews will not replace us’.

    2. Antisemitism was conceived and fed for thousands of years by Christianity. (Muslim antisemitism is late to the game, though no less reprehensible.) My bona fides for saying so include me being raised Catholic and being urged to pray for “those who believe in God but not in Jesus,” i.e., the Jews; and having read James Carroll’s tome, Constantine’s Sword, which I highly recommend.

  2. I am reading Michael Shermer’s “Conspiracy.” I recommend it highly. One of the things he points out is that there are true conspiracies and false conspiracies, and some people are incapable of differentiating between the two. He discusses why some people are susceptible to false conspiracy theories and the difficulty in showing them their flaws in thinking. One only needs to point to the refusal of many millions to accept the fact that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen. Thus, in a world of growing tribalism and polarization, it is not all that surprising that antisemitism has trended upwards. Blaming the Jews for almost everything provides the disaffected an explanation, although a totally wrong one, for all their woes. It is a similar phenomenon as to those blaming capitalism for every trouble in the world. Ludicrous conspiracy theories will never go away. The best we can do is to try our best to keep them underground and incapable of affecting public policy. Unfortunately, doing our best is not always successful.

    1. Ludicrous conspiracy theories will never go away.

      No, no, it’s Kanye with the crazy Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, not Ludacris. Gotta keep those former Def Jam recording artists straight, man. 🙂

      1. “We take our orders — well, I do anyway. [Sniggering from audience heard in background of the cellphone video.] I take my marching orders from the permanent representative of Palestine to Canada.” says Elizabeth May, Palestine sash and all. WTF is that about?? (linked from the National Post story above.)

        The Greens are a dangerous but fortunately not serious party. They aren’t really about climate change anymore because it doesn’t play well here: we only go in for cost-free virtue signaling, which doing anything about climate is certainly not. They know there is no room between the Liberals and electoral obliteration for them to take a more extreme position. They are just another welfare party. Their only useful role is to fragment the Leftist vote into three instead of two and thus prevent election of more Liberal MPs. They usually elect an MP or two to Parliament, not enough to get Official Party status, with a few in provincial legislatures.

        In a textbook example of how vicious small-stakes politics are, the woman the party selected to replace founder and long-time leader Elizabeth May was herself taken down by a bitter, nakedly anti-Semitic grassroots campaign* after the voters repudiated the party in the 2021 federal election. Even being a person of colour didn’t save her. Left leaderless for over a year, the party has just put Ms. May back in charge, jointly with some other guy. That’ll work well.

  3. Jews continue to deal with all the old favorites: how they killed Christ, how they conspire in secret to run the world, how they control the media, are money hungry, clannish, self-serving, conniving, and all the rest.

    Now Jews have a new(ish) thing to deal with and that is the spread of rampant anti-Zionism. Antisemites think they’re being clever by hiding behind the veil of anti-Zionism, claiming that they are merely criticizing the errant policies of the Israeli government and that they are not anti-Jew. But to be opposed to Zionism means to be opposed to the right of Israel to exist. Given that Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, the zeal with which opponents of Israel pursue their goals forces me, sadly, to draw an equal sign between Israel hate and Jew hate.

    Now that this new avenue of attack on Jews has been opened, Jewish individuals and institutions will need to learn how to respond. Several of the descriptions in Kuper’s article seem to describe problems that are being exacerbated by the new license to defame Jews via the subterfuge of attacking Israel.

  4. Each year I have my students check their implicit biases using this online “test” from Harvard. It is quite funny to hear their reactions. I’ll have a student with very dark skin and their results will say they prefer light skinned people over dark skinned people or vice versa.

    You can take these tests on a variety of topics, including religion.

    1. I think I took a couple of these a year ago or so (or something similar).
      It turns out I had no bias between Jews and Muslims, and no particular bias when it comes to skin tones. I took the test at the behest of Mrs rom. She did not fair so well and expected me to do worse.

      I did think the tests were a bit of a joke.

  5. It would be good to note that Zionism is not the same as commitment to a Jewish state in the area of the British mandate of Palestine There is a long history of forms of Zionism which were committed to equal status for Jews and Arabs, including such distinguished Zionist figures as Judah Magnes and Martin Buber, and the Socialist Zionist movement Hashomer Hatsair. There are still people who favor this sort of view. Rejecting the Zionism of a Jewish national state is not to be identified with anti-Semitism.

    1. No doubt there are a number of people who support a specific type of Zionism which somehow excludes Zion itself as part of a Jewish state. Herzl, who founded the party, thought that such a state might alternately be established in Argentina.
      Similarly, I have spoken with Elderly Germans who claim to have supported a form of National Socialism that did not involve antisemitism.
      But, regardless of your personal views, whether you are marching along singing the Horst Wessel-Lied, or joining in a university “Free Palestine” rally, you are supporting and enabling those who wish for the elimination of the Jews.

      1. Wait a second. You are saying I am anti-semitic for believing that Israel should be a sectarian state, with equal rights for all who live there? You interpret equality as elimination of Jewry? I thought equal rights would be considered a good thing.

        1. Imagine that someone says:

          “I have nothing against Italians, I just think that they have no right to live in the entity currently known as Italy.”

          Would you say that one can be anti-Italy without being anti-Italian?

  6. Not that it is a new phenomenon of course, but how much of the above testimony can be attributed to the woke social justice ideology that, having long simmered away within the social sciences, has now permeated every corner of academia with lightning speed. This is the ideology that with typical hypocrisy, inconsistency and intellectual intolerance aggressively defines who can be subject to oppression and discrimination and who cannot be.
    That this current ideological climate would encourage anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment in academic and professional schools seems to me the least surprising thing, whether in Canada or elsewhere.

  7. There is a similar problematic situation with antisemitism here in the UK academia. Recently, the newly-elected president of the NUS (National Union of Students) was fired, because of previous statements and comments deemed antisemitic. The person in question was, naturally, a self-described “anti-racist”, etc. For more egregious examples, former professor David Miller spewed antisemitic conspiracy theories that InfoWars would find silly, yet he was seen as an “eminent” academic for years by many of his colleagues. He now presents a quack propaganda show on PressTV!

    There are examples of casual antisemitism at so-called “woke” atheist outlets as well, including [cough] FreeThoughtBlogs.

  8. As the Globe and Mail article says:

    In Ottawa, the National Holocaust Monument “recognizes the immense contributions these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against antisemitism, hatred and intolerance.”

    I read that plaque at the monument last weekend, a few hours after reading Dr. Kuper’s paper. I pictured some poor old Holocaust survivor in her 90s – perhaps someone who had been the victim of medical experiments at a concentration camp – going to the doctor in good, safe Canada, and possibly being subjected to this antisemitism, either blatantly, as a microaggression, or worse, as silent dismissal.

    For shame.


  9. Canada is mega woke. And the more woke, the more anti-semitic.

    They hate the fact that as history’s most sinned against group, they are nevertheless, especially in the United States, extraordinarily successful…… the arts and sciences and so on.

    That is a refutation of woke orthodoxy.

  10. Did my Med School and Residency in Toronto in the 80’s. Antisemitism baked into the establishment for decades. Mount Sinai hospital originally built because no other hospital would offer Jews Intern/Residency positions. I recall exams and other mandatory events scheduled on Jewish holidays (intentionally). Antisemitic chants at sporting events common. Reframing as critical theory with “Zionist White Jews” as apex oppressors just the latest incarnation

    1. Do you mind if I probe that a bit, Daniel?
      I grew up in Ontario. Of course I know about Protestant anti-Semitism in Toronto and Catholic anti-Semitism in Montréal and official anti-Semitism in Ottawa and “none is too many”.

      1) Exams:
      In 1986 I took over a course our Department in the U of T Faculty of Medicine offered to another health-science faculty. My Dept. Chair’s orientation included a specific instruction not to schedule exams or tests during Jewish holidays as per Faculty policy. During my undergraduate years in the ’70s my recollection is that exams at the ends of courses were rescheduled for the whole class if the course director had, unintentionally if we give the benefit of doubt, scheduled the exam on a Jewish holiday. (We were using Systems Teaching then, so a course could end any time, not just during traditional end of term in late December or June.) But I know for sure it was policy by 1986.

      2) Mandatory events:
      Medicine goes on 24/365. I agree it would be churlish to schedule a required one-off lecture for undergraduate pre-clinical students during a holiday without a good reason. But attendance at all daily small-group clinical teaching sessions where we learned to talk to and examine patients was mandatory. Missing one would get you an invitation to a chat with the Dean for Undergrad Students, so it was rumoured because no one dared miss. (Actually attendance at whole-class lectures and labs was mandatory, too, but on the honour system.) The medical school could not simply shut down on religious holidays. Other religions would want their holidays respected and the medical school would lose its secular character as well as its teaching time, which is never enough. Medical school is mostly about learning life skills and being indoctrinated to put the mission first, because many of the facts you learn turn out to be wrong. I’m sure you see that, so I’m sorry if I’m straw-manning you. It’s just that I can’t recall seeing, in a less enlightened decade than you trained, Jewish students being gratuitously compelled to forego observance of holidays.

      I’m assuming you are not citing mandatory call and duty after graduation and licensure while in post-graduate residency training. No one can be guaranteed he will be excused from treating patients on any holiday or after sundown on the Sabbath or during Eid or Kwanzaa or for any other reason. Jewish faculty scrupulously modeled this ethic for the juniors, as did the rest of us when we had to cover Medical Consults on Christmas Day.

      Pardon the length but if I am directly contradicting you, I owe you the details.

  11. Read up on Jacob Markowitz, the Canadian MD who was rejected by the Canadian Army in WWII, due to his religion. The British army accepted his services and he went on to save the lives of hundreds of his compatriots when he was captured and imprisoned in an extraordinary brutal Japanese slave labor camp. Booker winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North is partly based on his experiences.
    Having said all this, I love visiting Toronto.

  12. Here is what the great Polish writer and philosopher Stanisław Jerzy Lec had to say about this: in his book of maxims “Uncombed Thoughts” (“Myśli nieuczesane”):

    “I know where the myth about the wealth of the Jews comes from. Jews pay for everything.”

    “The Jews are to blame for everything. It was their God who created us all”.

Leave a Reply