I intend to lead a truly joyful Shabbat service this evening at Temple Shalom, after we install
our new Board of Trustees following our Annual General Meeting. Tonight, the service will
be all about continuity, passion, and our deep commitment to a great future as a liberal
Jewish congregation.

But at this moment I need to vent a bit about a hateful speech, offered last week by the
graduating class valedictorian at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine

Others have reported and written extensively about this, but my focus is on the profound
lack of humanness in what transpired. This was not a political rally but rather a time of
celebration, when a whole class lovingly elected their valedictorian, who immediately
destroyed his community of the past four years. Medical school is intense, a place of
“brothers/sisters/others in arms.” But in his words and in the reactions of his classmates,
that world was blown up into three parts: those who clapped and cheered, those who were
stuck in the middle – non-Jews – who were completely caught by surprise by what they
were hearing, and those who were the Jewish students, sitting with their families and
friends, stunned into silence.

That class is completely broken now and traumatized. Those Jewish medical students (now
doctors) and their families did not attend the evening festivities that followed, and I wonder
how that felt to those who did.
I can talk about “shameful” and other similar ideas, but the reality is that those words
cannot be taken back, nor can the joy of that evening be restored. It is why in Judaism
“lashon ha’ra” (bad language, or evil tongue) is considered to be like a murder – character
assassination in this case. Words can hurt and destroy, and they ripple onward and
One of the most cherished human attributes is empathy, possibly followed closely by trust.
And that is why I am venting. These are doctors I am describing, and aren’t these the very
values that we hope would be central to what it is to be a doctor, those whom we ask to
tend to our physical, emotional and spiritual health?

I hope that those who spoke and those who cheered and clapped – will one day soon
understand what they did, whom they hurt, and find a way to repair the harm they caused.
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Allan