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This is what the bright pink billboards in Toronto are for

If you've been out and about in Toronto lately, chances are good you've noticed the bright pink billboards lining some of the city's major roadways.

But they're not just there to add a little colour to your morning commute. These billboards are actually part of a campaign, organized by non-profits StandWithUs Canada and JewBelong, to help raise awareness about the rise in antisemitic incidents across Canada, and worldwide. 

In total, three billboards are visible on Spadina Avenue, the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway, and they feature "provocative" slogans such as "We're just 75 years since the gas chambers. So, no, a billboard calling out bigotry against Jews isn't an overreaction," and "Does your church need armed guards? 'Cause our synagogue does."

The campaign follows the release of B'nai Brith Canada's annual 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents report, which found that 2020 was the fifth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada. The first year of the pandemic saw an 18.3 per cent increase in antisemitic incidents over 2019, including harassment, vandalism and violence.

The Toronto Police 2020 Annual Hate Crime Statistical Report meanwhile found that Jews were the most targeted community in the city.

"In the past few months alone, we've had to respond to instances of antisemitism by members of the Toronto District School Board and a BDS campaign at the University of Toronto Scarborough student government," said Rebecca Katzman, StandWithUs Canada senior campus director.

"These are just examples of what has become routine practice. They underscore how critical this ad campaign is in educating about the danger of anti-Jewish bigotry."

The billboards were erected on Feb. 28 and will remain visible until March 27. While this is the campaign's debut in Canada, these billboards have already appeared in U.S. cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Boston and Orlando.

"Antisemitism has become tolerated and normalized in far too many circles in both the US and Canada," said JewBelong co-founder Archie Gottesman.

"The type of hate levelled against Jews followed by the deafening silence from supposedly good people should be abhorrent to anyone who stands for justice. The time of Jewish people being silent in hopes that the hate will disappear has long passed."

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