Aussie Dave: B’nai Brith Canada recently announced the appointment of Israellycool’s Ryan Bellerose to the newly created position of Advocacy Coordinator for Western Canada. Based in Calgary, Ryan has been tasked to help re-energize the B’nai Brith presence throughout Western Canada, and will regularly visit communities across Alberta and B.C.
Ryan explains why he thinks he is a good fit for this position.
I have been getting a lot of support regarding taking a position with B’nai Brith Canada, and I also received a few messages asking me “ Why B’nai Brith?” So I thought I should take a few minutes to explain my rationale.
I am kind of known for being blunt. I think the main reason that what I say resonates with people is because I don’t try to baffle them with bull – I just speak plainly and without any pretense. I know that this turns some people off, but those people are not my target audience. My audience consists of young people and people who are tired of the same boring monotone status quo and PC droidism that has taken over this space. They feel like they get enough flowery words and prefer truth unvarnished.
There is a perception that because a lot of pro-Israel people like to hear the sound of their own voice and have the very Jewish predisposition towards verbosity, somehow it is an effective way to communicate. It also very corporate and to be quite honest, tends to alienate the average person who in today’s world of soundbites and YouTube, needs a reason to pay attention. They tune people out very quickly and you can tell because of the lack of engagement. When people stop listening to important messages you have a problem.
This doesn’t mean dropping eff bombs and using profanity constantly is ok, nor does it mean that one should not try to moderate one’s language, but what it does mean is that in effective communication and targeted messaging, there is a time and place for use of what I call “emphatic language.” People know that Ryan has a very set and certain moral code, they understand that when I say “Asshat” it is because my derision for bigots means that I do not respect them, and that this lack of respect is stemmed from actual consideration of the asshat in question, not just random dislike. You may have been raised to be nice to people who are jerks, who advocate and incite hatred, but I was not. I was raised to confront bullies and when needed, to call an asshat an asshat and stand behind that assertion. I see no need for me to be nice or gentle when speaking to such people. I reserve my respect for those deserving of it. This will make some people uncomfortable, but their comfort has never been my concern.
That said, I am taking a position with an organisation that is perhaps the oldest organisation doing this sort of work, one that you could argue is very proper and extremely moderate in its language. Some people think that it’s a bad fit simply because of who I am, but I disagree and I think it’s an amazing fit. But to understand why, you should know a few things about B’nai Brith.
B’nai Brith is the oldest group doing this work in the world. They have a long and proud history of standing up for the underdog and they did it long before it was safe or fashionable. Their history is proud and their tradition is unmatched. But rewind a few years and you see that B’nai Brith was getting stale. Lodges were closing because the people had literally “aged out” and no young people stepped up to replace them. They still did good work, and they maintained their good name, but the world was passing them by. In a world dominated by PC identity politics they had largely become irrelevant in the world of advocacy. Then they did some things that some people thought were risky – they hired a young CEO to run the organisation, a former sports writer to take over communications, and brought in younger people to change things up. Things that would have been unthinkable for a Jewish organisation a few years ago. They started getting younger at the top and they went back to their roots, refocusing on fighting antisemitism and bigotry. I was watching this, because it interested me. My earliest recollections of B’nai Brith were as fundraising organisations not advocacy. They were involved with birthright or something? I don’t think I had ever really seen them active in that space of front line advocacy. But all of a sudden I was seeing them on social media saying things I agreed strongly with. Where other pro-Israel organizations shied away from asserting Jewish human rights, these guys proudly and loudly asserted them. For someone who advocates pride and proactive action, it was eye-opening. WHO the heck were these guys? My good friend Harry Abrams in BC was going after antisemites hard and he told me that this was what B’nai Brith was all about – not dinners and awards but actual boots on the ground fighting against purveyors of hate.
When I saw they had a position opening up, I jumped at it, because not only am I a traditionalist who loves history, but I saw an older organisation that was growing younger, that wanted to fight the haters on the ground, be more effective, and who wanted to WIN – and really at the core of my personality is a strong desire to win at whatever I do. I have friends who tease me because I have an almost pathological desire to win at anything I set my mind to. I use techniques that a lot of more staid organisations are afraid of. I use emotions backed by factual arguments rather than factual arguments devoid of emotion. I use memes and pop culture references, anecdotes and personal stories, things that until recently most pro-Israel groups didn’t even understand, let alone use effectively. I was lucky, I started doing this in the indigenous rights struggle, but I had some people who were brilliant to learn from. I learned through experience what is effective and what is not. I have been extraordinarily lucky in who I have met. I believe you never stop learning and I have learned from the best.
I learned from people like Merv, my father who rarely uses fancy words yet always manages to get his point across. He told me once “ people don’t give a shit about grammar they give a shit about whether or not you know what the hell you are talking about. Don’t use 100 words to say something that needs 10. And you will be ok.” (so sort of the anti-Jewish way of speaking and writing ).
I learned about using emotional cues from Philippe Assouline, who taught me that perception as well as content are paramount (memes bro memes). I learned from Michael Dickson that professionalism is something that is of paramount importance but so is being genuine and hard-working, and I learned from Aussie Dave that humor and pop culture references are important tools but that you have to always fact check fact check fact check. I learned from Brian Thomas that being proud of indigenousness is something all of us can manifest, and from Varda Epstein that you should always write from the heart and about what you know. I learned from Roz Rothstein that if you are willing to bust your ass, you can do almost anything, even start a major pro-Israel organisation in your living room. And from my friend Sarah Bee, I learned that if you are willing to challenge yourself,you can change the world. She also taught me how to be a nudnick when its important.
So I am going to take those lessons and I am going to change a bit and become more B’nai Brithy, but while I am growing and changing (hopefully for the better) I am also going to hopefully influence them to become more like Ryan, after all the world could use a little more Ryan sometimes.
Advocacy Coordinator Western Canada
The League For Human Rights
B’nai Brith Canada
f you have been the victim of ANY,bigotry, racism or discrimination, please contact our 24/7 Anti-Hate Hotline at 1.866.892.2624 or online at http://bnaibrith.ca/report