Ari Grunzeweig says that although he is not a very political person, he does know right from wrong. For him, the right thing to do was to make a video opposing Bill 60, the proposed “Charter of Values” that would ban the wearing of religious symbols by public employees in the Canadian province of Quebec.
Grunzeweig, a professional video producer, knew he had to disseminate the video before hearings on the bill began in Quebec’s National Assembly on January 14. He made it just under the wire, posting “Quebecers Care” on January 13. To date, it has received over 15,000 views on YouTube, and traditional media has begun to pick it up, as well.
The minute-and-a-half-long video shows healthcare providers in a hospital setting — many of them wearing religious symbols and clothing items — going about their regular business caring for patients.
“When the charter was first put out there, I decided I had to take action against it,” Grunzeweig, 32, a lifelong Montrealer, told The Times of Israel.
He knew he would make a video, but he wasn’t sure at first exactly what it would be about. Then last November Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital issued a statement that it did not intend to comply with the proposed legislation. As soon as Grunzeweig learned of the hospital’s position, he knew what he wanted to do.
“Once the Jewish Hospital published its stance publicly, I saw I had a partner and I went to them offering to volunteer my services,” he said.
The hospital was receptive and agreed to collaborate on the video’s message. The hospital also helped with logistical issues, such as identifying various staff members to be filmed. However, ultimately, the project belongs to Grunzeweig and the hospital’s name does not appear in the clip or its credits.
Among the Jewish General Hospital employees featured are male doctors wearing kippot (one even wearing a fleur-de-lis Quebec Kippa), a female doctor wearing a hijab, a physical therapy patient wearing a Star of David necklace, and a nutritionist sporting a crucifix. Grunzeweig also included a dentist wearing a turban, whom he filmed at the Montreal General Hospital.
“We agreed to take a positive approach in putting our message across,” Grunzeweig explained. “We didn’t want it too be too aggressive, and we wanted it to reflect the reality in a Montreal hospital.”
As debate about the proposed charter continues, Grunzeweig is choosing to remain optimistic. “There is a risk that it will pass, but I am sticking to the belief that something like this can’t happen in this day and age.”
He’s letting the tag line at the end of his video speak for him, as well as for the many others who want to preserve freedom of religion expression for workers in hospitals and other public institutions: “We’re here to help. Let’s keep it that way.”