A Message From Our Chair

by | Feb 22, 2017 | Press Release | 0 comments

To a parent, nothing is more important than the safety and well being of our most precious treasures – our children. When we hear a story about a student union member at McGill University tweeting an endorsement of violence against Zionists, we are understandably angered. When we hear allegations that the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) President himself orchestrated a walk-out during a resolution aimed at enshrining Holocaust education programming on campus, we are understandably outraged. When we hear the occasional whisper about alternative facts being peddled in a lecture hall to an audience of impressionable youth, we are understandably troubled and concerned.  All this to say, the news coming from campuses across our great country of late has been at times, difficult to digest.

As the Chair of the Board of the largest regional Hillel in North America, I fully understand that many in the broader Jewish community are concerned about the current campus climate, and are anxious to understand what is being done to ease tensions around these difficult challenges. My message is simple: our students are not alone. Hillel Ontario is the only organization with over 30 full-time professionals on campus across the province, and we are working day-in and day-out to support Jewish and pro-Israel students, to counter BDS and other anti-Israel activities, to build bridges across campus, and to promote the values shared by Israelis and Canadians. And, we are fortunate to have the support of some great community partners in this work, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), as well as other organizations and partners like StandWithUs Canada.

Already this year, many of our Hillel’s – including Western, Queen’s, McMaster and York – hosted Israel Week programming. These public events, aimed at promoting Israeli culture, food, music and contributions to the world, are an interactive, engaging and welcoming way to share the real Israel with the diverse campus community.

Our Hillel’s are also hard at work solidifying relationships with key campus influencers, including student political clubs, interfaith groups, faculty and senior administrators. Our valued partners on University campuses across the province are invaluable allies. In the wake of last November’s RSU walk-out, our team held extensive discussions with Ryerson University President Lachemi and his administration, who worked with us to enshrine Holocaust education programming on their campus. Our partners at the University of Toronto worked with us to defeat multiple BDS initiatives in the last year alone. So too, our allies at Kings College in London are working with us in an attempt to prevent BDS activists from manipulating the Kings College Student Union to adopt an anti-Israel motion.

I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting our campuses, and have been privileged to meet with, and get to know so many wonderfully passionate and committed students. We’ve sat and discussed why they’ve chosen to be active with Hillel. I’ve heard about the many engaging programs that they’re involved with, the many campus partnerships they have with other clubs and interfaith groups, and the many challenges they face. It is clear that many amazing students are driving their Hillel’s on campus. And with the guidance, mentorship, and support that they receive from our staff, and our partners, through all of the challenges they may face, Hillel Ontario ensures that Jewish students continue to enjoy a vibrant and enriching campus experience.

At Hillel, we encourage students of all backgrounds to form deep, personal connections to Jewish life, learning and Israel, through Jewish exploration, leadership, and a sense of belonging. These connections built on campus lay the foundation for our students to continue their Jewish journeys as adults when they return to their communities, meaningfully participating and taking active roles in Jewish life.

 

I hope you will join me in supporting our students.

Micki Signature

Micki Mizrahi, Chair

Hillel Ontario Board of Directors

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Last month Hillel Ontario heard from Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada. After winning the leadership race back in October of 2020, Annamie became the first Black person and first Jewish woman to lead a federal Canadian political party. Since then, she has been speaking to Canadians all across the country, spreading messages of hope and inspiration, during a time where these moments are a rarity. No matter the political orientation of the Zoom attendees of this fireside chat, everyone walked away with a few life lessons up their sleeve.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways. First, Annamie spoke about following your passion, a message that I know many students needed to hear. When I graduated from grade 12, I was constantly asked where I saw myself in five years, ten years, and sometimes even twenty years. Although I was asked with the best intentions, I’ve always felt overwhelming pressure to envision a clear career path. Annamie dispelled this myth by referencing the enjoyment associated with the process of discovering your passion rather than having a final goal in mind, and Annamie’s enthusiasm for human rights through a policy lens has shaped the course of her life. Second, Annamie spoke about the importance of speaking up in the face of injustice. Whether you consider yourself an advocate or not, Annamie highlighted the need to follow your moral compass, never remaining complicit. Following Annamie’s time as the leader of the Green Party, it is clear that she isn’t afraid to use her voice and position to shine light on racism, antisemitism, and sexism. These are two lessons I think everyone can learn from.

Annamie spoke about growing up in Toronto Centre (the riding where she will be running in the next federal election), her career as an international lawyer, and her decision to enter politics. As someone who doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional politician, Annamie referenced about the challenges that she’s faced as a Black, Jewish woman. Racism, antisemitism, and sexism were all constant throughout her leadership campaign, and her six months leading the Green Party. 

Throughout Annamie’s talk, I learned about the importance of elevating voices that have previously gone unheard. In a predominantly white space, Hillel students and staff need to work hard to ensure that Jews of Colour feel welcomed. 

After 45 minutes, the latter half of which consisted of an insightful Q&A, Annamie mentioned that she would love to be invited back to another Hillel Ontario fireside chat. For now, I’ll take Annamie’s lessons with me while looking forward to hearing about all of her accomplishments in a year from now.

  • Skylar Banks, Guelph Hillel
Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaborating with other student organizations allows us to diversify the students at our events, build coalitions, establish good rapport with other student groups and broaden the topics of the content that we deliver. 

This past month, we had the privilege of working with the Waterloo and Laurier chapters of Menstruation Redefined, which is committed to helping with the “institutional and social barriers surrounding menstruation that risk the health, well-being, and daily lives of many.” This mission resonated with us at Hillel because we understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all. These are values that we hold as Jews, and want to embody at Hillel. 

We joined forces to produce a fun evening of trivia and learning. The event allowed us to reach new students, educate others on Jewish practice for those who menstruate, and learn more about Menstruation Redefined’s mission. Collaborative events like this allow us to understand key issues and causes that other student-run campus groups advocate for and to build strong allyships and ensure that we propel Hillel’s values forward, such as inclusion and equity.

Jessica Bloom, HIllel Waterloo Student President
Veronica Grad, Hillel Laurier Student President

X