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

Stronger Together!

Stronger Together!

Over this past Family Day Weekend, I spent a lot of time reflecting both about the challenges we face, but also about the incredible strength and resiliency of this community. Jewish students are often at the forefront of hate and discrimination on campus and online, but we are at our most powerful – and most effective – when we work together as one.

With that in mind, I want to provide several important advocacy updates.

First, I am excited to share that Hillel Ontario has begun convening meetings to coordinate advocacy initiatives amongst Jewish campus organizations across the country. The time has come for Hillel Ontario to lead the way in encouraging cooperation to accomplish the goals we collectively share. Joining us in these monthly discussions are Hillel Montreal, Hillel BC, Hillel Ottawa, CJPAC, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs. We appreciate their willingness to engage with us in these important conversations.

Second, I want to update you on the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) matter that galvanized much community discussion last week. In addition to endorsing a motion to divest from companies doing business in Israel, the union misrepresented the recently released report of the Antisemitism Working Group and its approach to what does or does not constitute antisemitism. Hillel views these type of divestment motions as part of a wider issue of antisemitism on campus, and we have made that point clearly and consistently to university leadership and members of the Working Group for the better part of the past year.

Late Friday, Working Group members released an important statement, which both criticized the rhetoric of union leaders, and vindicated our belief that hate speech directed at Israel, Israelis or Jews based on actions (real or imagined) of the Israeli government is antisemitism. This is an important moment; one that underscores why our approach to these issues, and the allies we foster across campus are so critical. While we may not be able to stop every divestment motion from passing, we can – and we will continue to – have our voices heard by university leadership to ensure antisemitism remains on the margins. This is precisely what happened last week at the UofT.

Jewish students deserve to study, live and socialize in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. Hillel will continue to condemn antisemitism, defend Israel and our right to self-determination, and build essential relationships on campus to secure the well-being of the students we so proudly serve.

And, we will do so in concert with our allies; because we believe we are stronger together.

Sincerely,

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Weekly D’var: Toldot 5782 by Scott Goldstein

[Warning: Ted Lasso show spoiler] I just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso, and I cannot get the image of the finale out of my head. Haven’t seen it yet? That’s ok, I’ll recap part of this week’s Torah portion as you go catch up and then tie it in at the end for when you get back.

When not detailing the intricate politics of well-digging and water rights, this week’s Torah portion takes some time to highlight our favourite biblical twins – Jacob and Esav (a.k.a. Esau). Some may even refer to this as the first twin study on “Nature vs. Nurture” (shoutout to my psychology peeps) ever recorded. We are presented with brothers that were raised in the same environment but turned out to be polar opposites. I’ll let you read the riveting stories of birthright transactions and elaborate deceptions on your own, but the narrative we are presented with is clear: Jacob is good, and Esav is bad. Here’s the problem I had with this narrative: If Esav was raised in a good environment, but still did bad things, then is the Torah telling us that our destiny is sealed by nature?

I just finished watching Ted Lasso, and I cannot help but think about how loveable Nate (played by Nick Mohammed) is a perfect example of what I think our Torah portion is trying to tell us. Ted Lasso (played masterfully by Jason Sudeikis) created a nurturing environment where Nate could grow from invisible kit manager to assistant coach that everyone loves. Despite all that, it comes down to the decisions Nate made to allow jealousy to influence his actions, leading him to leave Richmond FC and betray his teammates by joining West Ham United.

I think the story we read in the Torah is reminding us that both nature and nurture are really important (just as science does), but our decisions, ultimately, are our own. Whether it’s Esav going down in history as the ultimate example of bad decision-making or Nate likely being the reason we see Ted cry next season, the lesson is clear… be like Jacob because we can make good decisions no matter the circumstances.

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