A Must See Film: Jojo Rabbit

by | Feb 29, 2020 | Entertainment, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

A new film stirring up controversy is Jojo Rabbit, a satiric comedy about Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. The thought of someone making a satire about Nazi Germany is hard to fathom, and ultimately creates feelings of discomfort. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and who had family murdered in the Holocaust, I couldn’t help but wonder what my family would think about a comedic film about their horrific experiences. However, since this film was voted People’s Choice during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, I felt that it was worth seeing.

Jojo Rabbit is by far one of the best movies I have seen in 2019, and it exceeded my expectations. It is smart, heartwarming, and intense, and it provides important lessons. The film describes the wartime experiences of a 10-year-old German boy, Jojo, who is immersed in Hitler Youth and whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Jojo idolizes Hitler and is indoctrinated by all the Nazi propaganda about Jews. When he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish teenager, Elsa, in their home, his antisemitism slowly diminishes as he learns more about her and the horrors carried out by Nazis.

Director Taika Waititi, a Jew from New Zealand, finds that happy medium between the satirical and serious. He pokes fun at the idiocy of Hitler and the Nazis, and educates the audience about the terror that the Jewish people faced during this time.

This month marks the beginning of Holocaust Education Week across many Jewish organzations. Hillel Ontario’s nine university campuses will be hosting survivors, speakers and installations with the goal of educating the public about the Holocaust, commemorating the 6 million Jews who were senselessly murdered. I encourage you to attend these events, and hear the stories of survivors and experts. I also encourage you to see Jojo Rabbit – you will be educated and moved by Jojo’s journey from ignorance and racism to compassion and empathy.

As part of our own desire to move our campus communuties towards compassion and empathy, hundreds of Hillel students across Ontario will sign a letter to Holocaust survivors, pledging to “never forget”. This letter will be presented at Liberation75 in June 2020- a conference to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps.

Hillel is built on values of inclusivity and diversity, as well as a dedication to educating younger generations so that they remain connected to Jewish culture and community. It is important to me that we share these stories and continue these conversations with these values in mind. As Elie Wiesel said: “Only in remembering what happened to us, can the world assure that it will not happen to others.”

Jews of India

Jews of India

On January 28th, I was proud to host a panel discussion on the history and culture of the Jewish communities of India with 40 guests and about 80 listeners. I was inspired to put the program together by the thoughtful Sephardi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Bukhari and yes, Indian Jews on social media who advocate for their community’s representation within large Jewish institutions. 

For most of my life, ‘Jewish cultural programming’ has been synonymous with either Ashkenazi or Israeli culture, to the detriment of my understanding of our people’s beautiful diversity. Working at the University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre, I realized I could use the platform I was responsible for to uplift these lesser-heard Jewish voices. I settled on Indian Jewry, as opposed to Ethiopian or Bukhari or Kai Feng Jews, out of interest in the origin story of their people: a ship fleeing war in Judea wrecks off the coast of Mumbai, where a dozen survivors reconstitute their culture in a strange land, isolated from world Jewry for hundreds of years.

We had four speakers. Dr Shalva Weil, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ann Samson, a historian and leader of Toronto’s Indian-Jewish synagogue; Judith Dworkin, an Indian Jewish educator raised in Toronto’s Indian-Jewish community and Director of McMaster Hillel; and Anna Rajagopal, a young Indian Jewish writer and activist from the United States, who is a prominent social media personality for Jews of Colour. 

The program was phenomenal. We had nearly 100 guests, and many questions for our speakers. All of the speakers enjoyed their time and are eager to come back for any future programs. It was equal parts fascinating and touching to hear these four people describe their relationships with ashkenormativity, diaspora, and most importantly, their own culture.

Jacob Kates Rose, Hillel UofT

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

Students have had a very different academic year. One that they have never experienced before. There has been isolation, lack of extracurricular activities and little to no in-person contact. In a recent McMaster Hillel student executive meeting on zoom, I said “we are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be part of this community. ” How does one do this in a pandemic, when campus is closed and when we don’t see each other at all? How do we know how each of us are doing? Are we alone? Are we lonely? Are we coping? Do we bring our best selves to a Zoom and then grapple alone with our worries? These are the questions that I struggle with when trying to support a community despite the challenges that exist for us. 

From the beginning, Hillel pulled out all the pandemic stops to connect with students. Shabbat in a box and delivered to you? Yes! Zoom games night? Yes! Mental health and wellness box? Sign up here! We have you covered. These programs and services were created to keep our community together while at our own homes. We are able to connect through a screen and eat dinner, not together, but knowing that there were over 70 students enjoying the same meal in the comfort of their own homes as well. And we connected face to face over Zoom before and after, while enjoying our rugelach, of course!

All of these programs are great, but the individual connections are even more paramount. A text to a student to check in, a happy birthday wish on their special day or an unfortunate condolence call for those who have lost loved ones. For me, it’s putting in the extra effort to make a student feel special and finding ways to do this. Does the student have dietary needs that we can fulfill and can we make this student feel seen in making a special box for them? Did a student forget to sign up for Shabbat but do we have an extra meal for them anyway? Can we put an extra dessert in a bag, just because we know that student had a tough week? Even though we are in Hamilton, can we make an extra effort so our Toronto or out-of-province students also feel a part of our community and send them mailings and deliveries so that they feel part of our programming? Having inclusive programming is a cornerstone of Hillel’s mandate. In a pandemic, even more so. 

I miss seeing the students. I miss hanging out in the Hillel office and chatting over a bagel and cracking jokes over the lineup at the toaster. I miss bumping into students on campus, catching up on their lives, and being part of a place where they come for comfort and support (and food!).    With all the programming and outreach we have done in the past 10 months, I hope that we can continue to maintain our virtual community. That even though we are not in person, our students know we are still here for them. While the medium may have changed, the sentiment certainly has not.

 

 

 

 


Judith Dworkin,
Director, McMaster Hillel

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