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.”

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

This week’s parsha, Nitzavim, begins with an expression of the universality of God’s covenant with the Israelites. It wasn’t enough to say ‘all of you’ who are standing before God, rather, we are given a list of all those assembled before Moses as he instructed them before they entered the land of Israel. In this list, we see a hierarchy of social and religious significance; we are told that among those present are tribal leaders, elders, officials, men who have households, children, wives, and ‘strangers’, the servants.

Moses continues to remind the Israelites of God’s actions during their journey out of Egypt, the commandments they have been given, and the consequences of both living by and living against the conditions of the covenant. There are warnings of curses and anger and wrath and promises of blessing and sustenance and reward. This is, at its simplest, Moses’ final attempt to give the Israelites a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong in God’s eyes, as they finally cross into the land promised to their ancestors, but without Moses’ leadership.

There is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of language in the Torah towards the end of Moses’ instructions to the Israelites (Deut. 30 12-16):

[This instruction] is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, God’s laws, and God’s rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that your God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess.

As Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur near again, this week’s parsha is a reminder that when we are celebrating, showing humility and remorse, asking one another and God for forgiveness, we are equal. The opportunity to act righteously, care for ourselves and others around us, and enjoy prosperity is accessible and within the reach of every one of us, regardless of privilege and position, as is the opportunity near to us to turn from our misdeeds and transgressions towards goodness in the new year.

Shanah Tovah U’metuka
A Happy and Sweet 5783!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

Kingston, ON – September 21, 2022

For 50 years, the Otterburn House in Kingston, Ontario was the home of Queen’s Hillel. Since 2018, however, Queen’s Hillel has been without a permanent location, necessitating the use of temporary rental space on-campus.

Over the past year, Beth Israel Synagogue invested in an intensive rejuvenation project to give the Otterburn House its first major update since 1992. Today, with the invaluable support of two community visionaries, we are excited to share that our Queen’s Hillel staff, Yos and Leora Tarshish, will be making the Otterburn House both their own home, and a renewed base for Queen’s Hillel. By creating a welcoming community grounded in their own lives, Yos and Leora will serve as a model for what Jewish living in all of its dimensions can be, and leverage the successful models of Base and Moishe House.

On behalf of Hillel Ontario, Chief Executive Officer, Rabbi Seth Goren said the following:

“Hillel Ontario has been striving to ensure that Queen’s Hillel once again had a space to meaningfully engage Jewish students in Kingston. Yos and Leora Tarshish have been working tirelessly to nurture strong and resilient Jewish students, build innovative micro-communities, and empower the next generation of community advocates. With the invaluable support of community philanthropists who are committed to the Kingston community, and to the future of Jewish students at Queen’s, Hillel Ontario could not be more pleased to see Hillel once again have a permanent home in Kingston.”

On behalf of Queen’s Hillel, Director, Yos Tarshish said the following:

“Leora and I are incredibly excited to be moving into the Otterburn House, and welcoming a new generation of Jewish students into a space that holds such a special place in the history of Queen’s Hillel. The space has been lovingly restored by the hard work of the Beth Israel Otterburn Committee, led by Arnie Palmer, Michael Springer, Richard Kizell and Mark Malinoff, and it is a true testament to the vigour and tenacity of the Kingston Jewish community. Jewish student life has been steadily growing in Kingston for more than a decade, and Hillel is at the forefront of ensuring that the Jewish community on campus is both vibrant and inclusive. We are honoured to engage Jewish students on campus in Kingston, and are immensely grateful for the opportunity to bring Hillel activities back to Otterburn.”

-30-

Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the world, serving nine universities, with a combined Jewish student population of 14,000.

For additional information, please contact:

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer
jay.solomon@hillelontario.org

X