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.”

Something New

Something New

The fall post-holiday period is always a good time for launching new things. To the extent we’re not completely exhausted, our five-day work weeks are back (instead of five days of work crammed into three-day weeks), and we’re able to get into something of a rhythm and build momentum in moving toward specific goals.

Adding to the sense of newness and adventure, the third post-holidays Torah portion of Lekh Lekha, which was read this past Shabbat, begins with Abraham receiving divine instructions to leave his home and begin a journey to a new land.  Commentators highlight the uncertainty inherent in the command’s wording: instead of being directed to a specific place, Abraham, at least initially, is told to go “to the land that I will show you,” a vague and undisclosed destination. While he is promised blessings galore for his obedience, setting out requires an element of faith and quite a bit of trust as he leaves his home land and father’s house for somewhere new.

While it’s certainly several orders of magnitude smaller than the journey Abraham undertook, Hillel Ontario is trying something new this week: we’re introducing a new section to our regular newsletters and will be including a d’var Torah to showcase our students’ and staff’s skills and present our readers with a bit of Jewish learning. We hope you’ll find these commentaries inspiring and meaningful and that they’ll provide a glimpse of the Hillel Ontario community that spans our nine campuses.

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

Dear students, parents, supporters, and other members of the Ontario Jewish community,

We are writing to you as the Hillel presidents representing nine universities across Ontario. 

We are often asked what it’s like to be a Jewish student on campus. And, in previous years, we would have taken a more upbeat approach to answering that question. The truth is that things have changed over the past 5 months.

Prior to this spring’s war in Israel, we had never experienced the level of vitriol and backlash that we did recently. We were caught off guard. Many Jewish students lost friendships and severed connections that had been created over many years. Our mental health was stretched to the limit; we have felt burnt out, isolated and anxious.  Even now, with autumn upon us, we are still feeling the exhausting effects of a summer spent advocating for the well-being of our fellow Jewish students. 

Walking back onto campus this week, it was difficult to see some students obviously (and understandably) anxious – both because of the pandemic, and because of the antisemitism Jewish students have experienced over the past several months. At the same time, we also feel more empowered than ever to proclaim pride in our Jewish identity, bolstered by the tremendous support we have felt from across the community.  

Whether you are a first year student, a parent, a sibling, an alum, or simply a member of the community concerned about what seems like an endless barrage of attacks aimed at Jewish students on campus, we want to assure you that as Hillel presidents, we are deeply committed to our roles and responsibilities. We hear your concerns. And, we are proud to serve the current and future Jewish students we support.  

We are working to build relationships with student governments, clubs, interfaith groups, faculty, and administrators on each of our campuses. We continue to empower our peers to learn, to educate, and to advocate for the issues close to our hearts. And, we continue to provide a safe and welcoming community for Jewish students, both on and off campus. 

We also seek to increase resources and staff available to our students so that no one feels unsupported or ill-prepared. We want Jewish students to feel like they can be their entire selves without having to hide a Magen David or avoid conversations about Judaism, Zionism or Israel. 

As we move into a new Jewish year and a new school year, we wish we could say with more certainty exactly what is to come in the next few months. However, it would be naive to do so. Instead, we would like to take this opportunity to commit to you that we will continue to have challenging, but necessary, dialogue with allies across campus. We will continue to support our peers when they feel uncomfortable. And, we will continue to ask for help when we need it. 

Time and time again, our collective history has proven that in a proud, empowered, and united community there is strength, and that from one another we can draw resilience. 

L’shana Haba on quieter, more inclusive campuses. 

Ariel Oren, Guelph Hillel
Evan Kanter, Hillel Student Leader Representative, Hillel UofT
Nathaniel Katz, Queen’s Hillel
Shira Miller, Hillel Laurier
Danielle Lebowitz, Hillel Waterloo
Hannah Silverman, McMaster Hillel
Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson
Isabel Borisov, Western Hillel
Nicole Bodenstein, York Hillel

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