A Note from Marc Newburgh

by | Sep 16, 2018 | Press Release | 0 comments

Summer is winding down, and more than 400,000 Jewish students are about to return to University and College campuses across North America.

Many students will be stepping into an unfamiliar environment as they begin this new chapter in their lives. On their own for the first-time making decisions that will impact their future, they will be challenged by others to ask questions, to explore and learn. They will grow and mature as individuals and will make new friends that will last a lifetime.

Hillel staff will be there too.

Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the global Hillel movement. We are a people to people relationship-based organization that serves and supports more than 13,000 Jewish students at 9 Universities across the province.

Our talented, passionate professionals will be there to guide and support students as they travel this journey on campus. They will help students explore their Jewish identity, understand what it means to be part of and contribute to a Jewish community, to be part of a broader campus community, and to help students take advantage of some of the wonderful opportunities that are available, such as a student leadership experience or a Birthright Israel trip. Hillel professionals will work closely with students to ensure they have a deeper understanding of Israel, its people and its complexities, feel motivated to share their experiences with their peers and are empowered to advocate for Israel on university campuses, especially on those with a prevalence of BDS and antisemitic activities.

We have learned that Jewish engagement is not dependent on the quality of the food served at social events. Effective engagement is based on the relationship built with the person who greets students when they walk in the door. Our own research has underscored how crucial this is to Hillel Ontario’s success. During strategic planning focus groups and interviews, the centrality of student relationships with Hillel campus professional emerged repeatedly. Therefore, in order to effectively fulfill our mission, we need to attract, invest in and retain high quality Jewish professionals.

Both Hillel International and Hillel Ontario have embraced the same strategic priority of investing in “Talent”. A significant shift from the historical approach taken by most Jewish organizations, we decided to shift our focus from the value of programs to the value of people. We believe that investing in the people who are engaging our Jewish students on campus will create real change and have a substantial impact. That by growing our team of dedicated professionals, we will substantially increase our capacity to meaningfully connect with students all across Ontario.

Studies show that lower staff-to-student ratios will lead to an increase in the breadth of student engagement and substantially increase our capacity to meaningful connect with and support the majority of undergraduate Jewish students.

We are thankful for the generosity of The Silber Family, as well as other donors who have joined them to support us in this work. The Silber Family is matching all donations made to support this academic year up until September 28th. Please support our students and the talented group of professionals we have assembled. I’m excited because the 2018-19 academic year will mark the first time in Hillel Ontario’s history that every one of our Hillel’s will have at least two of these professionals serving their campus communities.

Please join me in wishing all of our students and the staff who work to support them the best as they embark on the start of what I expect will be an amazing year.

Marc

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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