Evan and Seth’s Jewish Not-Jewish Movie Blog: The Last Jedi

by | Feb 21, 2020 | Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Welcome to the second installment of Evan and Seth’s Jewish Not-Jewish Movie Blog! As you might remember, about once a month, Evan (Senior Jewish Educator, Hillel York)  and Seth (Chief Education & Campus Officer, Hillel Ontario) are going to take a look at a movie that has no ostensible or identifiable Jewish content and offer their commentary, as well as some Jewish texts that address one (or more!) of the movie’s themes.

This month’s movie is The Last Jedi (2017).  Some of you might be more familiar with its ultimate lead-in film, The Phantom Menace, but let’s give it a little respect and let it stand on its own today.  (Doing so also allows us to avoid talking about The Rise of Skywalker, which both of us disliked strongly, so, like, bonus.)

There’s a whole lot going on in this film. Too much, some say.  But at the core of the film are mentor/mentee and teacher/student relationships: Leia and Poe; Luke and Rey; Snoke and Kylo Ren; Holdo and Poe (even if he’s not the most willing of students).  These aspects of the movie drive both its plot and the characters’ development, providing us with a moment to reflect on the way our mentors and teachers have influenced us and how we, in turn, have influenced others when we’ve stepped into those roles.

Why We Chose This Film and What’s Jewy about It

  1. It’s available on Netflix, so it’s easier for you all to watch.
  2. The recent release of The Rise of Skywalker and the newly built Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park at Hollywood Studios in Orlando has given us Star-Wars-itis!
  3. The only thing that Star Wars fans like more than Star Wars is complaining about Star Wars, so we figured this might allow us to do so!

As mentioned above, teacher/student relationships undergird much of the story in this film. Judaism, too, recognizes the significance of this dynamic. One example of this would be the multiplicity of Biblical narratives that focus on teacher/student relationships, such as the narrative of Moses and his protégé Joshua (and the associated commentaries and Midrashim). Another way that Jewish literature looks at this idea is through the legal writings that dissect this relationship with a more granular and technical approach, specifically outlining laws and customs that describe a “proper” teacher/student dynamic.

Pre-Screening Questions

Before you push play, here are some things to think about:

  1. What qualities do you look for in a mentor, and how do you go about finding one?
  2. Who are the best mentors or teachers you ever had?  The worst? What made them so good/awful?
  3. When have you served as a mentor or teacher to someone else?  What led you to take that role on?

Ready to watch the movie? Great! Go watch the movie! Now!

Jewy and Not-as-Jewy Sources

 

As you think about the film and consider the post-screening questions below, here are some fun Jewy and not-as-Jewy sources for you to think about!  We’ve chosen texts that relate to the theme of mentor/mentee relationships.

  1. Pirkei Avot 1:6

Joshua ben Perachiah used to say: “Make a teacher for yourself, and acquire a companion for yourself.

  1. Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 7a

Rabbi Chanina used to say: “I have learned much from my teachers, and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them.”

  1. Analects of Confucius 7:8

The Master said: “If a student is not eager, I won’t teach him; if he is not struggling with the truth, I won’t reveal it to him. If I lift up one corner and he can’t come back with the other three, I won’t do it again.”

  1. Albert Einstein

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

Post-Screening Questions

  1. Which of the students/mentors in the film do you relate best to?  Which of the teachers/mentors?
  2. Which characters’ styles of teaching and learning do you connect best with?
  3. Thinking about our first text, how do you see friendship and the teacher/student relationship play out together in the film?
  4. How do power dynamics play a role in the outcome of the various teacher/student relationships? Do the different relationships shown in the film offer diverse representations of how power affects teacher/student relationships?

Dear dedicated readers, if you’ve read this blog post this far, felicitations!  Thanks for sticking with us to the sweet, sweet end, and we hope you enjoyed the film and our attempts to find/unearth Jewiness in the most unexpected of places!  Please join us again next month, and hey, feel free to send us suggestions of films to screen.

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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