Interfaith Shabbat

by | Nov 20, 2019 | Jewish Life at Waterloo | 0 comments

Written by Jordan Geist, Head of Operations for Hillel Laurier/Waterloo.

Hi, my name is Jordan. I am a fourth year management engineering student at the University of Waterloo. Hillel Shabbat dinners have a special place in my heart as they provided me with my first introduction to Waterloo’s Jewish community. Over the past four years, I have met my best friends and became a leader within the community through these dinners. To continuously support the thriving Jewish community, I have made it a point to attend Shabbat dinner every week, welcoming the opportunity to socialize and unwind after a busy week.

However, as one of the only Jewish students in my program, none of my non-Jewish friends have been able to understand why I am regularly unavailable on Friday evenings since I invariably forego engineering events, study groups, and parties to attend Shabbat. Which is why I was so excited to invite my engineering community to Hillel’s interfaith Shabbat last week.

Every year, as part of Holocaust education week, Hillel hosts a highly anticipated interfaith Shabbat that is open to the broader community at the Universities of Waterloo and Laurier. This Shabbat became one of the most memorable in my time at school, thirteen friends of all different faiths and nationalities come share a Shabbat dinner with my Jewish community. It was so meaningful to have the opportunity to share my culture with my friends and have them understand what I do every Friday night. I am looking forward to more interfaith events where I have the opportunity to share my Jewish culture with the broader campus community.

Wellness Week in Waterloo

Wellness Week in Waterloo

At Hillel, we care about each other’s well being. We feel it is vital for us to include mental health and wellness in our support within our community. And so, two weeks ago, Hillels Waterloo and Laurier planned an entire week focused on students’ mental health and wellness. We based the week around the 5 Pillars of Wellness which are Emotional Wellness, Mental Wellness, Spiritual Wellness, Social Wellness, and Physical Wellness. Each of our events had a purpose in fulfilling and educating students on how to include these pillars in their lives.

Before reading week, it can be particularly hard for students to remember to take breaks from the pressures of midterm season. We know how important it is for students to balance their schoolwork while remembering to take time for themselves. 

Wellness Week was packed. On Monday, the first day, we hosted a Colouring and Crafting event in the Waterloo Arts Quad where students coloured, and made bracelets and keychains. Despite the light rain, we had a great turnout. On Tuesday, we had our Shal:OM workout in Waterloo Park to get some physical activity. Wednesday was our biggest event of the week: Coffee Schmooze! Students came out to Laurier’s Alumni Field for coffee, snacks and games. It was a well-deserved break and a ton of fun. On the fourth day, Hillel ran two simultaneous study sessions; one at Laurier’s Alumni Field and another at Waterloo’s Science Teaching Complex. This was a great opportunity for students to surround themselves with peers and still feel productive.

Finally, on Friday, we celebrated reaching our well-deserved break: reading week. After a hard week of midterms, assignments and classes, we came together for a beautiful walk in Waterloo Park before we all took off to our respective homes for the week off. The trees filled with the fall colours, students sighed with relief and exhaustion as they reflected on their week. At the park we visited the llamas and peacocks – and this connection with nature was so needed.

Overall, this week was a huge success. Our students executive team is proud of all we accomplished for our community and are overjoyed with the feedback we have received from students. We are looking forward to hosting future wellness weeks.

Thank you,

Anna Muller and Jori Reiken
Student Leaders of Wellness Week

“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

The last week or so has seen intense conflict and rising tensions in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Hamas. As a Jewish student who cares deeply about Israel and my family who live there, it was quite an anxious time. Hearing how often my family had to run to bomb shelters and seeing videos of rocket barrages and the Iron Dome intercepting them was both scary and awe-inspiring. 

Unfortunately, this recent round of violence has also led to a barrage of antisemitism worldwide, including on social media. At first, fellow high school alumni posted their support for Palestinians, but their version of support included delegitimizing the Jewish state and defending Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Despite my attempted conversations with these individuals, trying to explain to them why supporting terrorism and genocide is wrong, I was met with insults, unfollows, and blocks. Later on, I was sent a TikTok of a fellow Laurier student who posted a video encouraging the stabbing of Israelis, burning the Israel flag and vomiting on it. Thankfully, Wilfrid Laurier University caught wind of this and took appropriate action. Unfortunately, once this news got onto the Laurier subreddit (a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit), there was quite a lot of antisemitism. It ranged from people misunderstanding the conflict (calling Israel an occupying and apartheid state), to blatant antisemitism (commenting that this further proves Jews control the media and the world at large), I was quite horrified. When Laurier posted these news on their Twitter, there was even more hate, with comments such as “maybe Netanyahu and his RW government should stop trying to commit genocide.” Of course this is a blatant lie, but this didn’t stop people from commenting. Furthermore, the Laurier/Waterloo Diveristy, Equity and Inclusion office made a post on Instagram with statements such as “we stand against settler colonialism, apartheid” and more, all terms direcly targeted towards Israel and its supporters. The inclusion office successfully managed to exclude the vast majority of Laurier’s Jewish population. Thankfully, a group of Jewish students, including myself, explained why their post was inaccurate and it was taken down. 

The most recent Israel-Gaza conflict has caused a 438% increase (Jewish News) in antisemitism, and videos of protesters physically hurting Jews across the globe are abundant. As a Jewish student who will be on campus in September, I no longer feel safe supporting my homeland or wearing my Magen David in public. I hope that the Laurier administration will put more effort into dispelling anti-Israel lies and combating antisemitism and choose to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which it has historically rejected. 

Until now, the message to Laurier’s Jewish students from their peers, the student union, the administration at large or the diversity, equity and inclusion office, could not be clearer: we are not welcome. And so, I can only hope for change and full inclusion of Jewish students at Laurier and for my Jewish peers at universities across Ontario.

David B.
Hillel Laurier