Israel Fires

by | Dec 4, 2016 | Hillel Ontario, Israel, News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Ein Li Eretz Acheret – I Have No Other Land

Lyrics by Ehud Manor

I have no other country

even if my land is aflame

Just a word in Hebrew

pierces my veins and my soul – 

With a painful body, with a hungry heart,

Here is my home.

I will not stay silent 

because my country changed her face

https://youtu.be/aLv8umv58u0

Over the past several days we have been inundated with images, videos and stories of the terrible crisis and tragedy that has hit the forests and cities of Israel.  Over 30,000 acres (the equivalent of about 70% of Washington, DC) of land have been torched, burned and destroyed.  Thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes not knowing when they will be able to return or even if they will have somewhere to return to.  

I spent a lot of time reaching out to students on campus who have families and relatives in Israel making sure they were okay, offering my support.  I reached out to my friends and colleagues in Israel including our former Jewish Agency for Israel Israel Fellows and UJA Shinshinim, also making sure that they and their families were not harmed by the fires.  Thankfully with international firefighting support and the coordination of Israel’s firefighting services the fires have been extinguished.

While we cannot see, the flames burning, we are left with the reality, the pain, and the damage that remains.  As in the past, once again, we challenged as a people, as a nation and as a country to unite and rebuild.  As our American friends finish celebrating their Thanksgiving season and we enter the holiday season, the season of peace, we must not forget that Israel and the people of Israel need our support.  Unity is best expressed when people, when strangers come together for a common purpose, a common goal and achieve it.  With the aftermath of the fires you can see a perfect example of this – people coming together.

I cannot help but think as we approach the start of the Birthright Israel trip season, what will the scenery our participants get to experience look like? The forests, The hills, The land? What color will they be?  What smells will they have?  What stories will they tell?

I urge all of us to do our part, GO and VISIT, help PLANT A TREE through the JNF Emergency Campaign or DONATE to another Israeli relief organization, REACH OUT to our former Israel Fellows and Shinshinim living in Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Lior Cyngiser

VP, Israel Engagement & Education

Hillel Ontario

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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