No Silence on Race – Hillel Ontario Statement of Support

by | Jul 22, 2020 | Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Hillel Ontario is proud to be a signatory to No Silence on Race. We endorse the letter’s aims of dismantling racism in Jewish communities and welcome its outline of nine pillars as a guide for our efforts.

Our organizational vision is an Ontario where every Jewish student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Hillel Ontario takes the word “every” seriously; our vision demands virtual and physical spaces that intentionally welcome Black, Mizrachi, Sefardi, and Indigenous Jews and Jews of Colour and celebrate all Jewish identities. Indeed, the Hillel Ontario we envision is based in a community that enthusiastically reflects a full spectrum of Jewish diversity.

We acknowledge both that we have work to do in this area and the importance of committing to concrete action. Inspired by No Silence on Race, we commit to the following:

  • Adopting a listening posture so we can better understand the experiences of BIPOC, Mizrachi, and Sefardi Jews;
  • Inviting, but not requiring, the BIPOC individuals among our staff, lay leadership, and students to be part of our efforts to learn and grow as an organization;
  • Examining recruitment and hiring practices to bolster BIPOC representation among staff (including campus and organizational leadership) and lay leaders;
  • Launching educational content, training, and learning for staff, students, and other stakeholders on issues of racial justice, implicit bias, power, and privilege, among other topics;
  • Strengthening and leveraging our relationships with campus diversity offices to provide training for our students and staff and to better serve as allies to all BIPOC members of our campus communities;
  • Recognizing the emotional labour that goes into BIPOC individuals contributing to our organization’s betterment and ensuring that they are appropriately compensated;
  • Redoubling our efforts to enhance programming for and about BIPOC Jews;
  • Reaching out to other Jewish organizations engaging in their own efforts in this sphere with an eye toward convening representatives and forming a collaborative working group for mutual support, direction, and accountability;
  • Developing a multi-faceted plan for cultivating diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism; and
  • Exploring the best way to advance this work internally and hold ourselves accountable, including the possibility of assembling a Hillel Ontario task force to learn about, investigate, and respond to racial injustice, implicit bias, power, and privilege.

The tenth century midrash Tanna Debei Eliezer cites G-d as asking and directing the Jewish people in part, “My children, there is nothing I lack that you could provide me. What do I ask of you? Only that you love each other, respect each other, and have reverence for each other.” In seeking to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable Jewish community, we embrace the sentiment behind No Silence on Race and look forward to future progress toward a truer expression of klal yisrael, the unity of the entire Jewish people.

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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