Press Release: Hillel Ontario Condemns Anti-Semitic Incidence At Ryerson University

by | Nov 30, 2016 | Press Release | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 30, 2016

Toronto, ON – On Tuesday, November 29th, 2016, the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) held an Annual General Meeting (AGM) on campus. A student from Hillel Ryerson submitted a motion she had crafted, calling on the RSU to commemorate the annual  Holocaust Education Week on campus by hosting events for students of all backgrounds to learn about this dark period in human history.

This student anticipated that her motion might be challenged by some members of the student body who would seek to politicize Holocaust education. She therefore included clauses in her motion that limit the scope of programs such that they focus solely on the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe.

At the general meeting, students voted to amend the motion to propose a week to commemorate all genocides. Hillel students advocated strongly in favour of dedicated programs for each genocide, but were reportedly told that “the Holocaust is not inclusive enough for all students to participate in” and “the majority of Jews on campus would oppose such a motion”.

Once it became clear that the amended motion would likely pass, a group of students staged an informal walk-out, thereby removing quorum from the AGM and blocking any more votes. Hillel students reported seeing several individuals block entranceways to the AGM and intimidate others who tried to enter after the walk-out had happened.

Hillel Ontario is shocked that university students would reject an apolitical week dedicated to Holocaust education, and moreover, that individuals would go as far as to block others from entering the room. It is deeply disturbing to see students engage in such blatant anti-Semitism. While we recognize that this hateful act reflects a fringe group of students, its negative impact on the Jewish campus community cannot be ignored.

Hillel Ontario and Hillel Ryerson will not stand by while our students are intimidated for being Jewish and for advocating in favour of Holocaust Education. We will continue to stand up to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bigotry, and provide a safe and inclusive environment for Jewish students on campus.

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Hillel strives to inspire every Jewish student in Ontario to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning, and Israel.

For more information, please contact:

Ilan Orzy
Associate Director, Advocacy
Hillel Ontario
416.913.2424 ext.3004
ilan.orzy@hillelontario.org

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

In their research on listening to survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, Bronwen E. Low and Emmanuelle Sonntag note listeners’ problematic tendencies towards one of two responses.  On the one hand, they can regard the narratives as so unfamiliar and foreign that they must be pushed away as overwhelming, untouchable, and inaccessible.  On the other, the stories can be seen as familiar, to the point that the listener cannot separate their own experiences and emotional response from what they take in.

But another, preferable response exists: Roger I. Simon and Claudia Eppert talk about a “chain of testimony” and suggest that listening imposes a duty on the listener.  Listening to personal testimony at the crossroads of memory and history “imposes particular obligations on those called to receive it – obligations imbued with the exigencies of justice, compassion, and hope that define the horizon for a world yet to be realized.”  In this way, bearing witness and listening to testimony demands a number of actions and responses, including that we “transport and translate stories of past injustices beyond their moment of telling by taking these stories to another time and space where they become available to be heard or seen.”

If we take Simon and Eppert’s charge seriously, as I believe we should, those of us who have been privileged to hear the direct testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.  Their words come not just with the specific knowledge they impart or the emotional impact they have on us – sorrow, anger, fear, horror – but with a duty, an obligation of some kind.  

On many of our campuses, this week is Holocaust Education Week, and this Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Given the significant number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Canada, the scheduled events and programs have a personal resonance for many of our students and their families, but their impact can be deep and meaningful for all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from.  I encourage each of you to make time to participate in this week’s activities and to consider your place in the chain of testimony: what obligation does listening to narratives from the Holocaust place on you, and how do you carry those stories forward in time?

 

Weekly D’var: Shemot

Weekly D’var: Shemot

In this week’s parashah we learn the story of Moses, from his birth, through his flight from and eventual return to Egypt, to the acceptance of his role as leader of the Hebrew people.

After fleeing Egypt, for killing an Egyptian slave master, Moses was living rather peacefully as a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Torah describes for us Moses’s first interaction with G-d upon coming across a bush, “burning with a heart of fire [Exodus 3:3]”. G-d calls out to Moses and requests he take the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually into the land of Israel. However, Moses argues with G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who am I that I should take the Jews out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]” After initially refusing four times, Moses eventually agrees to G-ds request, and as we know, the rest is history. But why was Moses so unwilling to take up the position of leader, to the extent that he would argue with G-d? And why was G-d so set on having Moses lead the Jewish people? 

Perhaps the answer can be found through the incident that led to his flight from Egypt, years earlier, when Moses, as mentioned above, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew slave. Immediately, he was met with opposition from some of the Hebrew slaves, “who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? [Exodus 2:14]” Moses felt discouraged and unsure of his ability to lead. However, it seems that G-d saw in Moses, a faithful shepherd, the ability to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Very often in Tanakh, the people that are most worthy to lead are the ones who deny that they are worthy at all. Moses may not appear to be the first choice for a leadership figure, suffering from a speech impediment and lacking charisma; however, Moses possessed certain qualities that made him the ideal leader to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. We too possess qualities that can lead us to achieve incredible success and realize our full potential. We may often feel unmotivated or unsure of our own capabilities. Instead of feeling discouraged, I believe we can look to Moses who, despite all his doubts, stepped up to the challenge and became the greatest leader in Jewish history. 

Sam Virine
VP of Jewish Life at Hillel Waterloo & Laurier

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