Press Release: Jewish students band together to implement Holocaust Education Week on campus

by | Dec 12, 2016 | News, Press Release | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 12, 2016

Toronto, ON- On Tuesday, November 29th, at the Ryerson Student Union’s (RSU) Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM), a Jewish student introduced a motion to implement Holocaust Education Week on campus. While the motion was being debated, students were heard making derogatory comments towards Jewish students. A walk-out followed ensuring that quorum would not be met. This deeply disturbing incident has taken an emotional toll on the students involved.

Holocaust Education Week is devoted to learning about the unique events that took place during the Holocaust, affecting not only the Jewish community, but also many other minority communities. A full week dedicated to learning about the Holocaust reinforces the importance of educating students on this dark time in history, helping to ensure these tragic events do not repeat themselves in the future.

StandWithUs Canada, Hillel Ryerson, and Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Ryerson are very proud of the Jewish students for their leadership and their commitment to resolving this matter. Over the past week, our students have been in constant contact with the RSU and are very pleased with how supportive the RSU has been. As well, Ryerson University’s President, Mohamed Lachemi, reached out in support of the students and has been working with various Ryerson faculty members to ensure that Holocaust Education Week is implemented on campus.

StandWithUs Canada, Hillel Ryerson and SSI at Ryerson commend the RSU for speaking out against what happened at the SAGM. They have now agreed to take steps, along with the Ryerson administration, to ensure Holocaust Education Week will be implemented on campus and to combat anti-semitism.

StandWithUs Canada, Hillel Ryerson and SSI have made significant strides in working together as a community to support our student leaders, and are committed to ensuring the safety of all students at Ryerson University.

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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

Zina Rakhamilova
Canadian Campus Coordinator

StandWithUs Canada

416 887 2224
zinar@standwithus.com

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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