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

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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