StandWithUs Canada and Hillel Ryerson Strongly Condemn Ryerson University’s Social Work Students’ Union for Endorsing BDS

by | Dec 2, 2018 | Press Release | 0 comments

December 2nd, 2018

TorontoON, — StandWithUs Canada and Hillel Ryerson, supported by Hillel Ontario, strongly condemn Ryerson University’s Social Work Students’ Union (SWSU) for endorsing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Though cloaked in deceptive wording about human rights, the ultimate goal of BDS is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, an inherently antisemitic goal. Furthermore, SJP has a disturbing record of spreading antisemitism on campus, supporting violence and violating free speech at campuses across North America.

“I am a Jewish social work student who feels targeted by the SWSU aligning itself with BDS. This stance provides a platform for antisemitism and the promotion of violence on campus,” said Frankie Aviv, StandWithUs Canada Emerson Fellow, executive member of Hillel Ryerson and Students Supporting Israel (SSI).

In 2017, the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) adopted the Ottawa Protocol as their definition of antisemitism. As part of this definition, the RSU recognizes that antisemitism includes denying Jewish people the right to self-determination, demonizing Israel, and holding the Jewish state to a double standard. These forms of hatred are frequently promoted by BDS and SJP, denying Jewish and pro-Israel students the right to feel safe on their own campus. Indeed, BDS is antisemitic in its effect, if not in its intent. For the SWSU to suggest that they can decide what is and is not antisemitic is simply wrong. No minority group would allow anyone else to define what is hate against their community, and neither should the Jewish campus community.

“As a social work student I honestly feel unsafe to express my Jewish identity. I feel as though my voice has been silenced. Antisemitism is real and is here on campus in my own social work program. I refuse to remain silent”, said Carly Elmalem, a third year social work student.

StandWithUs Canada and Hillel Ryerson call on the SWSU to retract their statement and apologize. We will continue to work together to support the Jewish student community at Ryerson as they fight bigotry and promote tolerance on their campus.

Rebecca Katzman, Canada Campus Coordinator, StandWithUs Canada

Elyse Wieskopf, Director, Hillel Ryerson

Ilan Orzy, Director, Advocacy & Issues Management, Hillel Ontario

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

X