There Is No Hillel Without Israel

by | Sep 2, 2017 | Hillel Ontario, Israel | 0 comments

Visits to Israel, fluency in Hebrew, and historical knowledge of the land and people provide Hillel professionals with the ability to help strengthen a students’ relationship and connection with Israel. To forge and to sustain a durable, meaningful, long lasting relationship with the Jewish-democratic state, Israel must become real and vivid in the lives of our students, and no longer remain a mere distant concept. The one key element that is most important to our Israel education framework is the ability to convey what it’s like to live in modern, today’s Israel. Having Israelis as part of our professional team enables Hillel Ontario to provide students with an authentic and omnipresent view of contemporary Israel. We do this through the Israel Fellows (campus Shlichim) program of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and their Shinshinim program in partnership with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

In its strategic plan, Hillel Ontario reaffirms the role that Israel plays as part of its organizational mission, vision and strategic priorities, with Israel and Israel engagement a central tenant to students’ Jewish experience on campus, by helping students form a connection to the land, people and nation of Israel in three distinct ways: People-to- People, Immersive Experiences, and  providing relevant Israel Content and Education.

Over the past several years, Hillel Ontario through its partnership with Hillel International, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto have been able to increase the number of campus Shlichim from 1 professional working on 3 university campuses to 7 full- and part-time professionals working across 7 university campuses. This speaks to the success of this initiative whereby students can meet, interact with, and build real relationships with Israelis, have conversations and dialogue about social issues and their impact on their Jewish identity as Jews living abroad, all at the same time having the opportunity to visit and spend time in Israel getting to know the land, people, and culture in an immersive way. With their charismatic presence and engagement skills, the Israel Fellows and Shinshinim have become a focal point for students on campuses across the province, enabling a unique and meaningful insider’s perspective into the everyday life choices and dilemmas of young vibrant Israelis who are pre- and post-army service. Hillel Ontario’s team of Shlichim have built and sustained over 1000 relationships with students, have run hundreds of Israel programming on campus, and have helped hundreds of students go to Israel. Through their amazing work, they are helping forge the relationship that students have with Israel.

We are proud of our partnerships with Hillel International, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. The role these partnerships play, and the resources and support they provide, significantly impacts our ability to engage with students about Israel in a meaningful way on 9 University Campuses across the province.

There are currently more than 90 Shlichim serving under the Israel Fellows program, on more than 100 campuses across North and South America, Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Lior Cyngiser is the Vice President of Israel Engagement & Education for Hillel Ontario
Mijal Ben Dori is the Canadian Regional Director of the Jewish Agency for Israel

Stronger Together!

Stronger Together!

Over this past Family Day Weekend, I spent a lot of time reflecting both about the challenges we face, but also about the incredible strength and resiliency of this community. Jewish students are often at the forefront of hate and discrimination on campus and online, but we are at our most powerful – and most effective – when we work together as one.

With that in mind, I want to provide several important advocacy updates.

First, I am excited to share that Hillel Ontario has begun convening meetings to coordinate advocacy initiatives amongst Jewish campus organizations across the country. The time has come for Hillel Ontario to lead the way in encouraging cooperation to accomplish the goals we collectively share. Joining us in these monthly discussions are Hillel Montreal, Hillel BC, Hillel Ottawa, CJPAC, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs. We appreciate their willingness to engage with us in these important conversations.

Second, I want to update you on the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) matter that galvanized much community discussion last week. In addition to endorsing a motion to divest from companies doing business in Israel, the union misrepresented the recently released report of the Antisemitism Working Group and its approach to what does or does not constitute antisemitism. Hillel views these type of divestment motions as part of a wider issue of antisemitism on campus, and we have made that point clearly and consistently to university leadership and members of the Working Group for the better part of the past year.

Late Friday, Working Group members released an important statement, which both criticized the rhetoric of union leaders, and vindicated our belief that hate speech directed at Israel, Israelis or Jews based on actions (real or imagined) of the Israeli government is antisemitism. This is an important moment; one that underscores why our approach to these issues, and the allies we foster across campus are so critical. While we may not be able to stop every divestment motion from passing, we can – and we will continue to – have our voices heard by university leadership to ensure antisemitism remains on the margins. This is precisely what happened last week at the UofT.

Jewish students deserve to study, live and socialize in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. Hillel will continue to condemn antisemitism, defend Israel and our right to self-determination, and build essential relationships on campus to secure the well-being of the students we so proudly serve.

And, we will do so in concert with our allies; because we believe we are stronger together.

Sincerely,

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Weekly D’var: Toldot 5782 by Scott Goldstein

[Warning: Ted Lasso show spoiler] I just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso, and I cannot get the image of the finale out of my head. Haven’t seen it yet? That’s ok, I’ll recap part of this week’s Torah portion as you go catch up and then tie it in at the end for when you get back.

When not detailing the intricate politics of well-digging and water rights, this week’s Torah portion takes some time to highlight our favourite biblical twins – Jacob and Esav (a.k.a. Esau). Some may even refer to this as the first twin study on “Nature vs. Nurture” (shoutout to my psychology peeps) ever recorded. We are presented with brothers that were raised in the same environment but turned out to be polar opposites. I’ll let you read the riveting stories of birthright transactions and elaborate deceptions on your own, but the narrative we are presented with is clear: Jacob is good, and Esav is bad. Here’s the problem I had with this narrative: If Esav was raised in a good environment, but still did bad things, then is the Torah telling us that our destiny is sealed by nature?

I just finished watching Ted Lasso, and I cannot help but think about how loveable Nate (played by Nick Mohammed) is a perfect example of what I think our Torah portion is trying to tell us. Ted Lasso (played masterfully by Jason Sudeikis) created a nurturing environment where Nate could grow from invisible kit manager to assistant coach that everyone loves. Despite all that, it comes down to the decisions Nate made to allow jealousy to influence his actions, leading him to leave Richmond FC and betray his teammates by joining West Ham United.

I think the story we read in the Torah is reminding us that both nature and nurture are really important (just as science does), but our decisions, ultimately, are our own. Whether it’s Esav going down in history as the ultimate example of bad decision-making or Nate likely being the reason we see Ted cry next season, the lesson is clear… be like Jacob because we can make good decisions no matter the circumstances.

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