“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

“We are not welcome”: A Student’s Perspective on the Rise of Antisemitism

The last week or so has seen intense conflict and rising tensions in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Hamas. As a Jewish student who cares deeply about Israel and my family who live there, it was quite an anxious time. Hearing how often my family had to run to bomb shelters and seeing videos of rocket barrages and the Iron Dome intercepting them was both scary and awe-inspiring. 

Unfortunately, this recent round of violence has also led to a barrage of antisemitism worldwide, including on social media. At first, fellow high school alumni posted their support for Palestinians, but their version of support included delegitimizing the Jewish state and defending Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Despite my attempted conversations with these individuals, trying to explain to them why supporting terrorism and genocide is wrong, I was met with insults, unfollows, and blocks. Later on, I was sent a TikTok of a fellow Laurier student who posted a video encouraging the stabbing of Israelis, burning the Israel flag and vomiting on it. Thankfully, Wilfrid Laurier University caught wind of this and took appropriate action. Unfortunately, once this news got onto the Laurier subreddit (a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit), there was quite a lot of antisemitism. It ranged from people misunderstanding the conflict (calling Israel an occupying and apartheid state), to blatant antisemitism (commenting that this further proves Jews control the media and the world at large), I was quite horrified. When Laurier posted these news on their Twitter, there was even more hate, with comments such as “maybe Netanyahu and his RW government should stop trying to commit genocide.” Of course this is a blatant lie, but this didn’t stop people from commenting. Furthermore, the Laurier/Waterloo Diveristy, Equity and Inclusion office made a post on Instagram with statements such as “we stand against settler colonialism, apartheid” and more, all terms direcly targeted towards Israel and its supporters. The inclusion office successfully managed to exclude the vast majority of Laurier’s Jewish population. Thankfully, a group of Jewish students, including myself, explained why their post was inaccurate and it was taken down. 

The most recent Israel-Gaza conflict has caused a 438% increase (Jewish News) in antisemitism, and videos of protesters physically hurting Jews across the globe are abundant. As a Jewish student who will be on campus in September, I no longer feel safe supporting my homeland or wearing my Magen David in public. I hope that the Laurier administration will put more effort into dispelling anti-Israel lies and combating antisemitism and choose to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which it has historically rejected. 

Until now, the message to Laurier’s Jewish students from their peers, the student union, the administration at large or the diversity, equity and inclusion office, could not be clearer: we are not welcome. And so, I can only hope for change and full inclusion of Jewish students at Laurier and for my Jewish peers at universities across Ontario.

David B.
Hillel Laurier

 

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaborating with other student organizations allows us to diversify the students at our events, build coalitions, establish good rapport with other student groups and broaden the topics of the content that we deliver. 

This past month, we had the privilege of working with the Waterloo and Laurier chapters of Menstruation Redefined, which is committed to helping with the “institutional and social barriers surrounding menstruation that risk the health, well-being, and daily lives of many.” This mission resonated with us at Hillel because we understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all. These are values that we hold as Jews, and want to embody at Hillel. 

We joined forces to produce a fun evening of trivia and learning. The event allowed us to reach new students, educate others on Jewish practice for those who menstruate, and learn more about Menstruation Redefined’s mission. Collaborative events like this allow us to understand key issues and causes that other student-run campus groups advocate for and to build strong allyships and ensure that we propel Hillel’s values forward, such as inclusion and equity.

Jessica Bloom, HIllel Waterloo Student President
Veronica Grad, Hillel Laurier Student President

Dear Hillel Community…

Dear Hillel Community…

We are Rachel and Ori, the Hillel Laurier and Waterloo presidents of 2019/2020. As we are all aware, this year has come to an end quicker than expected, which means both our Hillel presidency terms as well as our undergraduate degrees are coming to an end. Before we leave we would like to express how we’ve felt, what we’ll miss most, and what we hope for the future.

Over the course of the four years in which we’ve lived in the city of Waterloo, the Jewish student population has grown significantly. Hillel Waterloo and Laurier hosted Shabbat dinners that had an average attendance of 30 people. In our final year we are lucky enough to say that the Shabbat dinners we host now have an average of 80 attendees, with our most popular Shabbat dinners averaging at over 100 Jewish students. We feel so honoured to have been the presidents as we worked to make Hillel thrive this past year, contributing to the community we relied so heavily on when we left our Jewish high schools. It is due to the work of our amazing executive team and, of course, our fantastic directors that we were able to get to where we are today. All of the programming and all of the smiles did not happen by accident.

We believe that the programming that Hillel Laurier and Hillel Waterloo facilitate has been a key part of the success we see today. Shabbat dinners are especially fun for everyone, but believe it or not, they are only an eighth of the programs we offer. From bonfires and cookie decorating, to Holocaust education and study rooms, all the way to arcades and board game cafes, we plan programs catering to every Jewish student. Our personal favourite is musical havdallah.

We are so thankful for the experiences we have had with Hillel and the Waterloo Jewish community over the past four years, and although we are sad to leave, we are so excited to watch the next generation of Jewish leaders as they continue building this wonderful community. As the Waterloo community continues to grow in numbers, we have such pride that each new face will be met with an atmosphere of warmth, diversity, and a love of Judaism. Although it is impossible to predict exactly what the future has in store for our community, knowing that each new year brings new people, new ideas, and new perspectives, along with the same devotion and love of community, leaves us confident that the future is bright.

We wish all the best to next year’s executive team and to the Jewish community as a whole. We miss you already.

Written By: Ori Mezuman and Rachel Goldfarb

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