The safety of all students on campus is Hillel Ontario’s top priority. The event that occurred last night at York University, in which anti-Israel activists created an intimidating and hostile climate for students seeking to participate in a program hosting Israeli reservists, was not in keeping with the values of the Jewish community, our organization or the University. The same can be said by the actions of other non-student organizations that amplified the tension and put students in an unsafe situation.
Hillel York declined to sponsor or host last night’s program because we believed the event did not align with our campus programming strategy and we were concerned about the risk of violence. However, our staff attended last night to ensure that Jewish students were safe, and worked with campus security and Toronto Police Services, encouraging Jewish students to stay away from the protests for their own protection.
Hillel York and our partnering clubs and stakeholders have worked tirelessly to support a safe and vibrant campus experience for all Jewish students, in keeping with our values of building Jewish life, learning and support for Israel. Hillel York hosts numerous pro-Israel programs, often featuring Israelis, to speak on a wide variety of topics. This includes last week when Hillel and StandWithUs hosted a group called WordSwap, a program aimed at promoting dialogue between diverse people on difficult topics. Opportunities to build bridges and bring people together are at the core of Hillel’s programming strategy on all campuses. Programs that create division are antithetical to creating a safe environment for Jewish students on campus.
We will continue to host and sponsor programs that focus on building greater understanding about Israel based on the values of dialogue and mutual respect because we know this is what our students are seeking. One of our Hillel York student leaders said it best in a recent editorial: “If you want to help the students, you must listen to our collective voices and stand alongside us, not in our stead.”
Marc Newburgh, CEO