We know this has been a difficult week at York. We, at Hillel York, want to take a moment and hold space for the wide range of reactions and feelings from our diverse campus community. Alongside many of you, we were saddened and angered by the violent and antisemitic protest that took place last Wednesday during Herut Canada’s event with Reservists on Duty. Incidents like these haven’t been seen on campus to this extreme for many years, and it only serves to further divide our campus community. When we became of aware the protest that Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) was planning, Hillel York staff and students worked tirelessly to ensure everyone’s safety and the security of the Hillel Lounge as best we could. Our staff communicated in advance with campus security and York’s administration to understand their plans, and align on our shared goal of safety for everyone. Hillel Ontario sent additional staff resources to enhance our on-the-ground presence at the protest and throughout the entire evening. Our staff periodically checked in with students inside the event while encouraging students outside to stay away from the chaos that ensued. When students needed safe passage away from the event or the protests once they turned violent, Hillel was there to guide them to safety. At Hillel, our number one priority is, and will always be, the safety of our students no matter what initiative we are pursuing.
As student Hailey Merten stated about Hillel York “They were checking in with me throughout the whole event as they knew I was inside and when I was feeling unsafe, they escorted me out. Not one person inside the event even helped me leave! Hillel York made sure I was safe until they went home.”
Following these tragic events, it’s important for us to come together as a campus community, discuss what happened, and work toward a better future. I invite each and every Jewish student to come to any of our Hillel York staff members to be heard. We are fortunate to live in a world where Jewish students need not fear their campus environment. On a daily basis, Jewish students at York enjoy a safe and vibrant campus environment where they are given the chance to explore what kind of Jew they want to be. Hillel York is here to provide an open and safe space for that exploration. Come join us in the lounge this week and let’s work toward a better tomorrow.