York University is the closest university to Thornhill, the heart of Toronto’s Jewish community. With a Kosher Country Style and a whole assortment of Jewish groups to attend, you would think that this is the best place to put in an application. This certainly was true when I worked at the campus in grade 9, in the now defunct “Joe Schmoe’s Restaurant”. With a non-stop stream of kippah-wearing guests (and frum female students) I was completely ignorant about the problems either occurring-or set to develop–in the coming years.
That was a lifetime ago, far removed from the current hostilities that our current students experience. While my son is far too young to be thinking about university (he cannot speak yet), York University is definitely not on the “safe list”. Like other parents, I do not want my son (or any Jewish children) to be slandered, having their identity and religion ripped to pieces in the name of “social justice”. While progressive causes have uplifted many disenfranchised groups, Jews are now rendered “White” and associated with the same “supremacists” who caused 6 million of our family to perish in the Shoah. This is because of the time difference between 1945 and now, with many new students coming from cultures who are antagonists to the People of The Book.
Beyond York University
Walking around Kensington Market is one of the best things to do in Toronto, with its many interesting restaurants, shops, and community centers. The main UofT campus is situated close by, with many students coming here to socialize and so forth. There are two synagogues here, Anshei Minsk and the Kiever. Furthermore, it was once the centre of Jewish life (prior to our migration north) with Al Wax famously documenting his experiences there in film and television. Things have changed and not for the better. Kensington is now a hotbed for progressive activism, which sees Israel as both illegitimate and demonic. This places our youngsters in a dangerous situation, since many of them share the same values of other progressives, yet see their identity as authentic and worthy of protection. Some students are quick to take off their Magen David, hoping that no one sees them as something different than the dominant group. Why should our children suffer?
I have had the privilege of studying in both Canada and Israel, with my best years spent in the Holy Land. There were protests at Tel Aviv University but there were also supporters there to meet them, providing a heavy balance to the hate spoken by “Israeli students”. However, Israel does provide a route for young people to prioritize both their liberal values and their Jewish identity, looking for ways to promote democracy from within a Zionist framework. No such vehicle exists at York, or at any Canadian university for that matter. Despite the hatred that Jewish students face, Jewish philanthropists support their alma maters with vigor, hoping that the tides will change and a sense of normalcy will return. I am not that optimistic, seeing the situation getting worse with time.
Sadly, the golden age of “the Jews” (in the West) has come to an end.