Jay Solomon

Jewish students will not be silenced

Hillel Ontario student leaders call attention to the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas.
Hillel Ontario student leaders call attention to the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas.

The past few weeks have marked the annual hatefest dubiously known as Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). On campuses across Ontario and beyond, students have been subjected to biased, discriminatory, and overtly antisemitic rhetoric that will single out Jewish students and anyone who dares to support them. 

It is misguided, harmful, and unacceptable. And, it must be called out for what it is.

Since its inception in 2005, IAW has entrenched itself as an international platform across campuses for denigrating Jewish identities and erasing Jewish narratives. Rather than fostering solutions-focused, constructive dialogue, its one-sided approach exacerbates existing – and creates new – tensions that leave Jewish students feeling marginalized and vilified for their connection to their ancestral homeland, Israel.

And, make no mistake: the overwhelming majority of Jewish students in Ontario care deeply about Israel. A recent pulse check survey conducted by Hillel Ontario revealed that 81% of Ontario’s Jewish students feel extremely, very or somewhat connected to the Jewish state.   

This year, like in years past, IAW saw the involvement of groups and individuals that justify and glorify terrorism such as the attacks of October 7th. This highlights the true nature of the campaign and underscores the well-founded concerns expressed by Jewish students and the wider Jewish community. The open hostility directed towards Israel and Jewish students by proponents of, and speakers at, IAW programming hinders any opportunity for meaningful discourse and stands in stark contrast to the values of peace, and civility that Canadians hold dear. 

While Jewish students are rightly concerned about the inflammatory rhetoric espoused through IAW lectures, it is perhaps the malicious street theatre that students will be forced to confront that is even more troublesome. These demonstrations are designed to intimidate Jewish students and create an unwelcoming atmosphere for their non-Jewish allies and should be denounced unequivocally. 

This year’s IAW, scheduled to stretch over the entire month of March, is particularly troubling, as it follows a very challenging academic year for Jewish students that saw a threefold increase in antisemitic reports over the previous year. 

Hillel is the go-to Jewish organization on campus, amplifying Jewish campus life at more than 850 universities around the world. Hillel Ontario, the largest Hillel globally, operates at nine universities across the province, with a combined Jewish student population of 14,000. Hillel Ontario alone has received over 500 reports of antisemitic incidents since October 7th of last year. The toxicity created by IAW, and similar year-round initiatives, cannot be ignored and must be addressed swiftly and directly.

In addition to IAW, this month marked the 150th day Israeli civilians have been held in Gaza by Hamas. In addition to our regular programming, Hillel mobilized students province-wide to host vigils calling attention to those still held captive in Gaza. And, we continue to loudly and strongly call on university leaders to hold accountable anyone who contributes to an unsafe campus climate.

The message is clear – Jewish students will not be silenced, and they will stand stronger and prouder than they ever have before.

About the Author
Jay Solomon is the Chief Advancement Officer for Hillel Ontario.
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