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Hillel Ontario responds

As members of Hillel Ontario’s student leadership council and leaders in our own campus communities, we have seen first-hand how Hillel actively encourages dialogue and constructive debate among Jewish students – and we strongly reject any suggestion to the contrary (“Hillel accused of censoring left-wing activists,” Nov. 16). Religious or secular, left- or right-wing, every Jewish student looking to connect with their community on campus need look no further than Hillel.

Communities have boundaries. If Hillel tried to be everything to everyone, it would fail in its mandate. It’s unreasonable to expect Hillel Ontario to provide a platform for everyone to speak; with limited resources, Hillel must decide which events are most likely to inspire students to learn and grow in their Jewish and Zionist identities. While we know that this inherently means some will disagree with Hillel’s decisions, we have never had reason to question Hillel’s commitment to upholding the spirit of open, honest debate and the value of diverse opinions. This remains true today.

We wouldn’t want our space on campus to become polarized because of one student’s experience, which is not and cannot be representative of the Hillel community at large. We know Hillel is committed to creating a pluralistic community on campus where Jewish students can proudly support liberal causes and social justice movements. We know that Hillel is working hard to strengthen dialogue on campus, including through dynamic speakers and partner organizations, and we look forward to those events.

Laura Goldfarb (Waterloo); Rachel Goldfarb (Waterloo); Levi Cassidy (UofT); Geoffrey Handelman
(Ryerson); Brian Friedman
(Western); Elisa Alloul (York)


Netanyahu’s Realpolitik

Rabbi Dow Marmur’s column “Don’t punish Israel for Netanyahu’s Realpolitik” (Nov. 16) mistakenly assumed the symposium I organized at York University in late October was a debate about whether Israel or Canada does a better job of facilitating Jewish religious pluralism. The symposium did nothing of the sort. Rather, 16 scholars – half of whom are leading scholars of
Canadian Jewish life and half of whom are Jewish studies giants who had never thought much about Canada in print – presented wonderfully thoughtful arguments, perspectives and questions about Canada as a home for the Jews. Not one made a single comparison between Jewish life in Canada with Jewish life in Israel.

When Rabbi Marmur, who unfortunately did not attend the symposium, went on to argue that “the response to the York symposium should be that though it may seem easier to lead a non-Orthodox Jewish life in the Diaspora,” he unfortunately turned an important moment of scholarly and public reflection on Canadian Jewish life into a straw dummy for an altogether different point. The response to the symposium’s point-of-departure question, “Has there ever been a better home for the Jews than Canada?” should be further reflection on, criticism of and/or appreciation for Canadian Jewry.

David Koffman, associate professor of history, York University
Toronto


Rabbi Marmur’s article brought to mind the adage that, if ever real peace came to the Middle East, civil war would break out in Israel.

While Israel is stronger than ever militarily
and is enjoying increased favour among more nations, its condition is still very precarious. It faces existential threats from powerful rogue nations, virulent hatred from many corners of the world and continual attempts to demonize it and strip it of its sovereignty at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has skilfully steered Israel through this sea of treachery, and his efforts undoubtedly have been a major factor in Israel’s advance on the world stage. And while accomplishing this herculean task, he has also managed to secure his base by holding together the nation of Israel, which surely has to be the most politically fractious society on Earth.

There is truth in Rabbi Marmur’s comments on the status of Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel. However, this pales in comparison to the critical priorities that probably will continue to face Israel’s leadership into the foreseeable future.

David Green
Thornhill, Ont.