Campus advocacy for Israel and Jewish issues has received a big boost, with a $1-million donation to Hillel Ontario from the Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation.
The gift, which was announced on Feb. 4, comes after $1 million was donated to Hillel Ontario last April by the Silber Family Foundation. It allowed the campus-based group to launch a website, YouHadMeAtHillel.ca, which will assist the organization with recruitment and professional development.
The Silber gift was also intended to increase Hillel’s full-time professional staff on university and college campuses. This academic year was the first in which each of the nine campuses the organization serves in Ontario had at least two full-time staff members.
The gift from the Schwartz-Reisman Foundation will be given to the organization over three years and will help it hire advocacy professionals, who will join Hillel teams throughout Ontario.
Western, Ryerson, York and McMaster universities will all benefit from the funds, in the form of staff resources, specialized professional development and training, advocacy programming, as well as a comprehensive evaluation of attitudes towards Israel and the Jewish community on campus.
“This transformative gift will empower Hillel students to confront anti-Semitism, challenge hateful BDS initiatives and foster strong relationships with university administrators, faculty members, student government and other campus leaders,” said Marc Newburgh, the CEO of Hillel Ontario.
“Our mission is to ensure that every Jewish student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.… An environment in which Jewish students feel safe expressing their identity and connection with Israel is essential to nurturing a vibrant Jewish community on campus and an integral piece of Hillel Ontario’s strategic plan.”
Hillel Ontario serves a combined Jewish student population of more than 13,000.
“Hillel is the only organization that is on campus every single day, supporting students who are on the front line, fighting anti-Semitism and opposing those who demonize Israel,” said Gerald Schwartz, the chair and CEO of Onex Corp. “We challenge community members who care about Jewish students to step up and join us in supporting this new strategy, so that it can be expanded to other campuses across Ontario.”
Hillel Ontario has retained Rosov Consulting to conduct a three-year study of the impact the gift from the Schwartz-Reisman Foundation has on attitudes towards Israel at the four recipient schools.
Rosov will report its findings to the community each year, to demonstrate whether the money is having a measurable and tangible impact, share best practices and continue to refine and improve Hillel’s advocacy strategy, Hillel stated in a news release.