Faculty at Toronto’s Ryerson U Organize Holocaust Memorial Event, Following Student Boycott of Initiative to Institute ‘Education Week’ on Nazi Genocide of Jews
Faculty members and administrators at Toronto’s Ryerson University organized a Holocaust memorial event last week, a month after students boycotted an initiative to institute a Holocaust education week at the school.
The university wanted to “show solidarity with Jewish students,” said Tamar Jaclyn Lyons — vice president of the university’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow — following the debacle at the Ryerson Student Union, in which students were heckled with antisemitic slurs and a staged walkout torpedoed the vote on creating time for Holocaust awareness, as The Algemeiner reported.
Alyssa Moses, associate director of the school’s Hillel and one of the organizers of Friday’s event — entitled “What can be learned from the Holocaust?” and scheduled to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day — said students were “very moved.” Many stayed late, she added, to talk to Holocaust survivor Judy Weissenberg-Cohen, who had given a speech about her experience at Auschwitz.
Moses said about 175 people attended the program, which also included remarks from Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi, and a display featuring students’ and faculty’s personal connections to the Holocaust.
According to a report by CJNews, Lachemi spoke about the “crucial role” universities played “in the years leading to and during the Holocaust,” by providing “widespread support and acceptance” for antisemitism, rather than spurning Nazi views.
Today, academia “must heed the lessons of history. We must respect inclusivity and ensure that freedom from harassment and discrimination are core values,” Lachemi added, according to the report.
Jewish groups applauded the school for taking the initiative on Holocaust education, but Aidan Fishman, campus advocacy coordinator for B’nai Brith Canada, told The Algemeiner that “it is only a small step toward solving the larger problem of antisemitism at Ryerson Unversity.”
Aedan O’Connor, a member of Ryerson Hillel, echoed that statement, telling The Algemeiner, “I feel like it was an opportunity to appease the Ryerson and Toronto Jewish community. It’s like the school’s saying, ‘Hey, we aren’t antisemites. We condemn the Holocaust’ — while, at the same time, covering up a lot of antisemitism. I don’t feel the sincerity.”
O’Connor, who didn’t attend the event, added, “I’m glad the program was put together, but it needs to be the first of many steps in healing the Jewish community. One Holocaust Remembrance program is not the end all and be all.”