For inspiring and leading University of Ottawa students in the fight against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Jewish student leaders at uOttawa will collectively receive the 2018 Student Leadership Award from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
“What our Jewish and pro-Israel students accomplished this year is nothing short of monumental,” said Dovi Chein, director of Hillel Ottawa.
“This award is a way for the Jewish community in Ottawa to tell our students, thank you,” he said. “Thank you for standing up for what is right. Thank you for never backing down in the face of adversity, and for being an example and inspiration for the whole community. As director of Hillel, I am beaming with pride and gratitude for these incredible students. The future of Jewish life on campus looks stronger and more unified than ever before.”
The award is “very well deserved,” said Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, co-director with his wife Yocheved of the Chabad Student Network.
“It brought out a real Jewish pride. Over 40 students wore their kippahs the entire time. Students came out feeling very proud and happy after the resolution was defeated. They came over to Chabad House after, and there was dancing and celebration, a sense of real Jewish pride. The trick is to keep that spirit and pride alive. The president of the university, Jacques Frémont, came to Chabad for dinner in January with 100 students. The president said ‘please wear your kippahs. We want every minority to be proud of who you are.’ He was so supportive of the Jewish community.”
“I found it to be a very emotional experience for students,” added Yocheved Boyarsky. “Their Jewish identity came to the forefront. They felt a real threat and it brought out the joy of being Jewish. Each time the resolution was defeated, they felt a sense of togetherness. It brought everyone together. It was wonderful to see that uninhibited pride and joy to be Jewish, to feel they had nothing to be ashamed of or to hide.”
Jewish student leaders, who include members of Hillel Ottawa and the Chabad Student Network, rallied hundreds of other students to stand up against BDS and succeeded against great odds, and systemic bias, to defeat three separate votes to advance BDS. Their leadership inspired others to take action while giving immense courage and comfort to all students and have been hailed as a model for social action, justice, hard work, and community.
“The students involved in this fight at uOttawa are true leaders in the fight against BDS,” wrote Allyson Grant of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in a letter nominating the student leaders for the award. “Whether it was spending hours researching how to defeat the motions, recruiting record numbers of students to vote, delivering passionate speeches at a meeting, or simply supporting their peers when things got tough, I am truly impressed by their intelligence, commitment and bravery in the face of this discriminatory movement.”
“I could not think of a group of students that are more deserving of this award,” said Sam Morgan, a fourth year pre-med student at uOttawa. “They defeated BDS on three separate occasions this year – not to mention also overcoming the Student Federation decertifying Hillel as a club on campus. The composure and collectiveness displayed while these anti-Semitic events occurred speaks to the types of individuals these students are. By making the university a more inclusive and ultimately better campus for current and future students, these students exemplified leadership and represented the community in a remarkable way.”
The 2018 Community Service Awards will be presented at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, June 20, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. For more information, contact Solange Ashe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-4696, ext. 236.