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Hillel Ontario poll: Jewish students hide Jewishness, views on Israel

Nearly 65% of respondents said being part of a Jewish community is central or very important to their identity.

Jules Olitski's painting/sculpture "Elyon," conceived as a Holocaust memorial, at the Conservative synagogue Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto. Photo by Menachem Wecker.
Jules Olitski's painting/sculpture "Elyon," conceived as a Holocaust memorial, at the Conservative synagogue Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

Hillel Ontario—the largest regional Hillel system, serving more than 13,000 Jewish students across nine universities—released the results of a poll of 500 Canadian students yesterday. The data, which it began collecting on Nov. 22, paints a picture of Canadian Jewish students that is simultaneously both promising and discouraging.

Three-quarters said their Jewish identity was either central or very important to their overall identity, and the same proportion told Hillel that it was the most important Jewish student voice on campus.

Yet 56% of the respondents have downplayed their Jewishness in interpersonal interactions, and 61% reported having chosen to refrain from voicing views on Israel or Israeli policies, fearing criticism. (Three-quarters are at least somewhat attached to Israel, which about 70% have visited.)

Students reported being most concerned about antisemitism on social media, in student union activities and among student activist groups. Half said antisemitism was a source of stress to them.

Jay Solomon, Hillel Ontario’s chief communications and public affairs officer, told JNS it wasn’t a scientific survey, but Hillel made sure it was reaching respondents outside of its own mailing lists. Forty-six percent of respondents had little or no connection to Hillel, he said.

“We believe that this pulse check gives us a good sense of where Gen Z students are at,” he said.

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