As part of our commitment to counter antisemitism, UJA helps to fund Hillel Ontario—an affiliate of the largest Jewish student organization in the world. Hillel Ontario supports Jewish campus life for more than 13,000 Jewish students at nine universities in the province. Elena Levy is one of these students. This is her story.
Elena Levy is a Studio Art major at Guelph University. Her name may not be familiar to you, but there’s a chance you’ve seen her artwork on Facebook or Instagram. She’s the artist whose creative response to a display of frightening antisemitic graffiti in her Thornhill neighbourhood made the rounds on social media in April 2019, and was hailed as a powerful and empowering rejection of hate.
“I wanted to create something that opened up conversations about the horrors of antisemitism, but I also wanted to give my personal response to the perpetrator: Love will always win. By using my iPad as an outlet to express my thoughts, I drew over the graffiti and posted it on Instagram for my friends and family to see,” she explained.
Elena’s confidence in her ability to confront antisemitism is fairly new. When she first went to university, she was shocked to learn she was the first Jew many of her fellow students had ever met. She credits UJA-funded Hillel with helping her overcome her unease about sharing her Jewish identity, explaining: “Hillel is a big part of the reason the Jewish community on campus is so strong.”
“Without the team at Hillel and Director Gila Cotler’s encouragement and support, I wouldn’t have been as inspired to be so involved in the Jewish community at Guelph. I don’t know what I would do without Hillel looking out to protect and take care of us,” she added.
Elena’s come a long way from the first-year student who was hesitant to talk about her identity. Today, she boasts: “I am proud to wear my Judaism on my sleeve,” and plans to use her art to continue to educate about the beauty of her Jewish heritage, and the dangers of antisemitism.
“I wanted to create something that opened up conversations about the horrors of antisemitism, but I also wanted to give my personal response to the perpetrator: Love will always win.”