Commentary | Open the door to QPIRG

Two Jewish students explain their support for this organization

Given the tense relationship that has existed between many Jewish groups and students and QPIRG, we, as two Jewish students, wish to explain why we supported QPIRG in last week’s referendum and why we will continue to be involved with this group.

QPIRG is a diverse organization that funds and supports a huge range of social and environmental justice issues on campus. QPIRG actively empowers and gives a voice to many individuals and communities, especially those marginalized by the status quo. Not only does QPIRG envision and inspire a diverse campus, it also encourages critical thought, community organizing, and community building. In addition, it funds alternative research, which supports students in pursuing academic ventures independent of a classroom setting. QPIRG is a necessary presence on our campus and in the Montreal community.

Lily Hoffman Simon is a U2 Jewish Studies and Sociology Student. She can be reached at lily.simon@mail.mcgill.ca. Elaina Kaufman is a U3 Middle East Student. She can be reached at elaina.kaufman@mail.mcgill.ca

Despite our strong support for QPIRG,  we are uncomfortable with a small number of projects that it helps fund. Specifically, we have misgivings about QPIRG’s ongoing support of both Tadamon! and Israeli Apartheid Week. In our opinion, the use of the term “apartheid” is questionable, as it alienates individuals offended by the term who may otherwise have been interested in the content of the Week. Furthermore, a term like this prompts people to take a passionate stance on Israel-Palestine based primarily on the negative connotations of the word “apartheid”, rather than on a nuanced understanding of this protracted conflict.

Some of the organizing principles of QPIRG parallel values found throughout Jewish traditions. Jewish history, like that of many others, has been characterized by critical thought and discourse – as the saying goes, “when you have two Jews, you have three opinions.” Jews, like other minorities, have experienced severe marginalization throughout our history, and have integrated fighting oppression into our religious and cultural expressions, exclaiming every Passover that “we will not oppress the stranger as we were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Some of the fundamental aspects of Jewish culture are its commitment to discourse, freedom, and community. This is part of why we feel compelled to be involved with QPIRG, an organization with anti-oppression at the heart of its mandate.

Between the two of us, we have grown up with Zionist and Jewish identities, have spent a significant amount of time in Israel, have relatives in Israel, are employed by Hillel, and are active in building a Jewish community for students. Encountering events that challenge Israel’s identity is bound to cause confusion and discomfort. Yet, these events represent only a small minority of the projects funded by QPIRG. To homogenize QPIRG because of the actions of some groups is to do a disservice to the amazing work that QPIRG coordinates.

Believing in QPIRG does not necessarily mean that you agree with all of its politics or everything that it funds and supports. A couple of events that we find off-putting will not deter us from continuing to be involved in this vibrant and vital community organization. We’re all coming at this from different places, and that’s the point!



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