York president Rhonda Lenton: This is ‘not the university that you’ve been hearing about in recent news’

Rhonda Lenton became president of York University in July 2017. (Supplied photo)

York University has been in the Jewish news a fair bit recently, after their student union bungled an educational session on antisemitism and the school’s name was labelled one of the least safe campuses for Jews in Canada. But there is always another side to these stories—one which often involves students protesting for Palestinians’ rights.

University administrators are often caught between these two camps, trying to mediate the on-campus iteration of a centuries-old geopolitical struggle. It’s a line often walked by Rhonda Lenton, the president of York University. On today’s episode, she joins for a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion on how her administration strikes that balance, what she’s gleaned from her own studies into Canadian Jewry as a sociologist, and how York’s Jewish identity has changed over the decades.

Plus, Avi and Ilana debate how Mother’s Day seeped into the Jewish holiday calendar, and we wish Ilana and the State of Israel a very happy birthday. One is 74; the other, 29—guess which is which?


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Michael Fraiman is the producer. Andre Goulet is the technical producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.