Thursday, January 27, 2022

A synagogue unfolds for all faiths

People enter the Babyn Yar outdoor synagogue.

By Carol Truemner. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

A suggestion by a Waterloo School of Architecture professor to build a synagogue at the site of the largest single massacre of Jews during the Holocaust has developed into a unique place visited by people of all faiths.

Professor Robert Jan van Pelt.Seven months after Robert Jan van Pelt came up with what he describes as a “throw-away idea,” an outdoor synagogue opened in Babyn Yar, a ravine in the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv where more than 33,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered on a single day in 1941.

The Babyn Yar victims and the millions of other Jews killed during the Holocaust will be remembered during International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

In 2020, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s architectural committee, of which van Pelt is a member, was tasked with coming up with a plan to commemorate the history of the 160-hectare site, now a public park.

Its topography had been significantly altered since 1941 with only a few memorials remaining that speak of the horrific events that took place there.

It was during a seminar van Pelt gave to the other members of the architectural committee about the unique characteristics of the Jewish understanding of space that he mentioned building a synagogue on the site would be a good start to memorializing the area.

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, the foundation’s artistic director, responded immediately with “Let’s do it!”

Whimsical pop-up design

It took less than seven months to plan and build the Babyn Yar synagogue, which is shaped like an oversized Jewish prayer book.

The wooden synagogue opens like a book every morning.Designed by Basel-based architect Manuel Herz, the whimsical pop-up building is unfolded in the morning to provide a liturgical and reflection space and is folded back up at night.

The oak wood used throughout the synagogue was sourced from all parts of Ukraine and is more than 100 years old.

“We wanted a wooden synagogue because traditional ones of this area used to be built from wood,” says van Pelt, one of the world's leading experts on the Holocaust. “Not a single one of those survived the Holocaust.”

To accompany the opening of the synagogue, van Pelt produced a book entitled “An Atlas of Jewish Space — How Beautiful Are Your Dwelling Places, Jacob.”

A paper model of the synagogue.

van Pelt's new book includes a paper model of the Babyn Yar synagogue.

It includes 135 short pieces written by van Pelt and illustrated by New York artist and dermatologist Mark Podwal. The book is packaged in a special box that opens like a book to reveal a paper model of the synagogue.

During the height of the pandemic, van Pelt set himself a goal of writing two pieces a day. He’d then send the copy to Podwal who would come up with companion illustrations during cancelled dermatology appointments.  

Visitors are always welcome

Last October, van Pelt attended a special ceremony at the Babyn Yar synagogue held 80 years after the massacre. 

An inside view of the wooden pop-up synagogue.During his visit, he spoke with the chief rabbi of Ukraine who said the synagogue is the best thing to ever happen to Jewish-Christian relations in the country.

The rabbi explained that anyone is welcome to visit the Babyn Yar synagogue and find out more about the Jewish faith and traditions. 

“He told me ‘When you come into my synagogue there’s security, which makes it difficult to get into the building. Generally, non-Jews do not like to go to synagogues because, rightly or wrongly so, they feel they’re not welcome,’” says van Pelt. “’So, what happens in our synagogues remains a mystery to many people.’”

Van Pelt is proud of the Babyn Yar synagogue and the reaction to it by Ukrainians and visitors from around the world.

“I’ve done things in the past that I think could have been done better here or there,” says van Pelt. “But for once I’m not second-guessing anything about this project we worked on as a team.”

Campus Housing releases Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Plan of Action

A view of the Waterloo skyline at sunset, or maybe sunrise.

This article was originally published in The Catalyst e-newsletter.

As part of its commitment to provide the best services, experiences, and spaces possible, while ensuring students have a safe space to call home, Campus Housing had developed a plan of action to support belonging and inclusion and help to combat racism at the University of Waterloo. 

One of the largest campus housing providers in Ontario, Campus Housing serves a broad community, rich with diverse cultures, faiths, and world views, which makes the crucial work of creating an environment free of discrimination, injustice, and violence absolutely paramount. 

The Campus Housing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism response plan of action was developed to advance systemic change, where members of the community can study, research, work and live in an inclusive environment, free from discrimination. 

Campus Housing has taken four major actions to accomplish this change, including making anti-racism training mandatory for all staff, completing a literature review of the body of knowledge available on EDI in student housing, designating office space in the UW Place Grand Commons and Mackenzie King Village to support student services such as the Women’s Centre and MATES and completing a review of the conduct system with racialized groups.

"Because we respect the diversity of all members of our community and value their contributions to all aspects of university life, we are committed to bringing about positive changes that combat systemic racial discrimination and better support racialized members of our community, ” said Glen Weppler, director of Housing. 

Future actions aimed at supporting Campus Housing and by extension UWaterloo in becoming a more inclusive, diversified, anti-racist institution include requiring equity training for new staff, as part of their onboarding, incorporating more equitable hiring practices for student-staff roles, and committing to keeping the community informed on EDI calls to action. 

“Although Campus Housing has taken a major step toward addressing racism and advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recognize that more urgent actions are needed as we seek to eliminate racism. We are focused on continuous improvement and will continue to engage and collaborate with students, staff, and campus partners, to further develop our plan of action," Weppler said.

Weppler and his team look forward to taking more proactive approaches to eliminate any barriers that racialized groups may encounter, through continued dialogue, education, and working collaboratively with University community members to create and sustain respectful, inclusive, and equitable environments.

Sign up to receive The Catalyst e-newsletter.

You're invited to the GRADflix 2022 Showcase on January 31

GRADflix banner showing a film studio clapper.

A message from Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA).

Join us for the GRADflix 2022 Showcase, where we will feature the top 25 one-minute videos submitted by current graduate students about their research.

The showcase will be streamed live on the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) YouTube channel and will include special guests, audience prizes, and more.

Be part of the action

As an audience member, you will have the opportunity to cheer on your favourite competitors and vote for the People’s Choice winner from the comfort of your own home. Our judges will decide who the final award winners will be. Looking for a sneak peek? Check out the winning videos from last year.

The Proof: Creative Services launches new e-newsletter

 3 Steps to Creativity.

This week, Creative Services launched The Proof, a new e-newsletter that showcases the work that Creative Services does for its clients across the University.

"The Proof is a collection of recent projects, interesting stories, and the latest tips, tools and trends," says a statement from Creative Services. "Creative Services is here to help you find creative ways to reach your audiences and share the Waterloo brand story across digital, video and print."

Content in the first issue includes:

  1. A case study: New Alumni Brochure – Creative Services helped Alumni Relations to create a new practical and inspired brochure & accompanying digital publication. Idea was to provide some practical information but inspire/encourage NEW alumni to visit/use resources available to them as alumni and stay connected with Waterloo.
  2. A thought leadership piece on creativity – “3 steps to creativity”
  3. Updated tools for Creative Services clients
    1. How to use FunctionPoint 1-pager
    2. How to use InCopy 1-pager (a faster way to share copy updates. It’s easy to access and easy to use.)
  4. Video – Creative Services staff member Matt Regehr created an impactful and well-received video for the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aviation (WISA) launch.

You can sign up to receive the e-newsletter.

Riding the Wave of Change and other notes

An academic advisor assists a student while seated in front of a whiteboard.

The Advising Community of Practice invites you to submit a proposal to present at the 2022 Advisor Conference, scheduled virtually for April 27 and 28. The theme this year is “Riding the Wave of Change.”

"We hope you can share what practices have helped you continue to support students as we continued to adjust to the changes brought on by the pandemic," says a note from the Advising Community of Practice. "Visit the Advisor Resources website to submit your conference sessions proposal by Wednesday, February 23."

"Applications for Speak like a Scholar close today," says a note from the Writing and Communication Centre. "Speak like a Scholar is designed to help Master's and PhD students develop their professional scholarly voices and give effective academic presentations with confidence."

Concept $5K application banner

Concept $5k applications for winter 2022 opened on Sunday, January 23. "The Concept $5K pitch competition offers the opportunity for University of Waterloo student led teams with innovative solutions and high potential business ideas to showcase their hard work and compete for grant funding," says a note from Concept. "Participants receive valuable feedback, pitching experience, and idea validation from a network of experienced entrepreneurs and Concept Coaches."

Applications close February 27, 2022.

The Gender and Social Justice Program is hosting a virtual screening of "Pandora’s Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation" this afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

"Join the virtual live film screening of "Pandora’s Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation", hosted by the Gender and Social Justice program," says a note about the event. "This film examines period poverty, menstrual inequity and the need for accessible and affordable menstrual care products. It addresses the lived experience of female prisoners, transgender activists as well as menstrual health experts and advocates. All attendees will be entered in a draw for door prizes. The screening will be held on WebEx."

Katy Fulfer will host the virtual event.

Watch a trailer and register for the event online.

Link of the day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

The Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help undergrads, grad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) is currently offering virtual services only. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat or call 519-888-4047 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison's English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library will continue to focus on digital resources and consultations as we start winter term with classes primarily online, though spaces will be open for drop-in individual study space, bookable individual study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre will be accessible by appointment. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit to book an appointment either in person or online for the Fall term.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counsellors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 per cent to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 per cent to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Open Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. The Graduate House is an essential component of graduate student life, and we're working hard to make it available to students. The quality food with local ingredients you love is available for takeaway. And graduate students who paid their fees can still get discounts and free coffee.

BIPOC Student Collective - The Collective is a safe space for BIPOC LGBTQ2+ students and aims to foster intergenerational and peer-to-peer support and mentorship. Join the online Discord channel for solidary chats and drop-in sessions.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join our “Waterloo Warriors” team on the website or app. #ItsInYouToGive

Healthy Warriors at Home, free online programs including Nutrition Guides, Personal Training Consults, Health Webinars, Mindfulness Courses and On-demand Fitness. Sign up now.

Warrior Rec Live Fitness Classes, free classes Monday to Thursday with a valid Warrior Rec membership. Barre, Yoga, Zumba, Warrior Workout, Boxing and more. Register now.

Networked Feminisms Speaker Series Session 1: Conceptual Frameworks for Networked Feminism, Thursday, January 27, 11:00 a.m.

Water Innovation Challenge: Join the upcoming information session to review the competition process and an opportunity for Q&A with experts from BlackBerry and the Water Institute, Thursday, January 27, 12:30 p.m.

Safeguarding Science workshop, Thursday, January 27, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Public Safety Canada invites Faculty, staff and students to attend this virtual event via MS Teams. Register to receive a link.

Pivot-RP Faculty and Grad Student training: Learn about the key functionality of Pivot-RP for researchers, Thursday, January 27, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information and to register, please visit the Pivot-RP training page.

Gender and Social Justice Program Presents "Pandora’s Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation", Thursday, January 27, 4:30 p.m., WebEx.

Problem Lab Event, “Researching Like a Pro”, Thursday, January 27, 5:30 p.m., Zoom

Knowledge Integration seminar: “Is there a new profession of "integration experts" on the rise?” featuring Sabine Hoffmann, Group Leader of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Switzerland, Friday, January 28, 1:00 p.m.