Summer is winding down, and more than 400,000 Jewish students are about to return to University and College campuses across North America.
Many students will be stepping into an unfamiliar environment as they begin this new chapter in their lives. On their own for the first-time making decisions that will impact their future, they will be challenged by others to ask questions, to explore and learn. They will grow and mature as individuals and will make new friends that will last a lifetime.
Hillel staff will be there too.
Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the global Hillel movement. We are a people to people relationship-based organization that serves and supports more than 13,000 Jewish students at 9 Universities across the province.
Our talented, passionate professionals will be there to guide and support students as they travel this journey on campus. They will help students explore their Jewish identity, understand what it means to be part of and contribute to a Jewish community, to be part of a broader campus community, and to help students take advantage of some of the wonderful opportunities that are available, such as a student leadership experience or a Birthright Israel trip. Hillel professionals will work closely with students to ensure they have a deeper understanding of Israel, its people and its complexities, feel motivated to share their experiences with their peers and are empowered to advocate for Israel on university campuses, especially on those with a prevalence of BDS and antisemitic activities.
We have learned that Jewish engagement is not dependent on the quality of the food served at social events. Effective engagement is based on the relationship built with the person who greets students when they walk in the door. Our own research has underscored how crucial this is to Hillel Ontario’s success. During strategic planning focus groups and interviews, the centrality of student relationships with Hillel campus professional emerged repeatedly. Therefore, in order to effectively fulfill our mission, we need to attract, invest in and retain high quality Jewish professionals.
Both Hillel International and Hillel Ontario have embraced the same strategic priority of investing in “Talent”. A significant shift from the historical approach taken by most Jewish organizations, we decided to shift our focus from the value of programs to the value of people. We believe that investing in the people who are engaging our Jewish students on campus will create real change and have a substantial impact. That by growing our team of dedicated professionals, we will substantially increase our capacity to meaningfully connect with students all across Ontario.
Studies show that lower staff-to-student ratios will lead to an increase in the breadth of student engagement and substantially increase our capacity to meaningful connect with and support the majority of undergraduate Jewish students.
We are thankful for the generosity of The Silber Family, as well as other donors who have joined them to support us in this work. The Silber Family is matching all donations made to support this academic year up until September 28th. Please support our students and the talented group of professionals we have assembled. I’m excited because the 2018-19 academic year will mark the first time in Hillel Ontario’s history that every one of our Hillel’s will have at least two of these professionals serving their campus communities.
Please join me in wishing all of our students and the staff who work to support them the best as they embark on the start of what I expect will be an amazing year.