A Note from Marc Newburgh

by | Aug 23, 2016 | From Marc, Hillel Ontario, News | 0 comments

I’ve always been someone who loves change, believes in the need for change and gets excited about it. Change is an opportunity to start something new, to do better, and/or to create. For many, change can create anxiety. But it can also be invigorating.

The start of the academic year is a time on the calendar when things are always changing. Summer is winding down and students are heading off to University or College campuses. Many are leaving home for the first time to live on their own, meet new people, and explore new opportunities. It’s a significant time in a young adults life, and certainly one that involves change.

Hillel Ontario is heading into its first Frosh Week as, at this time last year, we didn’t exist. The organization was formed October 2015 when Hillels across the province were all brought together under one-umbrella organization. While this organizational change will enhance our ability to support Jewish students on campus, the core elements of Hillel will remain unchanged.

Hillel will always be a place for Shabbat dinners, social and cultural events, or simply a place to gather. It will always be a place where Jewish students can explore a trip to Israel, a leadership opportunity, do Jewish learning, or simply meet new friends. Hillel will always be a place where students are supported when confronted with challenges, whether personal or academic, or when confronted with anti Semitism or anti Israel activity on campus.

The start of the school year is also a significant time in the life of a parent. With their child leaving home to start this new adventure, it’s a new chapter that can be both exciting and fraught with anxiety. Hillel staff takes great pride in being accessible to parents, whether a quick email or phone call, to simply to let them now how their child is adjusting to campus life.

We encourage parents to join our new Parent Giving Circle, giving you an enhanced opportunity to invest in your child’s Jewish life on campus, be connected with other Jewish parents at your child’s school, and receive insider information about your child’s campus. Your son/daughter will receive a Hillel box of “swag” and other items, while you will receive our Parent Giving Circle newsletter and be invited to exclusive, parent-only events about Jewish campus life and how you can get involved.

As Frosh Week approaches, be assured that Hillel student leaders and staff will be out on campus ready to meet, greet and connect with both incoming and returning students. They will be available to discuss upcoming events, programs and opportunities. Look out for us when you arrive! On behalf of everyone at Hillel Ontario we wish you the best for the upcoming 2016/2017 academic year!

Written By Marc Newburgh, Hillel Ontario CEO

Something New

Something New

The fall post-holiday period is always a good time for launching new things. To the extent we’re not completely exhausted, our five-day work weeks are back (instead of five days of work crammed into three-day weeks), and we’re able to get into something of a rhythm and build momentum in moving toward specific goals.

Adding to the sense of newness and adventure, the third post-holidays Torah portion of Lekh Lekha, which was read this past Shabbat, begins with Abraham receiving divine instructions to leave his home and begin a journey to a new land.  Commentators highlight the uncertainty inherent in the command’s wording: instead of being directed to a specific place, Abraham, at least initially, is told to go “to the land that I will show you,” a vague and undisclosed destination. While he is promised blessings galore for his obedience, setting out requires an element of faith and quite a bit of trust as he leaves his home land and father’s house for somewhere new.

While it’s certainly several orders of magnitude smaller than the journey Abraham undertook, Hillel Ontario is trying something new this week: we’re introducing a new section to our regular newsletters and will be including a d’var Torah to showcase our students’ and staff’s skills and present our readers with a bit of Jewish learning. We hope you’ll find these commentaries inspiring and meaningful and that they’ll provide a glimpse of the Hillel Ontario community that spans our nine campuses.

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

Dear students, parents, supporters, and other members of the Ontario Jewish community,

We are writing to you as the Hillel presidents representing nine universities across Ontario. 

We are often asked what it’s like to be a Jewish student on campus. And, in previous years, we would have taken a more upbeat approach to answering that question. The truth is that things have changed over the past 5 months.

Prior to this spring’s war in Israel, we had never experienced the level of vitriol and backlash that we did recently. We were caught off guard. Many Jewish students lost friendships and severed connections that had been created over many years. Our mental health was stretched to the limit; we have felt burnt out, isolated and anxious.  Even now, with autumn upon us, we are still feeling the exhausting effects of a summer spent advocating for the well-being of our fellow Jewish students. 

Walking back onto campus this week, it was difficult to see some students obviously (and understandably) anxious – both because of the pandemic, and because of the antisemitism Jewish students have experienced over the past several months. At the same time, we also feel more empowered than ever to proclaim pride in our Jewish identity, bolstered by the tremendous support we have felt from across the community.  

Whether you are a first year student, a parent, a sibling, an alum, or simply a member of the community concerned about what seems like an endless barrage of attacks aimed at Jewish students on campus, we want to assure you that as Hillel presidents, we are deeply committed to our roles and responsibilities. We hear your concerns. And, we are proud to serve the current and future Jewish students we support.  

We are working to build relationships with student governments, clubs, interfaith groups, faculty, and administrators on each of our campuses. We continue to empower our peers to learn, to educate, and to advocate for the issues close to our hearts. And, we continue to provide a safe and welcoming community for Jewish students, both on and off campus. 

We also seek to increase resources and staff available to our students so that no one feels unsupported or ill-prepared. We want Jewish students to feel like they can be their entire selves without having to hide a Magen David or avoid conversations about Judaism, Zionism or Israel. 

As we move into a new Jewish year and a new school year, we wish we could say with more certainty exactly what is to come in the next few months. However, it would be naive to do so. Instead, we would like to take this opportunity to commit to you that we will continue to have challenging, but necessary, dialogue with allies across campus. We will continue to support our peers when they feel uncomfortable. And, we will continue to ask for help when we need it. 

Time and time again, our collective history has proven that in a proud, empowered, and united community there is strength, and that from one another we can draw resilience. 

L’shana Haba on quieter, more inclusive campuses. 

Ariel Oren, Guelph Hillel
Evan Kanter, Hillel Student Leader Representative, Hillel UofT
Nathaniel Katz, Queen’s Hillel
Shira Miller, Hillel Laurier
Danielle Lebowitz, Hillel Waterloo
Hannah Silverman, McMaster Hillel
Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson
Isabel Borisov, Western Hillel
Nicole Bodenstein, York Hillel

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