A Time for Mourning, Consolation and Community

by | Apr 21, 2020 | Hillel Ontario, Jewish Holiday, Opportunities

Building on the rabbinic directive “Do not separate yourself from the community,” one medieval commentator asserts that each of us should join in carrying the community’s burdens “because anyone who separates from the congregation will not live to see the consolation of the congregation.” 

Ordinarily, this makes sense for the post-Passover period: we mourn as a community on Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’Zikaron, and then celebrate as a community on Yom HaAtzmaut. But this year, this type of convening isn’t possible, at least not physically. And while we may all be in this together, we’re having very different experiences based on how we’re situated, and this shutdown’s disparate impacts amplify pre-existing distinctions, like our age, health status, financial independence, and professional obligations.

Without papering these over, we come together over the next nine days as a community and as best as we are able, acknowledging all of the social, technological, and other barriers that make this difficult. To mourn and to celebrate, Hillel Ontario encouraged students to participate in the following:

  • UJA Shinshinim-led Yom HaShoah Zikaron Basalon, featuring live testimony from Holocaust survivor Roma Buchman and breakout discussions facilitated by Hillel Ontario’s Shinshinim.Hillel Ontario was incredibly proud of its Shinshinim Ben Daniel and Shalev Dahan for their involvement in yesterday’s UJA-sponsored Yom HaShoah Zikaron BaSalon program. After hearing from Holocaust survivor Roma Buchman, Shalev and Ben facilitated a discussion among undergraduate students about Ms. Buchman’s personal story and the Shoah’s relevance for us today. Student attendees were engaged in the program, as it provided moments of reflection, insight, and clarity for them as they considered their own Jewish identities and their families’ experiences with the Shoah.
  • Hillel Ontario’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut Reflecting on 72 Years: A night of music, reflection, celebration and Israel, transitioning from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut and presenting Israel- and independence-themed music and other entertainment.
  • UJA and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre sponsored Cross-Canada Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration.
  • The Jewish Agency and Masa Israel are hosting a live screening of the Yom HaZikaron Memorial Service.
  • UJA’s Yom HaAtzmaut Event.

We hope you see you online and look forward both to reaching the end of our community’s mourning and separation from each other and to joining in our collective consolation and healing.

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

Students have had a very different academic year. One that they have never experienced before. There has been isolation, lack of extracurricular activities and little to no in-person contact. In a recent McMaster Hillel student executive meeting on zoom, I said “we are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be part of this community. ” How does one do this in a pandemic, when campus is closed and when we don’t see each other at all? How do we know how each of us are doing? Are we alone? Are we lonely? Are we coping? Do we bring our best selves to a Zoom and then grapple alone with our worries? These are the questions that I struggle with when trying to support a community despite the challenges that exist for us. 

From the beginning, Hillel pulled out all the pandemic stops to connect with students. Shabbat in a box and delivered to you? Yes! Zoom games night? Yes! Mental health and wellness box? Sign up here! We have you covered. These programs and services were created to keep our community together while at our own homes. We are able to connect through a screen and eat dinner, not together, but knowing that there were over 70 students enjoying the same meal in the comfort of their own homes as well. And we connected face to face over Zoom before and after, while enjoying our rugelach, of course!

All of these programs are great, but the individual connections are even more paramount. A text to a student to check in, a happy birthday wish on their special day or an unfortunate condolence call for those who have lost loved ones. For me, it’s putting in the extra effort to make a student feel special and finding ways to do this. Does the student have dietary needs that we can fulfill and can we make this student feel seen in making a special box for them? Did a student forget to sign up for Shabbat but do we have an extra meal for them anyway? Can we put an extra dessert in a bag, just because we know that student had a tough week? Even though we are in Hamilton, can we make an extra effort so our Toronto or out-of-province students also feel a part of our community and send them mailings and deliveries so that they feel part of our programming? Having inclusive programming is a cornerstone of Hillel’s mandate. In a pandemic, even more so. 

I miss seeing the students. I miss hanging out in the Hillel office and chatting over a bagel and cracking jokes over the lineup at the toaster. I miss bumping into students on campus, catching up on their lives, and being part of a place where they come for comfort and support (and food!).    With all the programming and outreach we have done in the past 10 months, I hope that we can continue to maintain our virtual community. That even though we are not in person, our students know we are still here for them. While the medium may have changed, the sentiment certainly has not.

 

 

 

 


Judith Dworkin,
Director, McMaster Hillel

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario welcomes University of Toronto’s recent launch of a new Anti-Semitism Working Group. The Working Group will review programming, activities, processes, and practices in place at the University of Toronto’s three campuses and develop recommendations to support the University’s response to antisemitism.

“The establishment of a working group focused on antisemitism is a much-needed measure for the University of Toronto,” said Rob Nagus, Senior Director, Hillel UofT. “Too often, Jewish students who have faced antisemitism on campus have felt that their serious concerns around anti-Jewish hate were dismissed. Given the positive impact of recent anti-racism initiatives on the campus community, it is incumbent on our institutions to also address the unique challenges inherent to combating antisemitism.”

“Across the nine campuses we serve, Hillel Ontario is committed to working with all university administrations to champion the voices of Jewish students,” said Marc Newburgh, CEO, Hillel Ontario. “We look forward to supporting the work of the University of Toronto by ensuring these voices are heard and acknowledged. Doing so will help the Working Group better understand how contemporary antisemitism manifests on campus.”

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