All About Masha

by | Sep 6, 2017 | Entertainment, Fun, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Masha Jewski is not your average Matryoshka. While other Russian dolls wear flowers, Masha wears two shades of blue, the color of Hillel Ontario, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, and other Jewish and Israeli organizations, to welcome Jewish students from different communities. Masha herself is from Thornhill and studies at York University. However, she is often seen with students not only from York, but from Ryerson, UofT, Western and Waterloo. Masha grew up wearing Adidas Tapochki and eating her Babushka’s borscht. She also remembers the taste of Challah and Israel’s Milky Pudding. These are as familiar and comforting to her as Canadian Maple Syrup. She is a three-dimensional Russian doll with three different cultures. In this interview, Hillel Ontario speaks to Masha about her blended identity and what it means to be a Jewski.

 

Why do you consider yourself Jewski? Isn’t it sufficient to call yourself Russian Jewish or Israeli?

I consider myself all these things. I love Israel, I love Russian culture, and I love Jewish culture. Yet Jewski is a cultural phenomenon which is more than a mere blending of two cultures. I’m a Jewish girl who grew up in Israel speaking more than just Hebrew. I spoke a lot of Russian and felt the Russian culture as well as the Israeli culture at home, though neither of my parents are from Russia or Israel. I believe that Jewski is a unique result of Russian and Jewish history which gives me the cultural understandings I have today. Jewski isn’t a label meant to form a concise group for me to call my own, rather, it’s a heritage which I like to share with others.

 

Can you tell us more about your family and your background?

My parents studied in Novosibirsk, Russia, where they met and then left to Israel at a young age, near the end of the Soviet Union. My father is from Moldova and my mother is from Ukraine. I am the oldest of three sisters, one of which goes to Western and the other who goes to Waterloo. The three of us grew up in Netanya with our parents, where we spoke Russian at home. My mom would make us kotletki, pelmeni and syrniki after school. Then we moved to Canada when I was seven. We moved between places in Toronto for a bit, but finally settled in Thornhill where we’ve been living since.

 

When did you start to realize that Jewski was “a thing”? That people have a similar background to you?

Perhaps if you grew up in Thornhill you would know many Jewskis, but when I moved to Toronto, I didn’t live in a Jewish community right away. Growing up in Toronto, I met some young people who spoke Russian. I felt welcomed and got to know their background, and when I understood that they almost had the same family history as me I was surprised. When I moved to Thornhill, I began to feel a sense of community among people with families like mine. When I started studying at York, I met and connected to Russian speakers who are not Jewish, who are Jews of other backgrounds, Canadians, and others.

 

Were there some not-so-obvious cultural phenomena you noticed among yourself and other Jewskis?

One thing I wish people talked more about was language. I find that if you’re a lucky Jewski, you may speak all three languages Russian, Hebrew and English. I tend to envy that, because I forgot Hebrew when I got to Canada and now speak only Russian and English. Sometimes, I wish I could watch shows like Hatufim or Ramzor, or simply speak to Israelis I meet here in Thornhill or in Toronto. Other Jewskis may have the opposite situation where their Russian is rusty or gone, but they are excellent Hebrew speakers. And I think once people realize Jewski is an open community, we’d be able to help each other retain our heritage language and cultures.

 

How do you celebrate your culture now? What do you do and what are your interests?

I just kind of do what’s fun for me. On my own, I like to watch Russian shows like Kukhnya and Interni. I get a great laugh out of those and get to keep my Russian language. I also watch Ramzor with subtitles, and it reminds me that I’m part of a larger Israeli culture. I love these shows as much as I love shows like The Office and Seinfeld. My family owns a cottage near Peterborough. We drive there almost every weekend. There, we do Banya every Friday and come back inside to light the candles. I feel like I’m lucky to celebrate my heritage culture while seeing the traditional Canadians on the rural side, since we’re good friends with our neighbors there. When we stay back in Thornhill, I like to go with my mom to Cafe Landwer and order the Belgian Waffles. When my dad and sisters are around, we like going to Me Va Me.

 

You talk a lot about time with family, which is good. Where do you hang out with friends?

My friends take me to amazing places. I don’t know where to start. In May, a few friends and I were lucky enough to be on the same birthright trip. I have pictures of myself at the Western Wall from there. We also got to see the Golan Heights and Akko, and eat lots of schnitzel. I also came back from a trip with my friends at Western University, where I got to meet more Jewskis. It’s amazing because I see a mix of people from my town of Thornhill and people I haven’t met before. We also spend lots of time in Toronto. This year we had a Yom Haatzmaut party which had tons of people. I got to dance a lot that night. We also had a Lag Ba’Omer party where I felt like I was in Israel again, but in Toronto. And we have so many more things planned for this year… I’m sure we can do Banya together and go to eat. What I love about hanging out with my Jewski friends is that we can do so many different things together. I can party or relax at the fire, I can be 7000 miles away or right here in Thornhill. I am never bored, and I always feel at home.

 

Thank you Masha. Can we ever join you with your Jewski friends? Where can we see what you’re up to next?

Of course you can join us! You can find our Jewski group on Facebook. And if you ever want to see what we’re up to, just follow the hashtag #whereismasha on Facebook or @where.is.masha on Instagram. I really hope to see more new faces this upcoming school year.

Yonatan Koren is a 4th year Computer Science student at York. He enjoys being part of the Jewish community on campus and is eager to see it grow and welcome more students.

Hillel International Student Cabinet 2021-2022

Hillel International Student Cabinet 2021-2022

Jordan Goldenberg, Ryerson University ‘23 and Leah Goldschmidt, York University ‘22, are representing Canadian Jewish students on Hillel International’s global stage. Here’s how they’re enhancing the Canadian Jewish campus experience for years to come:

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate on  the Hillel International Student Cabinet, as one of two Canadian representatives. I am honoured to join the board of  22 students from the United States of America, Israel, Russia and Brazil. 

Over the years, I have been very active in Hillel at York University, and was thrilled when Hillel York’s staff approached me about the opportunity to bring my enthusiasm and passion for Hillel on an international scale. 

Hillel has always been a safe space for me — somewhere I could go to feel comfortable about my Jewish identity, but also a place where I could meet other Jews on campus; some who have become my best friends. Although I only recently joined the Student Cabinet, I can genuinely say I have met some of the most incredible students and staff who are so passionate about the Hillel movement.

I am constantly amazed by the work Hillel students are doing around the world to support and connect the next generation of our community.. We have members who have founded their own Hillels at colleges with barely any Jews, members who are advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and have launched successful international LGBTQ+ cohorts, and members who are doing tremendous work in combating antisemitism. Being around such passionate and motivating students has inspired me to go after my own aspirations within Hillel; creating space for Jews with disabilities. 

As a student with a disability, I am very passionate about expanding space for Jews with disabilities, and while Hillel has taken great strides to increase accessibility and inclusivity; there’s lots more we can do. Hillel has given me incredible resources and support to launch my own projects within this space.

I am thrilled to be representing Canada in this incredible opportunity, and am looking forward to the year ahead.

Leah Goldschmidt, Hillel York

My name is Jordan Goldenberg, and I am a third-year student at Ryerson University studying business management. I am also the President of Hillel Ryerson. The Cabinet is made up of students from around the world, working towards the common goal of engaging Jewish university and college students worldwide. The role of the Cabinet is to serve as a voice for Jewish students and a means of connection to the worldwide Hillel movement. Being part of the collective voice means everything to me, and I am excited to be that voice for Jewish students amplifying Canada and Hillel Ontario’s role on the global stage. 

At the beginning of October,  I had the opportunity to go to DC with the Hillel International Student Cabinet. It was an incredible experience to collaborate with and learn from a variety of leaders in the Jewish community and the Hillel movement. I learned so much from our two student co-chairs, fellow cabinet members and Hillel professionals. We had the chance to get to know the greater Hillel movement through meetings with staff members from various departments and positions within Hillel International; including, but not limited to, the communications teams, board members, the CEO, Adam Lehman, and many more. We spoke at great lengths about the role each of our local Hillels play on our campuses and what we can learn from one another. Since the summit, we have already hit the ground running, with many students taking on various projects at both the local and international levels. I learned so much about the global Hillel movement and how to be a better leader for Jewish students on campus and in the community.

I have always been passionate about bringing people together and there is no better way to do so than collaborating with Jewish students and Hillel’s internationally. This international collaboration allows us to share our common values while celebrating our differences in order to create the best Hillel atmosphere and programming possible.

Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson

 

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.

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