Alumni Mentorship

by | Nov 1, 2020 | Alumni, Hillel Ontario, Opportunities

Over the course of the next few months, Hillel Ontario will be launching a new initiative for Alumni. As recent Alumni of Ryerson University and McMaster University, we could not wait to get back involved with Hillel in any way that we can.

Undergraduate students, in addition to their many responsibilities pertaining to college and university, face a variety of challenges and obstacles in their pursuit to further their education and/or enter the workforce in the years following. Oftentimes, these students find it increasingly difficult to access centralized resources and connect with people who can provide guidance and assistance in these matters. Furthermore, talking to individuals closer in age, and who have been through the particular experiences only a short time before, can at times provide more accurate and thoughtful advice, as opposed to someone of more senior status. 

The Alumni Mentorship Program acts as a space offered by Hillel Ontario to provide a system of support for Jewish students across Ontario in their academic, professional, and work-related endeavours. 

The program would consist of a database featuring Hillel alumni from a wide variety of academic, social, and Jewish backgrounds. Each of these individuals have either begun working, are in grad school, or are just about to begin their professional journeys. In doing so, these alumni can each speak to unique experiences and perspectives to which undergraduate students can relate. The database would feature relevant information pertaining to the alumni involved with the program, including their: alma mater, undergraduate degree, role within Hillel while in undergrad (i.e. President, VP External, etc.), Current area of work/study, and a list of skills and expertise that they are willing to help with, such as resumé building or applying for post-graduate degree programs/jobs

Not only would the mentorship program be of great help to many students in the years to come, but it would foster a greater overall engagement of Jewish students within the Hillel community, encouraging them to connect with their Jewish peers and maintain student involvement. 

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the program will help to further unite the Jewish community in a time of physical separation. This engagement of students throughout their undergraduate years will hopefully materialize into an increased involvement within the Hillel Ontario community at large. As Hillel Ontario places immense emphasis and importance on engagement both during University, and post, this will allow Hillel to simultaneously assist undergraduate jewish students, and engage with their alumni community.

We are so excited to see this get off the ground! 

Geoffrey Handelman (‘20) and Max Librach (‘20)

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

In their research on listening to survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, Bronwen E. Low and Emmanuelle Sonntag note listeners’ problematic tendencies towards one of two responses.  On the one hand, they can regard the narratives as so unfamiliar and foreign that they must be pushed away as overwhelming, untouchable, and inaccessible.  On the other, the stories can be seen as familiar, to the point that the listener cannot separate their own experiences and emotional response from what they take in.

But another, preferable response exists: Roger I. Simon and Claudia Eppert talk about a “chain of testimony” and suggest that listening imposes a duty on the listener.  Listening to personal testimony at the crossroads of memory and history “imposes particular obligations on those called to receive it – obligations imbued with the exigencies of justice, compassion, and hope that define the horizon for a world yet to be realized.”  In this way, bearing witness and listening to testimony demands a number of actions and responses, including that we “transport and translate stories of past injustices beyond their moment of telling by taking these stories to another time and space where they become available to be heard or seen.”

If we take Simon and Eppert’s charge seriously, as I believe we should, those of us who have been privileged to hear the direct testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.  Their words come not just with the specific knowledge they impart or the emotional impact they have on us – sorrow, anger, fear, horror – but with a duty, an obligation of some kind.  

On many of our campuses, this week is Holocaust Education Week, and this Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Given the significant number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Canada, the scheduled events and programs have a personal resonance for many of our students and their families, but their impact can be deep and meaningful for all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from.  I encourage each of you to make time to participate in this week’s activities and to consider your place in the chain of testimony: what obligation does listening to narratives from the Holocaust place on you, and how do you carry those stories forward in time?

 

Weekly D’var: Shemot

Weekly D’var: Shemot

In this week’s parashah we learn the story of Moses, from his birth, through his flight from and eventual return to Egypt, to the acceptance of his role as leader of the Hebrew people.

After fleeing Egypt, for killing an Egyptian slave master, Moses was living rather peacefully as a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Torah describes for us Moses’s first interaction with G-d upon coming across a bush, “burning with a heart of fire [Exodus 3:3]”. G-d calls out to Moses and requests he take the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually into the land of Israel. However, Moses argues with G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who am I that I should take the Jews out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]” After initially refusing four times, Moses eventually agrees to G-ds request, and as we know, the rest is history. But why was Moses so unwilling to take up the position of leader, to the extent that he would argue with G-d? And why was G-d so set on having Moses lead the Jewish people? 

Perhaps the answer can be found through the incident that led to his flight from Egypt, years earlier, when Moses, as mentioned above, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew slave. Immediately, he was met with opposition from some of the Hebrew slaves, “who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? [Exodus 2:14]” Moses felt discouraged and unsure of his ability to lead. However, it seems that G-d saw in Moses, a faithful shepherd, the ability to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Very often in Tanakh, the people that are most worthy to lead are the ones who deny that they are worthy at all. Moses may not appear to be the first choice for a leadership figure, suffering from a speech impediment and lacking charisma; however, Moses possessed certain qualities that made him the ideal leader to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. We too possess qualities that can lead us to achieve incredible success and realize our full potential. We may often feel unmotivated or unsure of our own capabilities. Instead of feeling discouraged, I believe we can look to Moses who, despite all his doubts, stepped up to the challenge and became the greatest leader in Jewish history. 

Sam Virine
VP of Jewish Life at Hillel Waterloo & Laurier

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