An Update from our CEO Re-Opening our Spaces

by | Aug 31, 2020 | From Marc, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

I hope you are enjoying these summer months and staying safe and healthy.

You read in my previous blog, that when our students return to class this fall they will find a newly restructured Hillel. And so now that Universities across the province have shared their plans to reopen, I’d like to share an update on how we at Hillel Ontario are thinking about our students and our staff, and how we’re planning for the start of the academic year.

It really can’t be said enough—the health of our students, and the health of our staff, are our priority. And every decision we make as we address our operations will be made through that lens. We want to be sure the approach we’re taking is thoughtful, and that we’re creating a Hillel environment that’s safe for everyone.

Our Hillel spaces won’t open all at once, we’re going to take a phased approach, only reopening when: 

  •   we are allowed to do so based on guidelines set by provincial and municipal governments;
  •   we are aligned with plans that have been formalized by our university partners
  •   we’re prepared with the right safety measures and protocols; and
  •   we have confidence we can ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students and our staff.

When we do reopen, more than anything we want to ensure our students and staff are safe, and that they feel comfortable. We’re therefore making updates to the way in which we operate and support our students to help keep everyone healthy. Some of those updates include:

  •   conducting health screenings for our staff;
  •   providing face coverings for staff and students
  •   taking steps to allow for social distancing of two meters or more, which may have to include limiting the number of staff and students in our space;
  •   increasing cleaning and sanitization;
  •   pausing or adapting various programs and events; and
  •   altering hours of operation, as may be necessary.

You can learn more about our approach, details on how we’re ensuring a safe environment, and ways we’re supporting our students, staff, and communities on our website. We’ll also post details on social media relative to each individual campus.

Should you wish to speak to a member of our team please email administrator@hillelontario.org. 

Stay safe and healthy,
Marc Newburgh, 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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