Cohort Learning

by | Nov 1, 2020 | Hillel Ontario, Uncategorized

Over the past several years, Hillel Ontario has run Hillel International’s Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF), as well as an Israel-centred counterpart appropriately called the Israel Learning Fellowship (ILF).  These small-cohort programs offer the opportunity for participants to learn about Judaism, Jewishness, and Israel, to deepen their understanding about a variety of Jewish topics, and to progress on their Jewish journeys.

Ryerson’s Israel Learning Fellowship Cohort, Fall 2020

What’s a bit unusual about JLF, ILF, and similar programs is that the manner in which these programs are run is as important as the content.  In addition to providing substantive learning, they encourage moments of connection and relationship building.  More specifically, the small group size and the nature of the conversations create a cohesive community grounded in Jewish learning and a mentor-mentee between the educator/facilitator and each participant, with these relationships continuing even after the group formally disbands.

This semester, Hillel Ontario is running four cohorts of JLF and seven cohorts of ILF, providing space for over a hundred students to participate.  Notably, the number of applicants has skyrocketed compared to last year, with some campuses seeing more than double the number of applicants they had last year.

I’d love to say that this is all the result of our increasingly amazing outreach and recruitment efforts or stronger staff relationships with students.  While those certainly are factors, it strikes me as an indicator of how deeply people are searching for and eager to find community.  In an era where our social connections are cut or limited, Hillel Ontario’s learning fellowships offer students a chance to explore a topic in a social atmosphere and to cultivate a personal community that will last beyond the fellowship’s formal tenure.

Rabbi Seth Goren, Chief Education & Campus Officer

Press Release: Hillel Ontario Condemns UofT UTSC BDS

Press Release: Hillel Ontario Condemns UofT UTSC BDS

At its Annual General Meeting last night, the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) sent a clear message to Jewish students: You are not welcome here. In a motion that reaffirms the Union’s commitment to the antisemitic BDS movement, the SCSU singled out and condemned a former executive for “displaying an Israeli flag,” and resolved not to partner with organizations that normalize Israel. The motion further resolved that future elected representatives and staff would be formally required to endorse BDS.

The SCSU then rejected an amendment to the motion proposed by Jewish students that would prevent the Union from boycotting the Jewish clubs on campus.

In response, Rob Nagus, Senior Director of Hillel UofT issued the following:

Last night’s conduct by the SCSU violated the University of Toronto’s Statement on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on creed, ethnic origin, and citizenship. Hillel has long voiced its serious concerns with the impacts of the BDS movement on the Scarborough Campus. This latest attempt to boycott and exclude Jewish students and organizations from campus life must be named and challenged.

Hillel is calling on the University of Toronto to demonstrate its commitment to the values reflected by its policies, including its recent Statement on Antisemitism and Racism, by issuing a condemnation and rejection of the SCSU’s motion, and taking the necessary steps required to ensure Jewish student life is protected on campus.

For more information, please contact:
Rob Nagus,
Senior Director of Hillel UofT
Hillel Ontario
rob.nagus@hillelontario.org  |  647.638.1749

In Memory of my Teacher, Mentor and Role Model

In Memory of my Teacher, Mentor and Role Model

Written by Rabbi Aaron Greenberg

I am sure many of you by now have heard of the tragic passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. I have no doubt you have read about how he was a beacon  of morality to humanity, a confidante to state and religious leaders across the entire world. Perhaps you also read that his lectures, speeches, books and articles are filled with wisdom, brilliance and sophistication. While all that is true, I want to tell you about my personal interactions with him. 

I was first introduced to Rabbi Sacks’s writings twenty years ago, and I began purchasing each book he published the moment it was available. I was an avid reader of his books and articles, and I yearned to meet with him and engage him in conversation. This opportunity finally arrived in November of 2011. Hillel was co-partnering on a program to have the Chief Rabbi engage in conversation with one of the most well known Canadian intellectuals of the time, Prof Charles Taylor. 

Prior to the start of the event, I was pacing the halls of the theatre when I noticed the Chief Rabbi standing on the side alone! I found myself drawn to where he was standing, knowing full well that this could be the pivotal moment when I would finally be able to engage with my mentor, who was larger than life. Those of you that know me know that I am rarely at a loss for words, but I could not get out more than a pathetic whimper of “shalom”. The rabbi, sensing my nerves, asked me a series of questions and was excited to learn that I worked with students on campus as part of the OU-JLIC, a program that partners with Hillel. Finally, after a few moments, I asked him for some wisdom about working with students, and he looked at me with his piercing but loving eyes and said,  

‘You must make Torah Judaism relevant, meaningful, and real. Judaism is an ancient religion with modern and profound lessons. This needs to be taught and modeled. Be a proud Jew, be truthful to it but be humble to always learn from others. Be happy and smile. People will smile back.” 

Of course, he said it with more profundity and his very elegant British accent, but the message to me was crystal clear. I had a mission from which I dare not deviate, no matter what challenges awaited. Fast forward four and a half years. His office insisted he meet with the president of the university that morning and deliver a lecture to York faculty, but the highlight (his word, not mine) was to address students in the Zac Kaye Hillel lounge at York University to a packed crowd.  His message to the students was the message that he had told me years prior: that they should never stop learning and growing as Jews and as citizens of the world and to hearken (yes, he actually used that word) to the moral voice of the Jewish tradition. 

Rabbi Sacks had much more to accomplish. His website indicates numerous projects that he had initiated that are unfinished and in progress. It is our duty as his students, his moral heirs, to continue living by his creed, to continue to make Judaism relevant and meaningful. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife Lady Elaine, his children Joshua, Dina and Gila and his entire family at this difficult time. May we come together during these challenging times and become stronger, prouder and more committed Jews to truly honor his memory and continue his legacy.

“Wars are won with weapons but it takes ideas to win at peace” 

“Good leaders create followers, great leaders create leaders.” 

“Morality can no longer be predicated on the state, for we have become too diverse to allow a single morality to be legislated. Nor can it be located in the individual, for morality cannot be private in this way. We have neglected the third domain: that of community.”

Here is one of his most thoughtful videos: Why I am a Jew? 

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