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

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Last month Hillel Ontario heard from Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada. After winning the leadership race back in October of 2020, Annamie became the first Black person and first Jewish woman to lead a federal Canadian political party. Since then, she has been speaking to Canadians all across the country, spreading messages of hope and inspiration, during a time where these moments are a rarity. No matter the political orientation of the Zoom attendees of this fireside chat, everyone walked away with a few life lessons up their sleeve.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways. First, Annamie spoke about following your passion, a message that I know many students needed to hear. When I graduated from grade 12, I was constantly asked where I saw myself in five years, ten years, and sometimes even twenty years. Although I was asked with the best intentions, I’ve always felt overwhelming pressure to envision a clear career path. Annamie dispelled this myth by referencing the enjoyment associated with the process of discovering your passion rather than having a final goal in mind, and Annamie’s enthusiasm for human rights through a policy lens has shaped the course of her life. Second, Annamie spoke about the importance of speaking up in the face of injustice. Whether you consider yourself an advocate or not, Annamie highlighted the need to follow your moral compass, never remaining complicit. Following Annamie’s time as the leader of the Green Party, it is clear that she isn’t afraid to use her voice and position to shine light on racism, antisemitism, and sexism. These are two lessons I think everyone can learn from.

Annamie spoke about growing up in Toronto Centre (the riding where she will be running in the next federal election), her career as an international lawyer, and her decision to enter politics. As someone who doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional politician, Annamie referenced about the challenges that she’s faced as a Black, Jewish woman. Racism, antisemitism, and sexism were all constant throughout her leadership campaign, and her six months leading the Green Party. 

Throughout Annamie’s talk, I learned about the importance of elevating voices that have previously gone unheard. In a predominantly white space, Hillel students and staff need to work hard to ensure that Jews of Colour feel welcomed. 

After 45 minutes, the latter half of which consisted of an insightful Q&A, Annamie mentioned that she would love to be invited back to another Hillel Ontario fireside chat. For now, I’ll take Annamie’s lessons with me while looking forward to hearing about all of her accomplishments in a year from now.

  • Skylar Banks, Guelph Hillel
Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaborating with other student organizations allows us to diversify the students at our events, build coalitions, establish good rapport with other student groups and broaden the topics of the content that we deliver. 

This past month, we had the privilege of working with the Waterloo and Laurier chapters of Menstruation Redefined, which is committed to helping with the “institutional and social barriers surrounding menstruation that risk the health, well-being, and daily lives of many.” This mission resonated with us at Hillel because we understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all. These are values that we hold as Jews, and want to embody at Hillel. 

We joined forces to produce a fun evening of trivia and learning. The event allowed us to reach new students, educate others on Jewish practice for those who menstruate, and learn more about Menstruation Redefined’s mission. Collaborative events like this allow us to understand key issues and causes that other student-run campus groups advocate for and to build strong allyships and ensure that we propel Hillel’s values forward, such as inclusion and equity.

Jessica Bloom, HIllel Waterloo Student President
Veronica Grad, Hillel Laurier Student President

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