Confessions of a Springboard Fellow

by | Feb 7, 2019 | Entertainment, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Written by Tamar Patolsky , Springboard Fellow

I always knew that I wanted to have a profession that was meaningful. However, during my final year of undergrad, I was still unsure of what that would look like. Even though I was very involved with the Jewish community on campus, it never occurred to me that there was a possibility of having a career in it. I didn’t have a degree in Education, nor in Jewish Studies.

One of my Hillel’s campus staff noticed my passion for the Jewish community and highly recommended that I apply for the Springboard Fellowship and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Let me tell you all about my life being the Springboard Fellow at Hillel Waterloo and Laurier.

My introduction to the Hillel professional world was eye opening! Shortly after arriving on campus, I was provided with an abundance of opportunities to learn, grow and deepen my professional competencies. These varied from learning sessions, to staff training days, to the availability of valuable resources.

Hillel sees the Springboard Fellowship as an opportunity to invest in young professionals as an asset to the organization. From the very start of my fellowship, I was provided with numerous incredible mentors. They have all been extremely helpful throughout my growth and professional development, supporting me along the way. They have answered every question, talked about program development, and provided me with career coaching.  

Springboard encourages us to use our talents.  For example, I combined my passion for art and Jewish content to create a successful Chanukkah Paint night. I have been able to utilize my Russian background to help create programs that reach out to these cultural niche communities on campus.

The best part of my job, hands-down, is the satisfaction of positively impacting the future of the Jewish community. I interact with brilliant students that challenge and inspire me daily. Springboard gave me the opportunity to be part of their Jewish journeys, as they grow into the future leaders of the Jewish community.

The Springboard Fellowship has been a completely transformative experience for me. The knowledge and skills that I have gained will be valuable throughout the rest of my life. I have found my calling; my work is full of purpose, meaning and reward. I absolutely love my job, and you could too! Springboard Fellowships I Hillel International Springboard Fellowship

 

Jews of India

Jews of India

On January 28th, I was proud to host a panel discussion on the history and culture of the Jewish communities of India with 40 guests and about 80 listeners. I was inspired to put the program together by the thoughtful Sephardi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Bukhari and yes, Indian Jews on social media who advocate for their community’s representation within large Jewish institutions. 

For most of my life, ‘Jewish cultural programming’ has been synonymous with either Ashkenazi or Israeli culture, to the detriment of my understanding of our people’s beautiful diversity. Working at the University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre, I realized I could use the platform I was responsible for to uplift these lesser-heard Jewish voices. I settled on Indian Jewry, as opposed to Ethiopian or Bukhari or Kai Feng Jews, out of interest in the origin story of their people: a ship fleeing war in Judea wrecks off the coast of Mumbai, where a dozen survivors reconstitute their culture in a strange land, isolated from world Jewry for hundreds of years.

We had four speakers. Dr Shalva Weil, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ann Samson, a historian and leader of Toronto’s Indian-Jewish synagogue; Judith Dworkin, an Indian Jewish educator raised in Toronto’s Indian-Jewish community and Director of McMaster Hillel; and Anna Rajagopal, a young Indian Jewish writer and activist from the United States, who is a prominent social media personality for Jews of Colour. 

The program was phenomenal. We had nearly 100 guests, and many questions for our speakers. All of the speakers enjoyed their time and are eager to come back for any future programs. It was equal parts fascinating and touching to hear these four people describe their relationships with ashkenormativity, diaspora, and most importantly, their own culture.

Jacob Kates Rose, Hillel UofT

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

Students have had a very different academic year. One that they have never experienced before. There has been isolation, lack of extracurricular activities and little to no in-person contact. In a recent McMaster Hillel student executive meeting on zoom, I said “we are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be part of this community. ” How does one do this in a pandemic, when campus is closed and when we don’t see each other at all? How do we know how each of us are doing? Are we alone? Are we lonely? Are we coping? Do we bring our best selves to a Zoom and then grapple alone with our worries? These are the questions that I struggle with when trying to support a community despite the challenges that exist for us. 

From the beginning, Hillel pulled out all the pandemic stops to connect with students. Shabbat in a box and delivered to you? Yes! Zoom games night? Yes! Mental health and wellness box? Sign up here! We have you covered. These programs and services were created to keep our community together while at our own homes. We are able to connect through a screen and eat dinner, not together, but knowing that there were over 70 students enjoying the same meal in the comfort of their own homes as well. And we connected face to face over Zoom before and after, while enjoying our rugelach, of course!

All of these programs are great, but the individual connections are even more paramount. A text to a student to check in, a happy birthday wish on their special day or an unfortunate condolence call for those who have lost loved ones. For me, it’s putting in the extra effort to make a student feel special and finding ways to do this. Does the student have dietary needs that we can fulfill and can we make this student feel seen in making a special box for them? Did a student forget to sign up for Shabbat but do we have an extra meal for them anyway? Can we put an extra dessert in a bag, just because we know that student had a tough week? Even though we are in Hamilton, can we make an extra effort so our Toronto or out-of-province students also feel a part of our community and send them mailings and deliveries so that they feel part of our programming? Having inclusive programming is a cornerstone of Hillel’s mandate. In a pandemic, even more so. 

I miss seeing the students. I miss hanging out in the Hillel office and chatting over a bagel and cracking jokes over the lineup at the toaster. I miss bumping into students on campus, catching up on their lives, and being part of a place where they come for comfort and support (and food!).    With all the programming and outreach we have done in the past 10 months, I hope that we can continue to maintain our virtual community. That even though we are not in person, our students know we are still here for them. While the medium may have changed, the sentiment certainly has not.

 

 

 

 


Judith Dworkin,
Director, McMaster Hillel

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