Dear First Year Me

by | Aug 31, 2017 | Fun, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Dear First Year Shira, Here are 10 things you should know upon entering your first year of university:

  1. The meal plan is your friend BUT pizza does not make for a balanced diet, especially when it is eaten 3 meals a day.
  2. Meet with Profs – they have the most incredible knowledge that they want to share!
  3. DON’T SKIP CLASS It is a slippery slope!
  4. Get involved with clubs – this is the best way to make friends with those who have similar interests to you! University is BIG – and meeting people can be hard – this is a quick way to make new friends AND do something you love and are passionate about!
  5. Do a thesis – find a topic you love and explore it in depth. With the help of your supervisor, you will think in new ways and gain skills that will help you in future academic and non-academic pursuits!
  6. ENJOY THE PROCESS – it is not ONLY about the piece of paper at the end but also about the experiences you have and will share with those around you!
  7. LET YOUR GUARD DOWN – this is the time to try new things and realize who you really are – focus on building your strengths! You have something special to contribute and the next four years will be your journey to help you find out what that is!
  8. Be a student both in AND out of class! You can learn from everything you do! Make each ‘new experience’ into a learning opportunity, and it can be anything from laundry, cooking, choosing housemates, picking classes, to trying a new sport.
  9. Find one activity JUST FOR YOU! This is not a résumé-boosting exercise, but rather something that is PURE joy – a release where you can feel energized and inspired!
  10. Realize the support and community you have and will always have. Whether it is your first day or your last week of undergrad, it is NEVER too late to join Hillel! In my first year, I went to the Hillel bagel brunch and met four of my closest friends from undergrad! It was at Hillel that I found my home away from home, my comfort zone, my challah and kiddish, my passion for dancing to Bar Mitzvah tracks, and the opportunity to explore various avenues of Judaism. It was at Hillel that I got involved and was given the chance to take initiative – with resources and a team behind me to ensure that I felt inspired and supported every step of the way. Hillel is a place to go when things are good, bad, and ugly – not only when you feel alone, afraid, stressed, but also when you want to have fun, eat, and dance. Know that if you don’t go in your first week, month, year, it is NEVER too late – there will ALWAYS be a warm hug, friendly smile, and handful of “bamba” waiting for you!

Love, Shira, The Graduate


Written by Shira Druker, a graduate student at UofT.

This Passover, help Hillel fortify Jewish students’ identities

This Passover, help Hillel fortify Jewish students’ identities

The night before the Children of Israel’s departure from Egypt is referred to as leil shimurim, often translated as a “night of vigil.”  Rav Nahman and subsequent scholars interpret this phrase, which appears nowhere else in the Tanakh, as a time of divine protection. These scholars conclude the night when Passover begins is one of safety – one on which no harm can come to the Jewish people.

In the face of rising antisemitism, isolation, extremism, and other threats to Jews individually and collectively, we are fortunate that there are additional ways and times for seeking security and comfort.  Building and sustaining strong, inclusive, and welcoming Jewish communities on campus enables Jewish students to experience a sense of belonging with their peers, bolster their leadership skills, advocate for themselves, and chart their own Jewish journeys.  Indeed,  Hillel Ontario is on track for a record-breaking year, in which we will engage more than 3,500 Jewish students. Leil shimurim might be just one night, but together, we can fortify emerging adults’ Jewish identities and provide spaces in which they prepare to take on leadership roles after graduation.

As we head into Passover, we are grateful for all of the contributions you’ve made in support of Jewish student life in Ontario.  Your generosity allows us to confront antisemitism, instill a sense of joy, pride, and resilience in Jewish students, and empower the next generation of Jewish leaders.  

While we’re proud of our success, more work remains to provide for our universities’ 10,000 Jewish students who remain unengaged with Jewish campus life in Ontario.  In conjunction with your observance of the upcoming holiday, please consider a gift to Hillel Ontario so we can continue our work and provide additional openings for connection with Jewish life, learning, and Israel.

Chag sameach,

Seth Goren
CEO, Hillel Ontario

Weekly D’var: Tzav

Weekly D’var: Tzav

In this week’s parasha, Tzav, focuses on the laws of sacrifices and priestly duties. The emphasis is on the instructions given to the priests regarding the burnt offerings, the meal offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings. These offerings were an essential part of the religious practices of the Israelites, and they were intended to symbolize the people’s devotion to God.

As I reflect on this chapter, I am struck by the idea of sacrifice. In today’s world, sacrifice is often viewed negatively. We are taught to prioritize our own needs and desires, and sacrificing them for the sake of others or for a greater cause is often seen as a burden. However, the concept of sacrifice in this chapter of the Torah is different. It is not seen as a burden or a punishment, but rather as a means of expressing devotion and gratitude.

In Tzav, the burnt offering is described as a “pleasing aroma to the Lord”. The idea of a pleasing aroma suggests that the sacrifice is not just a physical act, but also a spiritual one. It is an offering of the heart, a way of expressing love and gratitude to God. As I look around the world today, I see many examples of sacrifice that are motivated by love and gratitude. Healthcare workers, for example, have been sacrificing their own safety and well-being to care for those who are sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are not doing this because they are being forced to, but because they feel a sense of duty and devotion to their patients. Similarly, many people have been sacrificing their own comfort and convenience to protect the environment. They are making changes to their lifestyles, such as reducing their energy consumption or using public transportation instead of driving, because they recognize the importance of preserving the planet for future generations. Making sacrifices to show devotion and gratitude is also a way of showing appreciation for the things that we have been given, and a way of giving back to the world.\

As I read this chapter, I am also intrigued by the idea of atonement. The sin offering and the guilt offering were both intended to provide a way for the people to seek forgiveness for their sins. In our modern world, forgiveness and atonement are often difficult to come by. We live in a culture that values punishment and retribution over forgiveness and reconciliation. However, the idea of atonement in this text suggests that forgiveness is possible, even for the most serious of offenses. It requires a willingness to acknowledge our mistakes, to take responsibility for our actions, and to make amends.

In today’s Jewish community, the lessons of Tzav continue to be relevant. The act of sacrifice, whether it be in the form of volunteering, making charitable donations, or participating in community service, is still seen as a way to connect with God and express gratitude for the blessings of life. Similarly, seeking forgiveness and atonement remains a central tenet of Jewish faith and practice. Finally, the concept of sacrifice is particularly relevant during Jewish holidays and festivals, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. During these occasions, we make offerings and engage in rituals that are intended to demonstrate our devotion to God and their commitment to living a righteous life

As I reflect on this parasha, the concepts of sacrifice and atonement may seem outdated or irrelevant in our modern world, but they still have a powerful message to teach us. By sacrificing for others and seeking forgiveness for our mistakes, we can show our love and devotion to the world around us and ultimately make the world a better place to live.

Emily Green
Student, Western Hillel