Hillels York, UofT and Ryerson

This past week, Hillels York, UofT and Ryerson, in partnership with JLIC, celebrated Purim together. As we all know, this year has been an especially unique year. Although there was no way to have a regular in-person Megilah reading and Purim party, Hillel got creative by organizing a drive-in Megilah reading! People dressed up, sat in their cars, and listened to Ben Shore (a fellow student at UofT) read the Megilah. Taking advantage of being in our cars, we honked at the sound of Haman’s name. At the end, everyone had the chance to get a shawarma laffa and later join a virtual game night over zoom. This Purim was definitely different, but one we won’t soon forget. Thank you to everyone who was able to make this Purim so special!

  • Hadar Wercberger, Hillel Ryerson


Queen’s Hillel

On Purim, Jews (of legal drinking age) are encouraged by the Talmud to drink until they do not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai”. With this in mind, one of the ways through which Queen’s Hillel celebrated Purim was to follow this custom. Following the lead of Dammara Kovnats Hall, the founder of Jewish Cocktails, students joined together over Zoom to create three delicious Purim-themed cocktails and mocktails. The drinks were based on ingredients that have traditionally been available during the time of Purim and were inspired by different aspects of the holiday. The drinks we made included the Shushan Sipper, the Hamentaschen Martini, and Masks and Mystery; a whisky and ginger beer-based drink that was my personal favourite.

A few days before, we delivered a basic mixology kit complete with mason jars, cocktail umbrellas, Hamentaschen, and an ingredient list to students. For me, part of what made the event so much fun was everyone laughing together over different substitutions that people were making if they did not have a specific ingredient or a tool to use when making their drinks. Through this event, we were able to successfully replicate the party atmosphere that Purim typically has. 

In a year where we’ve been forced to hold all of our events online, it can be difficult to plan an event online while ensuring that engagement is still high. With our Masks and Mixology event, we had no trouble at all! Purim is a holiday that is meant to be celebrated with others through giving out Mishloach Manot (gift baskets), dressing up, and getting together to listen to the reading of the Megilah. While Purim celebrations over the world certainly looked different this year, being able to celebrate over zoom through our mixology event allowed myself and many others to feel as though it was a regular celebration. Having had the opportunity to celebrate Purim and other holidays online, it’s provided a sense of normalcy in a year that has been anything but normal and has allowed students to get a sense of the Queen’s Hillel experience.

Dammara provided us with the opportunity to perfect our mixology skills while getting a chance to explore Judaism and the themes of Purim together. While it may not have been a traditional celebration of Purim, I know that I will be bringing these cocktail recipes with me to celebrate Purim next year.

  • Belinda Cantor, Queen’s Hillel


McMaster Hillel

It has become challenging to create engaging, exciting and meaningful virtual events during the lockdown. “Free Esther”, a Purim-themed escape room that was envisioned and constructed by the McMaster Hillel executive team, challenged participants to enter a maze of puzzles as Mordechai tries to free Esther, the female protagonist of the Purim story. Participants worked together and got to know each other as they worked to solve the puzzles that would lead to Esther.

This event was a huge success! We brought together Judaism, tradition and people in a fun and engaging activity. One participant mentioned that this had been “the best event I’ve been to all year!” (including all virtual experiences by any organization). 

Incredibly, community engagement is thriving at events like this, despite the pandemic. We hope that events like these will compel more people to get involved with Hillel and their community in the future. With that in mind, McMaster Hillel will hopefully return next year with more fun Purim-related adventures, perhaps an in-person escape room. We wish everyone a Chag Purim Sameach!

  • Andy Roth, McMaster Hillel


Guelph Hillel

It’s been tough to get into the Purim spirit this year while separated from friends and family, but Guelph Hillel came together to create a virtual Purim Murder Mystery event that brought the community together in a new and exciting way. The event on Tuesday, March 2nd, was preceded by a Purim-themed Shabbox delivery on Friday — Shabbat dinner was delivered to students across Guelph, along with extra goodies for the holiday, and Mishloach Manot (gift baskets) were sent out to students residing in Toronto. The interactive event on Tuesday event gave students the chance to interview characters from the Purim story — King Achashverosh, Queen Esther, Mordechai, Haman, Zeresh, and Shashgaz — to find out who killed Vashti in an exciting murder mystery plot! These characters were portrayed by student actors, who all worked incredibly hard to bring them life, and it was thoroughly entertaining chatting with each of them. Students participating were put into teams and got to interview each character twice before coming to a team verdict and voting on who they suspected the murderer was.

It was exciting to be teamed up with new people and work together to solve the puzzle, and a great opportunity to make new friends! Even after the event was officially over, most of the participants didn’t want to leave, and many stayed online to chat and hang out with new friends and old. It was wonderful to see people so engaged with this event and immediately forming connections with other members of the Guelph Hillel community. Though we all hope to be able to celebrate Purim in-person next year, this kind of innovative programming from Guelph Hillel made the holiday special despite challenging circumstances.

  • Alex Thomson, Guelph Hillel

The Guelph Hillel Murder Mystery was amazing!! I constantly found myself on the edge of my seat! It was incredibly interactive, and it rid me of my Zoom fatigue. Every student was invested in the program and in their given characters, which made the competitive atmosphere enjoyable and motivated me to win. It was so nice to meet and chat with new people and old friends, and make new connections on our new virtual world. This was by far the best event I have attended throughout the pandemic, and I am looking forward to a Passover murder mystery, perhaps who killed Pharaoh…

  • Debby Klachook, Guelph Hillel


Dear Hillel…Thank you

Dear Hillel…Thank you

Dear Queen’s Hillel,

I’ve had a lot of free time open up recently to reflect on my final year at Queen’s and, needless to say, it wasn’t how I visualized it back in September. This school year was definitely different from past years, but not only because of its abrupt pause or transition to online learning.

This year was different because I voluntarily spent a big chunk of my free time hanging out with you…and I’m really happy about that.

I gave you some of my time, but that doesn’t come close to what you’ve given me. Not only have you enhanced my Jewish life on campus, but you enhanced my university experience altogether, providing me with a community of amazing and passionate people that I get to call my friends.

From mishloach manot making to Israeli food baking (shout out to chef Benny), you gave me something to look forward to when I desperately needed a study break.

From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you but thanking only you just wouldn’t suffice. I’d like to thank the people who made your existence possible and kept you thriving. To Jemma and Jeff, it has been such a pleasure to work alongside you this school year. I watched you both pour your hearts and souls into your work, going above and beyond in your roles. I appreciate every small detail you put into the programs that made them run so flawlessly. You made the difficult tasks look effortless. To the entire executive team, I’ve loved every moment we’ve spent together, whether it was planning an event, partaking in an event or just schmoozing. Thank you for your constant love and encouragement.

Queen’s Hillel, I have learned a lot from you this year. Saying goodbye to you is difficult, but I know there are so many remarkable people who will continue to take good care of you. I am confident you are in good hands with the incoming cohort of students.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you. Don’t think of this as a goodbye, but rather a ‘see you later’, as I’ll definitely be back to visit.

With love,

Written By: Sarah Mandel

Holocaust Education Week: Reflections from Queen’s Hillel

Holocaust Education Week: Reflections from Queen’s Hillel

Queen’s Hillel hosted Holocaust Education Week that brought a variety of events to campus. One moment that stood out to me was during our 78 Years Later: A Conversation about Remembrance event, where two Holocaust Survivors, Reny Friedman and David Moskovic, shared their experiences at Queen’s University.

As I stood to the side of the room watching Mr. Moskovic and Mrs. Friedman individually share their experiences during the Shoah, I was touched to see how attentively the 50 people in the room (on the evening of a snowstorm, no less!) were listening.

During the last half of the evening both survivors were brought to the centre of the room to answer questions together, and their witty banter with one another stayed with me since then. The overwhelming response I received from students and community members in attendance was how moved they were by the experience and how unusual it was to see two Holocaust survivors in conversation with one another. A student explained to me afterwards that they hadn’t seen two survivors share the space like this before and that it felt different from other lecture series because of how they shared the floor together. Mr. Moskovic and Mrs. Friedman had very different experiences during the Holocaust but they were bound together in camaraderie having gone through an utterly horrific event and yet, both had managed to create meaningful lives after the Shoah.

In a time where it is becoming increasingly rare to have one, let alone two, Holocaust survivors in the room, I cannot help but feel that those of us lucky enough to be in attendance, were given an incredible gift of witnessing their stories. Being in the room with a Holocaust survivor means we are prioritizing space for them to share their experiences. We will be the last generation to say that we were in the presence of Holocaust survivors. Every time we step into such settings, we are bearing witness to history and become the new memory keepers. It is our burden and our privilege.

Holocaust Education Week on campus is a student driven initiative, as they lead the planning and strategy for the week. Members of our Hillel student executive board had personal ties to the two survivors who spoke and were instrumental in inviting them to Queen’s University. Students had the chance to shape the type of programming Queen’s Hillel brought to campus, giving our students ownership to offer Jewish experiences and learning to their peers.

Holocaust education is one way that Hillel Ontario is able to encourage university students to grapple with the past as a way to work towards a better future. It is my hope that with opportunities like this, students involved with Hillel will continue to carve out a space for themselves within the Jewish community, both at university and long after they leave school.

With initiatives like Holocaust Education Week on university campuses the past will never quite leave us, but nor should it, as what happened to us can inform how we go forth into the world. We carry the weight of telling our truths and our histories while also ensuring that “Never Again” is more than words; it is an action for Jewish and other marginalized people to work towards creating a better, kinder world, and our Hillel students will shape our Jewish future.

Written by: Jemma Kaczanowicz