Hillel is a Home Away From Home

by | Jun 3, 2021 | Advocacy, Hillel Ontario, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Even before our oldest daughter, Sarah Springer, joined Queen’s Hillel, Hillel was a big part of our lives.  Jewish students taught our children at Bader Elkin Talmud Torah, attended High Holy Day services at Beth Israel, and participated in joint community programming. Many Kingston families provided students a Jewish ‘home away from home’.

Fast forward to today, we find ourselves ever so grateful that our youth can turn to director Yos and educator Leora Tarshish – in both good and bad times – to find their ‘home’ at Queen’s Hillel. As parents, we have seen how welcoming and caring Yos and Leora are, providing strong leadership, intelligence and insight to Jewish students.  They exude enthusiasm and rare humility, taking great pride in watching their young leaders blossom.  Particularly during this pandemic, while many are only at Queen’s virtually, Queen’s Hillel has provided a continued sense of connection to and pride in Judaism and Israel. However, despite phenomenal accomplishments, no one could have been prepared for the heart-wrenching hostilities in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the eruption of propaganda on social media, and the fall-out to Jews around the globe, particularly amongst our youth.  

Specifically at Queen’s, the Queen’s Journal took a hard stance against Zionism, in support of BDS and hijacking student fees to that end. Yos and the Queen’s Hillel executive, including Sarah, co-President Nathaniel Katz, and VP Advocacy Rafi Matchen, were able to respond in real-time, 24/7.  Equally important, they were able to support Jewish students who were feeling ostracized and alone by the online bullying, misinformation, hyperbole, and lack of context, from friends and strangers alike. 

Like most diasporic Jews, we love to visit Israel and pray for peace during its many conflicts. Yet, this fight felt different.  For the first time standing up for Zionism – merely advocating for and underscoring the right to a Jewish homeland – became our children’s fight. Hate against Jewish people is unfortunately not foreign to our children. But targeted hate and friends posting anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment was a new low. 

While they were experiencing this themselves, Yos and Leora remained a rock for the students, a sounding board, and a perfect mix of optimism, pragmatism, and compassion. Michael and I wholeheartedly share these words with great emotion…and with no hyperbole. We feel so incredibly blessed to have the Hillel mishpacha (family) there for our Jewish children at this difficult time, whether it is at Queen’s or at another university or college campus. We also know that the dynamic and talented duo Leora and Yos – and the rest of the Hillel Ontario team – will be there with open arms for all the creative and meaningful times ahead. 

Yes, “Jews in Canoes” really happened during Covid-19! Whether it is paddling through the Cataraqui River or meandering through more challenging waters, we trust that Queen’s Hillel and Hillel Ontario will continue to be a lifeline to our Jewish students.  

Melissa Greenberg & Michael Springer
Parents of Sarah Springer, co-President at Queen’s Hillel

 

 

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Weekly D’var: Toldot 5782 by Scott Goldstein

[Warning: Ted Lasso show spoiler] I just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso, and I cannot get the image of the finale out of my head. Haven’t seen it yet? That’s ok, I’ll recap part of this week’s Torah portion as you go catch up and then tie it in at the end for when you get back.

When not detailing the intricate politics of well-digging and water rights, this week’s Torah portion takes some time to highlight our favourite biblical twins – Jacob and Esav (a.k.a. Esau). Some may even refer to this as the first twin study on “Nature vs. Nurture” (shoutout to my psychology peeps) ever recorded. We are presented with brothers that were raised in the same environment but turned out to be polar opposites. I’ll let you read the riveting stories of birthright transactions and elaborate deceptions on your own, but the narrative we are presented with is clear: Jacob is good, and Esav is bad. Here’s the problem I had with this narrative: If Esav was raised in a good environment, but still did bad things, then is the Torah telling us that our destiny is sealed by nature?

I just finished watching Ted Lasso, and I cannot help but think about how loveable Nate (played by Nick Mohammed) is a perfect example of what I think our Torah portion is trying to tell us. Ted Lasso (played masterfully by Jason Sudeikis) created a nurturing environment where Nate could grow from invisible kit manager to assistant coach that everyone loves. Despite all that, it comes down to the decisions Nate made to allow jealousy to influence his actions, leading him to leave Richmond FC and betray his teammates by joining West Ham United.

I think the story we read in the Torah is reminding us that both nature and nurture are really important (just as science does), but our decisions, ultimately, are our own. Whether it’s Esav going down in history as the ultimate example of bad decision-making or Nate likely being the reason we see Ted cry next season, the lesson is clear… be like Jacob because we can make good decisions no matter the circumstances.

Hillel International Student Cabinet 2021-2022

Hillel International Student Cabinet 2021-2022

Jordan Goldenberg, Ryerson University ‘23 and Leah Goldschmidt, York University ‘22, are representing Canadian Jewish students on Hillel International’s global stage. Here’s how they’re enhancing the Canadian Jewish campus experience for years to come:

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate on  the Hillel International Student Cabinet, as one of two Canadian representatives. I am honoured to join the board of  22 students from the United States of America, Israel, Russia and Brazil. 

Over the years, I have been very active in Hillel at York University, and was thrilled when Hillel York’s staff approached me about the opportunity to bring my enthusiasm and passion for Hillel on an international scale. 

Hillel has always been a safe space for me — somewhere I could go to feel comfortable about my Jewish identity, but also a place where I could meet other Jews on campus; some who have become my best friends. Although I only recently joined the Student Cabinet, I can genuinely say I have met some of the most incredible students and staff who are so passionate about the Hillel movement.

I am constantly amazed by the work Hillel students are doing around the world to support and connect the next generation of our community.. We have members who have founded their own Hillels at colleges with barely any Jews, members who are advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and have launched successful international LGBTQ+ cohorts, and members who are doing tremendous work in combating antisemitism. Being around such passionate and motivating students has inspired me to go after my own aspirations within Hillel; creating space for Jews with disabilities. 

As a student with a disability, I am very passionate about expanding space for Jews with disabilities, and while Hillel has taken great strides to increase accessibility and inclusivity; there’s lots more we can do. Hillel has given me incredible resources and support to launch my own projects within this space.

I am thrilled to be representing Canada in this incredible opportunity, and am looking forward to the year ahead.

Leah Goldschmidt, Hillel York

My name is Jordan Goldenberg, and I am a third-year student at Ryerson University studying business management. I am also the President of Hillel Ryerson. The Cabinet is made up of students from around the world, working towards the common goal of engaging Jewish university and college students worldwide. The role of the Cabinet is to serve as a voice for Jewish students and a means of connection to the worldwide Hillel movement. Being part of the collective voice means everything to me, and I am excited to be that voice for Jewish students amplifying Canada and Hillel Ontario’s role on the global stage. 

At the beginning of October,  I had the opportunity to go to DC with the Hillel International Student Cabinet. It was an incredible experience to collaborate with and learn from a variety of leaders in the Jewish community and the Hillel movement. I learned so much from our two student co-chairs, fellow cabinet members and Hillel professionals. We had the chance to get to know the greater Hillel movement through meetings with staff members from various departments and positions within Hillel International; including, but not limited to, the communications teams, board members, the CEO, Adam Lehman, and many more. We spoke at great lengths about the role each of our local Hillels play on our campuses and what we can learn from one another. Since the summit, we have already hit the ground running, with many students taking on various projects at both the local and international levels. I learned so much about the global Hillel movement and how to be a better leader for Jewish students on campus and in the community.

I have always been passionate about bringing people together and there is no better way to do so than collaborating with Jewish students and Hillel’s internationally. This international collaboration allows us to share our common values while celebrating our differences in order to create the best Hillel atmosphere and programming possible.

Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson

 

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