Introducing Our New Staff Members!

by | Sep 9, 2021 | Hillel Ontario, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Every year, we welcome new members to our talented team of Hillel professionals!
This year, we are thrilled to welcome Ashley Murphy, Aviva Davis, Jacob Brickman, Maya Shapira, Miriam Greenberg, Rebecca Ross, Jacqueline Dressler, Sofia Musman and Deborah Pekar.

Read on to get to know them a little better…

 

Ashley MurphyPhoto of: Ashley Murphy - Program Coordinator
Program Coordinator, Hillel Ryerson

Q. What university did you attend?
A. York University
Q. What did you study?
A. Devised Theatre
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. I don’t typically celebrate the holidays, but when I do it is all about good company and good food.
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. I was invited by a friend I made in University and I was told Hillel York was THE best place to hangout. After that day, it became the place I felt most at home at York.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. The network of amazing and like-minded people I get to surround myself with on a daily basis.
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A. To make as many connections as possible, get to know everyone and have fun! 🙂

Photo of: Jared Drewnowsky, VP Philanthropy

Jared Drewnowsky
VP, Philanthropy, Hillel Ontario

Q. What university did you attend?
A. University of Western Ontario
Q. What did you study?
A. I have an Honours Degree in History
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. Time spent with family. It’s always nice to be able to catch up and just sit and talk without the distractions of day-to-day life
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. I attended a Hillel dinner in my 2nd year of University. I was introduced to Hillel though a longtime friend who was a year ahead of me. It was a great experience that I wish I’d had early on in my first year.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. I believe that the impact that we can have on young adults at a time when they are really starting to figure out not only who they are but who they want to be is a tremendous privilege.
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
I hope that we finally figure out how to not only be together in person but to stay together in person. I hope that the coming year can be one of bonding and healing as a whole.

 

Photo of: Aviva, Creative StrategistAviva Davis
Creative Strategist, Hillel Ontario

Q. What university did you attend?
A. Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Q. What did you study?
A. Communication Design
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. Getting to spend time with my family
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. I went to a Hillel lunch in my 2nd year of university
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. Being a part of the Toronto/Ontario Jewish community and making a positive impact in that community
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
To learn a new skill, like coding!

 

Photo of: Jacob, Springboard FellowJacob Brickman
Springboard Fellow, Hillel Waterloo

Q. What university did you attend?
A. Western University
Q. What did you study?
A. Psychology
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. Being together with family over big meals
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A.
It was a one-on-one coffee chat with Leora Tarshish, who had just arrived at Western as the Senior Jewish Educator and I was going into in my third of five years at Western (never too late to get connected!).
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. Building the Jewish student community on campus and empowering students who are already doing fantastic work to plan for the year!
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
More in-person events (with food!) in Waterloo for students to go to.

 

Photo of: Maya, Advocacy CoordinatorMaya Shapira
Advocacy Coordinator, Guelph Hillel & Hillels Waterloo and Laurier

Q. What university did you attend?
A. Queen’s University
Q. What did you study?
A. History with a focus on the cold war and genocides
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. My favourite thing about the Jewish holidays is the connections we make, both strengthening our pre-existing connections with our families and close friends and making new ones with people we haven’t met yet! Especially for the high holidays, it feels like a beginning, and always a really positive way to start off the year.
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. My first encounter with Hillel was in University like most students, attending the welcome BBQ for frosh students at Queen’s with a couple of friends I knew from high school.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. What most excites me about working with Hillel is the opportunity to connect with students – especially students who like myself, weren’t really engaged with Hillel in University, but totally could have been!
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
My wish for this upcoming year is for students that are returning to campuses (or arriving for the first time) will find a sense of home and community at Hillel and hopefully normalcy as well.

 

Miriam GreenbergPhoto of Miriam, JLIC
Director, Jewish Learning Initiative (OU/JLIC)

Q. What university did you attend?
A.  I attended York University for my undergraduate degrees and OISE/UofT for my Master’s degree.
Q. What did you study?
A. Psychology and Education for my undergrad and went on to complete an MEd in Special education and adaptive instruction
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. I love the family time and all of the wonderful foods and traditions that bring us together during the holidays
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A.
My first encounter with Hillel was during my time at York as a student. I enjoyed visiting the Jewish Student Union and meeting new people, as well as reconnecting with familiar faces.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A.  I am so excited to develop new relationships, both with colleagues as well as students!
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
I wish for a healthy, productive and interactive year, full of much in person engagement 🙂
   

Deborah PekarPhoto of: Deborah, Business Manager
Business Manager

Q. What university did you attend?
A. Western University
Q. What did you study?
A. Criminology and Sociology
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. Seeing my family and food!!
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. During clubs and committee sign up day, there was a Hillel booth and I remember walking over and being welcomed! Everyone was so nice! And, of course, I remember the chicken soup hotline!
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. I’m so excited to be working for an organization with such incredible people! Everyone has been so welcoming and I’m ecstatic to begin my journey here!
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
Hopefully that we’re all back in the office and that the world shifts back to normal! 

Jacqueline Dressler
Advocacy Coordinator, Western Hillel

Photo of: Jacqueline, Advocacy Coordinator

Q. What university did you attend?
A. University of Michigan. Go Blue!
Q. What did you study?
A. History and Judaic studies
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. My favourite thing is spending lots of time in the kitchen making my favourite holiday dishes
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. My first encounter with Hillel was a Shabbat dinner, I remember it well because it was Chinese food!
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A.
Having the opportunity to work with such a talented team and our wonderful students! It is really exciting to be a part of an organization that values continuing education and learning opportunities as well.
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
My wish for the upcoming year is that we continue to offer kindness and grace to each other as we navigate our uncertain world and find new and engaging ways to build solidarity and community within our Jewish spaces and outside of them.

 

Rebecca Ross
Springboard Innovation Fellow, Hillel Laurier

Photo of: Rebecca, Springboard Fellow

Q. What university did you attend?
A. Ryerson University
Q. What did you study?
A.
Child and Youth Care (BA)
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A.
The bringing of family, community, and friends communally together, all with an underscored shared love and connection to Judaism; ‘being with’ in a meaningful way.
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. I can recall that experience clear-as-day! The Program Coordinator for Hillel Ryerson asked me for a coffee chat at Balzacs on Bond/Gould on campus, and in every way possible, they centred in on all the unique parts of my Jewish-ness that, at the time, I felt made me different and/or invaluable to the community. It was the first time in my entire life that I felt like my Jewish identity was being not just acknowledged, but also celebrated and invited into a space.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. Based on the above story, I am most excited to do the exact same for students – celebrate them. I want students at Hillel Laurier-Waterloo to know, and feel, that they can bring their whole selves to an interaction with me, and that those ‘selves’ – many intersecting and overlapping – will be both seen and empowered. I want to be a resource for helping students to continue exploring their Jewish ‘and’ (holistic) identities, and cultivate an ecosystem at Hillel that is shaped by, and reinforced through, student-centred wants and needs.

Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
My first wish for the upcoming year is that every single student that longs-for an inclusive Jewish space and/or resource at Laurier is met by our Hillel with open, welcoming arms! For the students that currently are involved, my wish is that I can seamlessly co-create an idea, an event, and/or a space with them that brings them a sense of accomplishment and pride. Most importantly, I want Hillel Laurier-Waterloo to unequivocally reflect all the desires and wishes of its students, whether new or returning. As a Springboard Innovation Fellow, I will quote what I said in my introduction emails to students: “this role will be shaped by all of you” – I truly believe that my efforts for innovation are incomplete without the individual input of what each and every student I work with hopes to see.

 

Sofia Musman
Program Coordinator, Western Hillel

Photo of: Sofia, Program Coordinator

Q. What university did you attend?
A. California State University Long Beach and Fanshawe College
Q. What did you study?
A. Digital Communication
Q. What is your favourite thing about Jewish holidays?
A. Being able to celebrate with family and friends, my favourite holiday is Passover
Q. What was your first encounter with Hillel?
A. First day freshman year, I met a jewish girl (who became my best friend and who also currently works at Hillel) in the dorms, she was talking about her bat mitzvah, I told her I was jewish and she took me to my first Hillel shabbat dinner.
Q. What excites you most about working at Hillel?
A. I was super involved with Hillel during my 4 years of undergrad, and loved it. I’m excited to be involved with it again, and to be able to provide students with a similar experience and I had, which was a home away from home.
Q. What is your wish for the upcoming year?
A.
I wish for this upcoming year to be more positive, to be able to have in person events and more meaningful interactions

Stronger Together!

Stronger Together!

Over this past Family Day Weekend, I spent a lot of time reflecting both about the challenges we face, but also about the incredible strength and resiliency of this community. Jewish students are often at the forefront of hate and discrimination on campus and online, but we are at our most powerful – and most effective – when we work together as one.

With that in mind, I want to provide several important advocacy updates.

First, I am excited to share that Hillel Ontario has begun convening meetings to coordinate advocacy initiatives amongst Jewish campus organizations across the country. The time has come for Hillel Ontario to lead the way in encouraging cooperation to accomplish the goals we collectively share. Joining us in these monthly discussions are Hillel Montreal, Hillel BC, Hillel Ottawa, CJPAC, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs. We appreciate their willingness to engage with us in these important conversations.

Second, I want to update you on the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) matter that galvanized much community discussion last week. In addition to endorsing a motion to divest from companies doing business in Israel, the union misrepresented the recently released report of the Antisemitism Working Group and its approach to what does or does not constitute antisemitism. Hillel views these type of divestment motions as part of a wider issue of antisemitism on campus, and we have made that point clearly and consistently to university leadership and members of the Working Group for the better part of the past year.

Late Friday, Working Group members released an important statement, which both criticized the rhetoric of union leaders, and vindicated our belief that hate speech directed at Israel, Israelis or Jews based on actions (real or imagined) of the Israeli government is antisemitism. This is an important moment; one that underscores why our approach to these issues, and the allies we foster across campus are so critical. While we may not be able to stop every divestment motion from passing, we can – and we will continue to – have our voices heard by university leadership to ensure antisemitism remains on the margins. This is precisely what happened last week at the UofT.

Jewish students deserve to study, live and socialize in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. Hillel will continue to condemn antisemitism, defend Israel and our right to self-determination, and build essential relationships on campus to secure the well-being of the students we so proudly serve.

And, we will do so in concert with our allies; because we believe we are stronger together.

Sincerely,

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer

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.

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