Living a Sweet New Year Every Day

by | Sep 27, 2019 | Hillel Ontario, Jewish Holiday | 0 comments

“L’Shana Tova!” These are words that we utter every autumn during the high holidays as we wish one another a sweet new year.

To me, this cozy, warm, inviting phrase is at the epicenter of the meaning of Rosh Hashanah. To wish one another a sweet new year is one of my favourite aspects of the holiday. But what does this actually look like in reality? There are so many ways in which we can embody “L’Shana Tova” today, and every day of the upcoming year:

  • Seeking out the activities, traditions, and food to which we  feel connected is one way to practice living the sweet life. For me, nothing screams “L’Shana Tova” more than when I am feeding my friends and family home-cooked meals. There is a lot of love to be found in sharing a meal together. This Rosh Hashanah, I am making my grandma’s recipe for Zwetschgnkuchen (a German plum cake that certain Ashkenazi Jewish families eat during Rosh Hashanah) which my family always has around the holidays. It is delicious, sweet, contains the practice of eating a new fruit of the season (a custom for some people during Rosh Hashanah), and says to those at the dinner table…. “Come, let’s eat, and experience the good things in life together!” As for how I am bringing this particular form of sweetness to my role at Hillel this year? If you ever see me at an event where food is served and I’m not trying to hand you a plate of food, you ought to be concerned! At Queen’s Hillel, I want us to bond over our shared interests and connections as we celebrate throughout the year.

 

  • Another way to create a sweet year is to recognize when our actions come from a place of kindness. Creating a sweeter year also means acknowledging when we have said something hurtful and “making right our wrongs”. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we all have said or done something harmful at one point or another. It is a part of being human. Yet, by focusing on creating more sweetness in the world rather than on negative behaviours, we are embodying Jewish values.

 

  • For many of us, a sweet new year is embodied in the images of apples and honey. Seeing them on our tables can remind us that having a good core and inner voice is essential to how we share ourselves with the outside world. If we are not sweet on the inside, then even if we cover it up, it still won’t be appealing on the outside. I mean, we’ve all had that one apple that was way too tart or mushy, and no amount of honey could make it better! So taking stock and looking inwards allows for an outward projection of goodness. The beauty of Rosh Hashanah is that we are able to return again and again to our favourite foods, to symbolic motifs, and to the process of taking stock of ourselves and our lives… and how lucky are we?! It is a sweet blessing indeed.

At the close of 5779, and the start of 5780, let me be the first to wish you a happy, healthy, and sweet new year! I’d love to hear from you and how you aim to embody the ideas of L’Shana Tova in 5780!

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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