I started university during the pandemic. In my early days as a McMaster Hillel student, all our events were completely online. 

While frustrating in many ways, the virtual campus world was my first experience with Hillel. A year and a half after the pandemic began, COVID-19 restrictions began easing, and we were finally able to convene in-person at the end of 2021. 

In early December, just before the new Omicron variant took hold, McMaster Hillel organized an invaluable Shabbat dinner that allowed us to gather together for the first time in what felt like forever.

With more than 50 students in attendance, it was Hillel’s largest in-person program in more than a year. This Shabbat experience was a time for our small-but-mighty McMaster Hillel community to come together, to share experiences, and reconnect as a campus community. 

The theme of this  Shabbat was Israel – which was especially meaningful  to me because it reinforced McMaster Hillel’s commitment to teaching about and building connections with Israel. During the program, students had the opportunity to connect with each other and celebrate Israeli culture – through Israeli food, trivia, and music. 

Unfortunately, last spring, Jewish students  faced an increase in antisemitism as a result of our support for Israel.  It is events and experiences like these that remind me how essential Hillel is for Jewish students. Hillel empowers students to safely explore our personal connections with Judaism and Israel. 

In the future, I am excited  for more programs and Shabbat dinners to continue building our Jewish campus community. I’m also looking forward to  future events that allow us to explore our deep connections with Israel and Jewish culture, which allow us to express our Jewish pride.


  • Atara Lipetz, McMaster Hillel