More Voices heard this Yom Kippur

by | Oct 23, 2019 | Jewish Life at Western | 0 comments

Written by: Jacob Brickman

All month, Jews around the world and at Western University have been busy celebrating and observing the High Holidays, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. Hillel has been one of the few places in London to offer students a sukkah to eat and ‘dwell’ in and a feast of good food as we prepared to fast. But one event this October stands out as truly unique and new in this community; Hillel Western’s Yom Kippur Morning Services.

This event started as a passing thought, put forward by a student who wouldn’t be able to make it home for Yom Kippur. They wanted a service and experience for the day that wasn’t being offered in the community for students. It snowballed into a small committee of students planning the content, the feel, and the logistics of putting on a service on the holiest day of our calendar.

All four of the students responsible for making this service came together for a cohesive, meaningful experience, and all the wonderful staff who aided us along the way, coming from completely different Jewish experiences, denominations, and traditions. Deciding that it should be egalitarian and traditional seemed to be what most people were interested in and what we felt most comfortable with. In the end, this small service on a very big day represents the entire point of Hillel itself.

When Jewish students from wildly different backgrounds come together to fulfill an apparent need and passion, Hillel is the place which can support that and manifest the idea into being. Hopefully, as Hillel becomes a place that offers students the opportunity to lead an alternative, student-led, egalitarian service on days like Yom Kippur, more people will be willing to give input, plan, and share what would make it most meaningful for them.

שנה טובה ומתוקה‎    Shanah Tovah Umetukah 

Maintaining Close Relationships at Western Hillel

Maintaining Close Relationships at Western Hillel

Western University students are fortunate to have a university leadership that cares about the well-being of students and actively seeks feedback on how to improve the university experience 

Recently, Western University President, Dr. Alan Shepard, hosted a small group of student representatives and staff from Western Hillel for an important discussion about antisemitism and Jewish campus life. In an effort to make sure that the conversation with students will lead to a greater impact on campus, Dr. Shepard made sure to also invite the university’s new Associate Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Opiyo Oloya. 

Visiting the President’s residence was incredibly moving and motivating. We discussed Jewish student needs, challenges around kosher food on campus, religious accommodations, our concerns for students around the rise in antisemitism, and how our campus can be a safe and welcoming space for all. 

Maintaining close relationships with senior university leadership is a key element of Hillel Ontario’s campus strategy, and it was wonderful to get to know Dr. Shepard and Dr. Oloya and hear about their plans for commitment to a positive student experience. We are so grateful for the ongoing partnership and support between Western Hillel and Western University.

I believe that when Hillel has true partners in addressing Jewish student needs, it makes our campus a better place for all students. This experience with our university leaders gives me tremendous hope that we will see Jewish campus life flourish at Western. With the winning combination of an invested university administration, our dedicated student leaders and dedicated Hillel staff, every Jewish student will have the space and opportunity to create their own personal Jewish campus life experience.

[attached image; names left to right: Sofia Musman (Program Coordinator), Isabel Borisov (Club President), Jordyn Cohen (Club Holocaust Education & Tikkun Olam), Jacqui Dressler (Advocacy Coordinator), Scott Goldstein (Director), Dr. Opiyo Oloya, Dr. Alan Shepard, Glen Raudanskis (VP Admin)]

 

To my Fellow Students

To my Fellow Students

I am Jacob Brickman, Western Hillel’s outgoing VP Student Life, and a soon-to-be graduate in psychology. I will be walking across the virtual stage in June, after five wonderful years at Western, three of which I have spent being very actively involved in Hillel. To any Jewish student who is not graduating this spring, being very actively involved in Hillel is one thing I would recommend above nearly all else while you study here. I have gone to events, I have been a part of fundraising campaigns, I have volunteered, I have done internships and fellowships every semester since my third year, I have tabled, I have sung, I have danced, I have led, I have been a committee chair and a vice president. Of all the experiences I have had with Western Hillel I can confidently recommend trying everything, at least once.

We all know: the pandemic and the past year (and a half) have sucked. It is hard to find silver linings. Some of the things I loved most about being at Western, being in London, came to a grinding halt almost instantaneously and simultaneously. Shabbat dinners, being able to see friends and meet new people at events, for Hillel and for the other clubs I have been a part of over the years, and really any opportunity to gather with people who are special to me felt like they would be absent for my last school year. Rather than accepting full loneliness and isolation from one another, the staff and student leadership of Western Hillel worked tirelessly from the summer to the spring to make sure our community came together as often and as meaningfully as possible. I, for one, am so tired of Zoom and Teams and Skype. However, being able to connect to anyone around the world this past year has opened up opportunities for myself and so many others.

This last semester, I was a part of a Jewish Learning Fellowship cohort with Leora (our awesome Senior Jewish Educator – you should meet her if you have not yet). If we had been in person, several of the people in my cohort would not have been there and their voices and ideas would never have made it into our sessions. Because of Zoom, Jason was able to call in from B.C., and anyone who moved home from London out of residence, for instance, was still able to join, in a way they simply couldn’t have otherwise.

As I move on from my undergrad, I have been thinking about what Hillel has meant to me and what it could mean for you, my fellow students, as you continue here at Western. This is a beautiful place. You will make friends, you will deepen friendships you already have. You will learn, teach, and experience. You will eat. My goodness, you will eat.  Keep an open mind and try out new programs. Having a Jewish community at your home away from home will enrich your life, as it has enriched mine. 

Thank you, Western Hillel.
Jacob Brickman

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