My First (Virtual) Year at University

by | Oct 4, 2020 | Hillel Ontario, Jewish Life at Ryerson, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The pandemic has caused school to feel very different compared to what I’m used to. I used to go to class and make friends in person. Now, all of my courses are online and it’s significantly harder to do things – even ask questions in class. Times have changed, so the way I make friends has changed too. One method I’ve used is to talk to people through the chat feature on Zoom during class. This way, I can still connect with new people and form new friendships.

Hillel has also helped me adjust and make friends at Ryerson University. Hillel invited me to many events where they displayed a lot of positive energy toward me and other students and made sure we felt welcomed and included. I attended a few virtual hangouts and met other students from Ryerson and UofT at the in-person hangout at Earl Bales park. They even sent me a welcome bag, which included a Hillel blanket, a toque and a water bottle.

Ever since I was accepted to university, I’ve wanted to be involved in the Jewish community. And, being a social person, I always loved being around and meeting people from around the globe. From the first day, the staff have welcomed me with a smile on their faces and have been excited to hear about my origins. My story feels different compared to other Jewish people, being from Romania. But the staff at Hillel have encouraged me to share my history with others and have helped transform my story into something to be proud of, and to learn and grow from it. 

Hillel cares a lot about people. The way they treat you makes you feel wanted and valued and it’s obvious that the organization is here to help students. Hillel has provided an amazing experience and I recommend them to any student that wishes to get involved in the community. I feel lucky that an older Jewish friend told me about Hillel and I’ve been part of the community ever since. 

Erwin, Ryerson University ’24

Multi-Faith Shabbat Dinner at Ryerson University

Multi-Faith Shabbat Dinner at Ryerson University

This year, I had the privilege and honour of co-hosting Hillel Ryerson’s Multifaith Shabbat Experience. This is an annual social and educational event in partnership with Ryerson University’s Presidents Office where students and staff from across campus come together to share a meal and welcome Shabbat. 

This year, the organizing committee was faced with the challenge of keeping the core values of our usual multi-faith evening while holding it over Zoom. The Jewish community in Toronto has been changing how they bring people together since the pandemic began, and have found many ways to creatively find community in these times. 

Our committee came up with a variety of ways to translate our event to a virtual space, including sending prepared Shabbat boxes to attendees’ homes with the necessary items to celebrate, and hosting an educational Challah braiding workshop. Additionally, we created breakout rooms during the event to simulate the conversations held while sharing a meal at a Shabbat table. Each breakout room was facilitated by a Hillel student leader who led a thoughtful discussion around the importance of rest, while also speaking to their own personal connections with Shabbat. 

Each year, the Multi-Faith Shabbat experience is an opportunity for Jewish students, faculty, and our allies to come together and celebrate Jewish ritual on campus. We celebrate the universal values of Shabbat through inviting student leaders of other faiths to speak about what rest means to them. This year, we were honoured to hear students from the campus’ Catholic, Hindu, and Indigenous communities present and share their experiences. We also welcomed student leaders from several other clubs and organizations including the Ryerson Indian Association, Ryerson Student Union, and the Ryerson Liberal Arts Society. 

Honouring and showing our appreciation to Ryerson University’s faculty and administration is also an important element to our event. This year we invited members, including the university’s newly appointed Director of Human Rights and Dean of Ryerson’s Law School, to recite the Shabbat blessings alongside our students. Typically, the evening is a wonderful way for students to network with staff, and so in replacement we created a second round of breakout rooms for students to engage with professors and administrators who related to their field of study. 

For me, co-hosting the Multi-Faith Shabbat Experience was the highlight of the year. I am so thankful to Hillel for providing us with the outlet to create meaningful social and educational opportunities, and help us all find ways to foster positive experiences during this difficult time. 

  • Jen Miller, Hillel Ryerson

 

My name is Adam Rose and I am a second year Performance Production student at Ryerson University. This is the first year I have taken part in Hillel Ryerson and it has been nothing but a wonderful experience. A moment that stuck out to me was attending the well-loved and highly anticipated annual Multi-Faith Shabbat Experience.  

Since the event was held virtually this year, I was asked to be a breakout room facilitator to recreate what would normally be networking in person. It was so much fun and an absolute pleasure to guide conversations with students, faculty members, and President Lachemi himself about topics concerning the importance of rest during Shabbat. We took the time to reflect and be grateful for the week that had just passed and looked forward to the week ahead. 

I was also lucky enough to have been asked to create an artistic work that correlated with the Hamotzi blessing (for bread) for the event. The inclusion of tangible elements like students’ artwork allowed the sense of community and personability, which the Multi-Faith Shabbat Experience is known for, to continue online. Displaying the selected pieces also had the benefit of showcasing and elevating the talent spread across the range of unique arts programs that Ryerson University has to offer. I am very grateful and proud to have been a part of this experience and excited to further my Hillel Ryerson journey.

 

  • Adam Rose, Hillel Ryerson
Purim!

Purim!

Hillels York, UofT and Ryerson

This past week, Hillels York, UofT and Ryerson, in partnership with JLIC, celebrated Purim together. As we all know, this year has been an especially unique year. Although there was no way to have a regular in-person Megilah reading and Purim party, Hillel got creative by organizing a drive-in Megilah reading! People dressed up, sat in their cars, and listened to Ben Shore (a fellow student at UofT) read the Megilah. Taking advantage of being in our cars, we honked at the sound of Haman’s name. At the end, everyone had the chance to get a shawarma laffa and later join a virtual game night over zoom. This Purim was definitely different, but one we won’t soon forget. Thank you to everyone who was able to make this Purim so special!

  • Hadar Wercberger, Hillel Ryerson

 

Queen’s Hillel

On Purim, Jews (of legal drinking age) are encouraged by the Talmud to drink until they do not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai”. With this in mind, one of the ways through which Queen’s Hillel celebrated Purim was to follow this custom. Following the lead of Dammara Kovnats Hall, the founder of Jewish Cocktails, students joined together over Zoom to create three delicious Purim-themed cocktails and mocktails. The drinks were based on ingredients that have traditionally been available during the time of Purim and were inspired by different aspects of the holiday. The drinks we made included the Shushan Sipper, the Hamentaschen Martini, and Masks and Mystery; a whisky and ginger beer-based drink that was my personal favourite.

A few days before, we delivered a basic mixology kit complete with mason jars, cocktail umbrellas, Hamentaschen, and an ingredient list to students. For me, part of what made the event so much fun was everyone laughing together over different substitutions that people were making if they did not have a specific ingredient or a tool to use when making their drinks. Through this event, we were able to successfully replicate the party atmosphere that Purim typically has. 

In a year where we’ve been forced to hold all of our events online, it can be difficult to plan an event online while ensuring that engagement is still high. With our Masks and Mixology event, we had no trouble at all! Purim is a holiday that is meant to be celebrated with others through giving out Mishloach Manot (gift baskets), dressing up, and getting together to listen to the reading of the Megilah. While Purim celebrations over the world certainly looked different this year, being able to celebrate over zoom through our mixology event allowed myself and many others to feel as though it was a regular celebration. Having had the opportunity to celebrate Purim and other holidays online, it’s provided a sense of normalcy in a year that has been anything but normal and has allowed students to get a sense of the Queen’s Hillel experience.

Dammara provided us with the opportunity to perfect our mixology skills while getting a chance to explore Judaism and the themes of Purim together. While it may not have been a traditional celebration of Purim, I know that I will be bringing these cocktail recipes with me to celebrate Purim next year.

  • Belinda Cantor, Queen’s Hillel

 

McMaster Hillel

It has become challenging to create engaging, exciting and meaningful virtual events during the lockdown. “Free Esther”, a Purim-themed escape room that was envisioned and constructed by the McMaster Hillel executive team, challenged participants to enter a maze of puzzles as Mordechai tries to free Esther, the female protagonist of the Purim story. Participants worked together and got to know each other as they worked to solve the puzzles that would lead to Esther.

This event was a huge success! We brought together Judaism, tradition and people in a fun and engaging activity. One participant mentioned that this had been “the best event I’ve been to all year!” (including all virtual experiences by any organization). 

Incredibly, community engagement is thriving at events like this, despite the pandemic. We hope that events like these will compel more people to get involved with Hillel and their community in the future. With that in mind, McMaster Hillel will hopefully return next year with more fun Purim-related adventures, perhaps an in-person escape room. We wish everyone a Chag Purim Sameach!

  • Andy Roth, McMaster Hillel

 

Guelph Hillel

It’s been tough to get into the Purim spirit this year while separated from friends and family, but Guelph Hillel came together to create a virtual Purim Murder Mystery event that brought the community together in a new and exciting way. The event on Tuesday, March 2nd, was preceded by a Purim-themed Shabbox delivery on Friday — Shabbat dinner was delivered to students across Guelph, along with extra goodies for the holiday, and Mishloach Manot (gift baskets) were sent out to students residing in Toronto. The interactive event on Tuesday event gave students the chance to interview characters from the Purim story — King Achashverosh, Queen Esther, Mordechai, Haman, Zeresh, and Shashgaz — to find out who killed Vashti in an exciting murder mystery plot! These characters were portrayed by student actors, who all worked incredibly hard to bring them life, and it was thoroughly entertaining chatting with each of them. Students participating were put into teams and got to interview each character twice before coming to a team verdict and voting on who they suspected the murderer was.

It was exciting to be teamed up with new people and work together to solve the puzzle, and a great opportunity to make new friends! Even after the event was officially over, most of the participants didn’t want to leave, and many stayed online to chat and hang out with new friends and old. It was wonderful to see people so engaged with this event and immediately forming connections with other members of the Guelph Hillel community. Though we all hope to be able to celebrate Purim in-person next year, this kind of innovative programming from Guelph Hillel made the holiday special despite challenging circumstances.

  • Alex Thomson, Guelph Hillel

The Guelph Hillel Murder Mystery was amazing!! I constantly found myself on the edge of my seat! It was incredibly interactive, and it rid me of my Zoom fatigue. Every student was invested in the program and in their given characters, which made the competitive atmosphere enjoyable and motivated me to win. It was so nice to meet and chat with new people and old friends, and make new connections on our new virtual world. This was by far the best event I have attended throughout the pandemic, and I am looking forward to a Passover murder mystery, perhaps who killed Pharaoh…

  • Debby Klachook, Guelph Hillel

 

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