My Parent Perspective as a Parent

by | Aug 31, 2020 | Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

It was a sudden and abrupt end to an otherwise regular university semester. No one could have anticipated the destabilizing nature of parting from many friends, schoolmates, and professors without the expected personal face-to-face interactions and graduation noise. 

As our daughter, Joelle was fast approaching the end of her last semester of her last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph, she was looking forward to an agenda filled with many programs and social events with both Hillel and Chabad. Like all the students, she rushed back home and experienced the stress of being unsure of the future and the threat of a highly contagious virus that was intensified by parents who insisted on going food foraging more than ever before. 

Shortly into the quarantine, many opportunities for social engagement and volunteerism, albeit in a new format, came about. Hillel meetings and events provided Joelle with a sense of community and familiarity. Best of all, since we were home together at the strangest afternoon and early evening hours, we were able to “Zoom bomb” the various meetings to say hello to Gila (Director of Hillel Guelph whom we befriended over the last 6 years) and to the many students whom we have watched grow and mature prior to and throughout their university years. Laughter and social engagement were the most welcome diversions from the daily COVID-19 news and professional Zoom calls. Joelle participated in all that Hillel had to offer from Happy Hour (BYO snacks and drinks), occasional group hangouts, and meetings to plan for Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut. Even when the university year ended, Joelle participated in a Hillel Alumni Town Hall for future planning. 

The semester ended, undergrad ended but the connections and friendships persist, as does an empowered, connected, and talented young leader. As we had witnessed once before with our eldest daughter, Alexandra, Hillel staff and directors are always cheerleaders who are elevating the potential of each of their student members, as well as supportive friends. We feel it is appropriate to acknowledge and thank Hillel Ontario, Guelph Hillel, and Chabad of Guelph for enriching the lives of our daughters and ours.

With sincere appreciation,
Iris Kivity-Chandler and Mark Chandler

Last year was my son Raffi’s first year at university outside of Toronto at McMaster University. Since he was only a couple of hours away, he often came home on the occasional weekend, during school holidays, and for reading week. When the pandemic hit, it was almost like he hadn’t gone away!

He’s remained connected to friends from university, school, and Camp Ramah online, with the occasional face-to-face visit. As his parent, I notice that he certainly misses the camaraderie of being on campus and in-person classes. He misses the Chabad/Hillel Shabbat dinners (Shabbat dinner at home with one’s family isn’t quite the same!), AEPi events, and his McMaster Pops Orchestra practices and concerts. And I know he misses those Hillel bagel lunches!

As an only child, he can often find things to do when he’s alone at home, but I notice that he is starting to get bored – he’d really like to be spending more time in the same space in the company of friends.

The abrupt shutdown of everything in March was a disappointment; Raffi wanted to stay in residence as long as possible, even as most students packed up and went home. He had no trouble getting used to online learning and exams in March/April and I don’t expect the Fall term will be a problem since he finds it easy to collaborate with fellow students online just as if they were working together in person.

He is excited about entering his 2nd year at McMaster University (and even has his sights set on what he wants to be doing in 3rd year and beyond!). The biggest difference this coming year is that he will have his first co-op placement, so will have to be working on finding a job for that, starting in September. This year will be different, but I know he’ll do okay. 

My hope for Raffi in the coming school year is that he continues to be happy and engaged in his studies and active in his social life (to the extent that one can be at a distance from one’s peers). He’s resilient and I am hopeful.

Gail

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

In their research on listening to survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, Bronwen E. Low and Emmanuelle Sonntag note listeners’ problematic tendencies towards one of two responses.  On the one hand, they can regard the narratives as so unfamiliar and foreign that they must be pushed away as overwhelming, untouchable, and inaccessible.  On the other, the stories can be seen as familiar, to the point that the listener cannot separate their own experiences and emotional response from what they take in.

But another, preferable response exists: Roger I. Simon and Claudia Eppert talk about a “chain of testimony” and suggest that listening imposes a duty on the listener.  Listening to personal testimony at the crossroads of memory and history “imposes particular obligations on those called to receive it – obligations imbued with the exigencies of justice, compassion, and hope that define the horizon for a world yet to be realized.”  In this way, bearing witness and listening to testimony demands a number of actions and responses, including that we “transport and translate stories of past injustices beyond their moment of telling by taking these stories to another time and space where they become available to be heard or seen.”

If we take Simon and Eppert’s charge seriously, as I believe we should, those of us who have been privileged to hear the direct testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.  Their words come not just with the specific knowledge they impart or the emotional impact they have on us – sorrow, anger, fear, horror – but with a duty, an obligation of some kind.  

On many of our campuses, this week is Holocaust Education Week, and this Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Given the significant number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Canada, the scheduled events and programs have a personal resonance for many of our students and their families, but their impact can be deep and meaningful for all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from.  I encourage each of you to make time to participate in this week’s activities and to consider your place in the chain of testimony: what obligation does listening to narratives from the Holocaust place on you, and how do you carry those stories forward in time?

 

Weekly D’var: Shemot

Weekly D’var: Shemot

In this week’s parashah we learn the story of Moses, from his birth, through his flight from and eventual return to Egypt, to the acceptance of his role as leader of the Hebrew people.

After fleeing Egypt, for killing an Egyptian slave master, Moses was living rather peacefully as a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Torah describes for us Moses’s first interaction with G-d upon coming across a bush, “burning with a heart of fire [Exodus 3:3]”. G-d calls out to Moses and requests he take the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually into the land of Israel. However, Moses argues with G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who am I that I should take the Jews out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]” After initially refusing four times, Moses eventually agrees to G-ds request, and as we know, the rest is history. But why was Moses so unwilling to take up the position of leader, to the extent that he would argue with G-d? And why was G-d so set on having Moses lead the Jewish people? 

Perhaps the answer can be found through the incident that led to his flight from Egypt, years earlier, when Moses, as mentioned above, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew slave. Immediately, he was met with opposition from some of the Hebrew slaves, “who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? [Exodus 2:14]” Moses felt discouraged and unsure of his ability to lead. However, it seems that G-d saw in Moses, a faithful shepherd, the ability to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Very often in Tanakh, the people that are most worthy to lead are the ones who deny that they are worthy at all. Moses may not appear to be the first choice for a leadership figure, suffering from a speech impediment and lacking charisma; however, Moses possessed certain qualities that made him the ideal leader to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. We too possess qualities that can lead us to achieve incredible success and realize our full potential. We may often feel unmotivated or unsure of our own capabilities. Instead of feeling discouraged, I believe we can look to Moses who, despite all his doubts, stepped up to the challenge and became the greatest leader in Jewish history. 

Sam Virine
VP of Jewish Life at Hillel Waterloo & Laurier

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