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.