Prioritizing Mental Health

by | Nov 22, 2019 | Jewish Life at UofT | 0 comments

Written by Netta Halevy

My name is Netta Halevy, I am currently a Life Science student at the University of Toronto. I am so excited to be a Hillel Student Leader this year and can’t wait for all the amazing events and opportunities this year will bring. With midterms coming to an end and exams quickly approaching I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed with all the schoolwork and extra curriculars, however it is vital to remember to prioritize yourself and your mental health. U of T has a lot of resources to talk to someone if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. I know that is often difficult to make the decision whether to study for an extra hour or go and talk to someone about mental health. What if you could do both in the same building?

On December 4th, 2019 Hillel U of T will host a day long Study Jam filled with opportunities to work productively, talk openly about mental health, meet new people, and play with dogs. Whether you’re a silent studier or like to discuss your work, there will be rooms in accordance to your preference that you can choose. There will be notebooks, pens and whiteboards available for you in order to fit your study requirements as needed. There will be plenty of food, snacks, and drinks so you can remain as comfortable as possible while still working efficiently. There will also be blankets available so you can remain as comfortable as possible while working.

Hillel will be hosting group counselling sessions at two different times so that as many students that would like to attend will have the opportunity to do so. You can also come talk to our therapists who will facilitate and lead group discussions about mental health. Therapy dogs will also be coming to Hillel to relieve any stress or anxieties you might be feeling from studying all day. If you’re looking to take a group study break there will also be board games and puzzles to give yourself a break from studying but still be actively using your brain.

Come out and meet people, discuss what you’re studying, do your readings, play with some cute dogs and enjoy some snacks. How you choose to spend this event is completely up to you! All in all, I planned this event because I understand firsthand how stressful exam time can be. Hillel wants everyone to know that they are supported and cared for. I can’t wait to see you there!

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario welcomes University of Toronto’s recent launch of a new Anti-Semitism Working Group. The Working Group will review programming, activities, processes, and practices in place at the University of Toronto’s three campuses and develop recommendations to support the University’s response to antisemitism.

“The establishment of a working group focused on antisemitism is a much-needed measure for the University of Toronto,” said Rob Nagus, Senior Director, Hillel UofT. “Too often, Jewish students who have faced antisemitism on campus have felt that their serious concerns around anti-Jewish hate were dismissed. Given the positive impact of recent anti-racism initiatives on the campus community, it is incumbent on our institutions to also address the unique challenges inherent to combating antisemitism.”

“Across the nine campuses we serve, Hillel Ontario is committed to working with all university administrations to champion the voices of Jewish students,” said Marc Newburgh, CEO, Hillel Ontario. “We look forward to supporting the work of the University of Toronto by ensuring these voices are heard and acknowledged. Doing so will help the Working Group better understand how contemporary antisemitism manifests on campus.”

The Sukkot Wellness Challenge

The Sukkot Wellness Challenge

I love the holiday of Sukkot and look forward to it every year. While often overshadowed by the High Holy Days, I find that it offers us a chance to relax after the intensity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For a week, we are invited to enjoy the outdoors, to celebrate abundance, and to express gratitude (going back to the holiday’s roots as a celebration of a successful harvest season). 

Yet, accessing the joy, the gratitude, and the togetherness of Sukkot seemed almost impossible given the challenges posed by the pandemic, and the fact that we as a Hillel community remain scattered across the GTA (and beyond!), spending most of our days connecting only virtually. 

At the same time, perhaps the most important word of our season has been “wellness.” We, students and staff, have been particularly attuned to the need to care for our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing. To state the obvious, it’s a tough time. As a Hillel community, we knew we had to try to meet the moment. 

Students from York, Ryerson and UofT gathered to brainstorm together: What did they need most right now? What did their friends, classmates, and peers need? How could we find a way to both celebrate Sukkot and care for ourselves across virtual time and space? 

What emerged was Sukkot Wellness Week, a menu of experiences that spanned the week of Sukkot, offering multiple ways to mindfully care for ourselves and each other.

First, there was a daily instagram prompt, alternating between thoughtful and silly questions about Sukkot, inviting students to think about their favourite fall comfort foods, Sukkah decorations, and what special guests they would welcome into their metaphorical (or actual) Sukkah. 

Second, we offered a different experience each day, focused on a different area of wellness.

  • Spiritual: on Tuesday, students joined me in learning Jewish texts related to the deep connections between Sukkot and wellness.
  • Mental: on Wednesday, students hosted a Wellness Wednesday check-in, a preview of what we hope will be a regular fixture in our Hillel calendar. 
  • Physical: On Thursday, a student prepared a meditation to offer us a chance to breathe and to pay attention to how we were feeling in our bodies. 
  • Emotional: On Friday, a student led trivia and other games as a way to destress from the week. Much laughter ensued.

By design, there was something for everyone. More importantly, Sukkot Wellness Week set the stage for an ongoing conversation about how we care for our full selves, and how this is deeply grounded in what it means to live Jewishly. Our work is far from over, and while Sukkot only lasts a week, it’s themes can help power us through the year ahead. 

Rabbi Ariella Rosen, Senior Jewish Educator

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