Thank You Western Hillel

by | Mar 27, 2020 | Jewish Life at Western | 0 comments

Since I first arrived at Western as a nervous and excited first year student, I was in awe of what Hillel was able to do for Jewish students on campus. From the welcome back barbecue, to the wide array of speakers brought in throughout the year, I felt that Hillel did a great job at engaging Jewish students. I was eager to get involved with Hillel, applied for a position as a first year executive, and the following year, applied for VP Jewish life. During those two years, I saw the great potential this organization had for programming, education, and engagement, and did my best to share Hillel’s mission with as many of my peers as possible. However it wasn’t until last March when I was elected president that I was able to truly see the incredible impact Hillel has on Western’s students.

Looking back on this year, I am blown away by what our organization has been able to achieve in the seemingly short time since September. We began our year with a strong focus on easing the first years’ transition into university life. After move-in day, dedicated student leaders showed up in every residence hall with packages containing food, drinks, and other items to help the first year students get settled. First semester passed in a whirlwind of new Hillel programming, including our group workout classes (Shvitz with Hillel), our monthly challah bakes and sales whose proceeds went to supporting the London Jewish community, (Bake a Change), and many brand new Holiday-focused programs that brought the comfort of the high holidays at home to London, Ontario. One event highlight was our first ever Hillel coffee house where students had the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of an audience. Our Shabbat across London—where students had the opportunity to host others at their home for Shabbat dinner—was also a huge success, thanks to the hard work of our student leaders. Second semester brought with it lots of interesting programs, including a full Holocaust education week featuring a live testimony from a Holocaust survivor in front of over 200 students. I was, and still am, so impressed with the effort the Hillel leadership has put into the programming this year, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things they will continue to achieve in the future!

I am so grateful to the rest of the Hillel executive team as well as the staff, who sat through countless meetings to ensure that we succeeded in our mission of supporting every Jewish student at Western. I hope that over this year I was able to leave my mark on Hillel, and that each person who attended any of our events or participated in our programs left feeling that there were people on campus looking out for them. My goal this year was to share Hillel’s message with as many people as possible. I wanted the rest of the students to benefit as much from what Hillel has to offer as I have over my three years at Western. I hope that in the future, Hillel continues to expand its reach to more and more students, and can bring that feeling of comfort and belonging to the entire Western Jewish community.

Written by: Natalie Urbach

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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