There Is No Hillel Without Israel

by | Sep 2, 2017 | Hillel Ontario, Israel | 0 comments

Visits to Israel, fluency in Hebrew, and historical knowledge of the land and people provide Hillel professionals with the ability to help strengthen a students’ relationship and connection with Israel. To forge and to sustain a durable, meaningful, long lasting relationship with the Jewish-democratic state, Israel must become real and vivid in the lives of our students, and no longer remain a mere distant concept. The one key element that is most important to our Israel education framework is the ability to convey what it’s like to live in modern, today’s Israel. Having Israelis as part of our professional team enables Hillel Ontario to provide students with an authentic and omnipresent view of contemporary Israel. We do this through the Israel Fellows (campus Shlichim) program of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and their Shinshinim program in partnership with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

In its strategic plan, Hillel Ontario reaffirms the role that Israel plays as part of its organizational mission, vision and strategic priorities, with Israel and Israel engagement a central tenant to students’ Jewish experience on campus, by helping students form a connection to the land, people and nation of Israel in three distinct ways: People-to- People, Immersive Experiences, and  providing relevant Israel Content and Education.

Over the past several years, Hillel Ontario through its partnership with Hillel International, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto have been able to increase the number of campus Shlichim from 1 professional working on 3 university campuses to 7 full- and part-time professionals working across 7 university campuses. This speaks to the success of this initiative whereby students can meet, interact with, and build real relationships with Israelis, have conversations and dialogue about social issues and their impact on their Jewish identity as Jews living abroad, all at the same time having the opportunity to visit and spend time in Israel getting to know the land, people, and culture in an immersive way. With their charismatic presence and engagement skills, the Israel Fellows and Shinshinim have become a focal point for students on campuses across the province, enabling a unique and meaningful insider’s perspective into the everyday life choices and dilemmas of young vibrant Israelis who are pre- and post-army service. Hillel Ontario’s team of Shlichim have built and sustained over 1000 relationships with students, have run hundreds of Israel programming on campus, and have helped hundreds of students go to Israel. Through their amazing work, they are helping forge the relationship that students have with Israel.

We are proud of our partnerships with Hillel International, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. The role these partnerships play, and the resources and support they provide, significantly impacts our ability to engage with students about Israel in a meaningful way on 9 University Campuses across the province.

There are currently more than 90 Shlichim serving under the Israel Fellows program, on more than 100 campuses across North and South America, Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Lior Cyngiser is the Vice President of Israel Engagement & Education for Hillel Ontario
Mijal Ben Dori is the Canadian Regional Director of the Jewish Agency for Israel

Something New

Something New

The fall post-holiday period is always a good time for launching new things. To the extent we’re not completely exhausted, our five-day work weeks are back (instead of five days of work crammed into three-day weeks), and we’re able to get into something of a rhythm and build momentum in moving toward specific goals.

Adding to the sense of newness and adventure, the third post-holidays Torah portion of Lekh Lekha, which was read this past Shabbat, begins with Abraham receiving divine instructions to leave his home and begin a journey to a new land.  Commentators highlight the uncertainty inherent in the command’s wording: instead of being directed to a specific place, Abraham, at least initially, is told to go “to the land that I will show you,” a vague and undisclosed destination. While he is promised blessings galore for his obedience, setting out requires an element of faith and quite a bit of trust as he leaves his home land and father’s house for somewhere new.

While it’s certainly several orders of magnitude smaller than the journey Abraham undertook, Hillel Ontario is trying something new this week: we’re introducing a new section to our regular newsletters and will be including a d’var Torah to showcase our students’ and staff’s skills and present our readers with a bit of Jewish learning. We hope you’ll find these commentaries inspiring and meaningful and that they’ll provide a glimpse of the Hillel Ontario community that spans our nine campuses.

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

Dear students, parents, supporters, and other members of the Ontario Jewish community,

We are writing to you as the Hillel presidents representing nine universities across Ontario. 

We are often asked what it’s like to be a Jewish student on campus. And, in previous years, we would have taken a more upbeat approach to answering that question. The truth is that things have changed over the past 5 months.

Prior to this spring’s war in Israel, we had never experienced the level of vitriol and backlash that we did recently. We were caught off guard. Many Jewish students lost friendships and severed connections that had been created over many years. Our mental health was stretched to the limit; we have felt burnt out, isolated and anxious.  Even now, with autumn upon us, we are still feeling the exhausting effects of a summer spent advocating for the well-being of our fellow Jewish students. 

Walking back onto campus this week, it was difficult to see some students obviously (and understandably) anxious – both because of the pandemic, and because of the antisemitism Jewish students have experienced over the past several months. At the same time, we also feel more empowered than ever to proclaim pride in our Jewish identity, bolstered by the tremendous support we have felt from across the community.  

Whether you are a first year student, a parent, a sibling, an alum, or simply a member of the community concerned about what seems like an endless barrage of attacks aimed at Jewish students on campus, we want to assure you that as Hillel presidents, we are deeply committed to our roles and responsibilities. We hear your concerns. And, we are proud to serve the current and future Jewish students we support.  

We are working to build relationships with student governments, clubs, interfaith groups, faculty, and administrators on each of our campuses. We continue to empower our peers to learn, to educate, and to advocate for the issues close to our hearts. And, we continue to provide a safe and welcoming community for Jewish students, both on and off campus. 

We also seek to increase resources and staff available to our students so that no one feels unsupported or ill-prepared. We want Jewish students to feel like they can be their entire selves without having to hide a Magen David or avoid conversations about Judaism, Zionism or Israel. 

As we move into a new Jewish year and a new school year, we wish we could say with more certainty exactly what is to come in the next few months. However, it would be naive to do so. Instead, we would like to take this opportunity to commit to you that we will continue to have challenging, but necessary, dialogue with allies across campus. We will continue to support our peers when they feel uncomfortable. And, we will continue to ask for help when we need it. 

Time and time again, our collective history has proven that in a proud, empowered, and united community there is strength, and that from one another we can draw resilience. 

L’shana Haba on quieter, more inclusive campuses. 

Ariel Oren, Guelph Hillel
Evan Kanter, Hillel Student Leader Representative, Hillel UofT
Nathaniel Katz, Queen’s Hillel
Shira Miller, Hillel Laurier
Danielle Lebowitz, Hillel Waterloo
Hannah Silverman, McMaster Hillel
Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson
Isabel Borisov, Western Hillel
Nicole Bodenstein, York Hillel

X