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.