Welcome (back) to YOUR Hillel

by | Aug 29, 2019 | Jewish Life at Western | 0 comments

Written by: Scott Goldstein- Western Director 

As I sit in the Western Hillel offices here on Richmond St, I can’t help but notice how calm and quiet everything around me is. There seems to be only a few cars on the street, campus has an eerie deserted atmosphere, and the lack of student voices flowing up the stairs from the common areas at the Hillel House is noticeable. I see it as the ‘calm before the storm’ that occurs at the beginning of each academic year.

The storm I am referring to includes the chaos of move-in days, OWeek activities, and the bustle of going from class to class. I am also referring to the hard work put in by the amazing student leaders of Hillel towards creating fun, relevant, and meaningful experiences for new and returning Jewish students on campus. Experiences like our Welcome Back Block Party (complete with DJ, food, and fun surprises) or our First year Pizza & Chill where new students get to meet each-other. Expect a return of some of our classics like Lunch On Us, Cafe Ivrit, and holiday events but also keep an eye out for new programs such as Bake A Change, Torah On Tap, and even events for students of Russian speaking heritage (Brewskis & Jewskis, Syrniki in the Sukkah).

One of the things that stands out for me most is how excited everyone I speak with is for the year to begin. I had the opportunity to connect with some students during the summer months to catch up and even plan events. The excitement shared by students just like you is inspiring to me and I am sure will contribute to an amazing year of Jewish campus life. School is really important (probably most important for many) but know that you have so many opportunities to connect with your community academically and socially. Take advantage of your university experience – dedicate time towards yourself and what makes you happy. The diversity of what Hillel offers and your ability to provide feedback that directly impacts what we do is unique. Imagine a bespoke Jewish campus life experience tailored to you!

Speaking of experiences tailored to you, remember when I mentioned “fun, relevant, and meaningful”? We need to know what all those things mean to YOU! We are lucky to have a new staff team member at Western Hillel who really wants to get to know you – Renee Berkowitz. Renee is our new Springboard Innovation Fellow (a.k.a your new best friend) and she is very eager to learn everything there is to know about you and your campus experience. Renee wants to make sure that she learns what you want to experience during your time at Western and hopefully make it happen! All you need to do is reach out to Renee or anyone else on our team (LeoraYos, or yours truly), grab a coffee, and chat.

Stay connected with us through the traditional means of communication (facebookinstagram etc.) but make sure to check out our new website – redesigned with you in mind! Staying connected means you won’t miss any of the offerings available to you throughout the year.

L’hitraot – see you soon!

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