Hi everyone! My name is Kohava, and I’m in my second year of the Engineering Science program at U of T. I’m super excited to be a Hillel Student Leader this year! I love the welcoming atmosphere of Hillel and I look forward to joining in and creating events that are accessible, meaningful, and fun. In my school  and home life I sometimes feel rushed or overwhelmed, and Hillel is a great place to relax, chill, and meet new people.

As I’m writing this, my family is just finishing up constructing our Sukkah for this year. I’m already excited to share it with guests, eat outside, and spend time with my family. I really like the Jewish ritual of inviting in guests, both the spiritual Ushpizin as well as the more tangible friends and family. I also enjoy the chance to take a break from my schoolwork and spend more time outdoors.

From opening the door to Eliyahu during Passover to inviting people in during Sukkot, Judaism always encourages us to be open and welcoming to everyone. This value is clearly embodied by Hillel, where everyone is welcome, from Allen’s Table, to the classes, (I’m excited for the upcoming ones on extraordinary Jewish women!), and to just chill on the comfy chairs. 

This past week, Hillel hosted “Open Sukkah,” a multifaith lunch and learn in the Sukkah, where everyone was invited to learn about the Jewish rituals around Sukkot and the traditions of welcoming guests into a Sukkah. Of course, in typical Toronto fashion, it was cold and rainy, but, in typical Hillel fashion, the event still went great, despite happening indoors. I met new people, ate good food, and had some really interesting conversations about religion. Throughout it all, I felt at home and comfortable, even though it was a bit of a new experience. 

As Sukkot is drawing to a close, I want to encourage everyone to keep up the tradition of welcoming in guests. It doesn’t have to be in the literal sense of inviting people to your home. It could be inviting someone sitting alone to join your study group, bringing someone into a conversation if they seem confused, or simply staying open to meeting new people. As the semester is reaching its halfway point, it can be tempting to stick only with the people you know, but who knows? Maybe you’re missing out on a great friendship or experience. 

Another part of Sukkot I’m trying to carry with me into the new year is taking breaks from studying to go outside. Eating outside in a sukkah can sometimes be cold or windy, but the fresh air isn’t something I realized I’d appreciate so much. I invited a few friends over to play some board games in my Sukkah and it was really lovely. I think the outdoors is something we always take for granted, but it can be worthwhile to appreciate it, from a religious perspective and from a mental health perspective.

So even though midterm season is upon us, Sukkot tells us to go outside and take breaks. And even though the school year is well on its way, don’t forget to be welcoming and kind. Hope to see you around Hillel soon!

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