Dear Hillel UofT community,

I write today to share some big news. I will be transitioning out of my role serving Hillel UofT as your Senior Jewish Educator and Campus Rabbi at the end of May.

The rabbis of the Talmud taught that one shouldn’t take leave of one’s friend without a parting word of Torah. I offer this:

In one of my favorite teachings about Passover, the Sefat Emet teaches that our essential selves, our highest most authentic selves, should be compared to matzah: simple, honest, unadorned. During the year, we get poofed up, complicated, adulterated. The process of cleaning for Passover, of switching to matzah, is also the process of clearing out all the shmutz that got stuck to us over the last year, getting back to our simple, most authentic selves.

I think a lot of us are feeling this right now: without going to work or school, without social engagements or new purchases, without the ability to be “productive” or conventionally successful, we are left with our most basic selves. We reflect on who we are in our quietest moments.

In these quiet moments, I feel so lucky to have served UofT Hillel these last four years and to have helped transform this Hillel campus into what it is today. As I look forward to my next steps, I am also excited to return to some of the services that I feel called to in our community: the baby namings and weddings, the service-leading and end-of-life care, and helping Jewish communities reimagine themselves for the 21st century.

I have loved being your rabbi—laughing with you and crying with you, teaching you and learning from you. Thank you for trusting me and giving me the benefit of the doubt, and I hope I’ve done the same for you.

To my fellow staff over these years – Shira, Rob, Ariel, Einav, and Aaron – I offer my deepest thanks for being partners in this work, for your support and good humour, for your creativity and generosity.

I’m not leaving Toronto, so don’t be a stranger. You can still reach me at rabbijulia@hillelontario.org through May 22 and you can find me on Facebook thereafter at facebook.com/rjulia.appel. I hope to learn together again soon, and stay tuned as I roll out my next project!

Wishing you all a chag sameach, a joyful rest of Passover full of reflection, connection across distance, and embracing our most authentic selves.

Many blessings,
Rabbi Julia


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