Written by Rob Nagus, Director of Hillel UofT
When Friday February 9th rolled around this year, a simultaneous sense of calm and excitement filled the area around the Wolfond Centre at the UofT campus. The sun was making its descent in the sky, the smell of delicious kosher food filled the building, and students were getting ready to bring in Shabbat with their friends and peers from across campus. Here at UofT, we have a diverse Jewish student body, and to reflect that, we were providing different ways to welcome Shabbat. While a beautiful Orthodox service was being led by students in the Spiritual Room on the 2nd floor, a student led discussion on prayer, tradition, and spirituality was happening on the main floor in the “living room.” By 7pm, it was time to eat and over 70 students joined us for a delicious Shabbat meal filled with song, spirit, and community. When the meal was over, many students chose to stay in the building as we kept it open until midnight so students could hang out, play board games, and relax. Students who do not live downtown were hosted by others, ranging from fellow students to faculty who live nearby. The next morning, many students chose to attend services at different synagogues around town based on their affiliation, level of comfort, and a list we provided them of nearby prayer options. Some of the local congregations were genuinely excited to see some new, young faces on Shabbat and personally reached out to thank us, notably the Keiver Synagogue and the First Narayever Congregation. At 1pm we all met back at the Wolfond Centre for a delicious Kiddush lunch. After the meal, many students chose to head to the nearby Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as a Shabbat activity, while others stayed behind at Wolfond to relax and play games. Later in the afternoon, we had a student led discussion on Jewish values and ethics, and how Jewish law and Rabbinical commentary can frame our understanding of the 21st century world. A quick Seudah Shlishit (3rd meal) was followed by a beautiful Havdallah service, once again led by our amazing students. The whole weekend was planned by some our impressive student leaders and was an offshoot of Hillel UofT’s leadership platform, the Jewish Social Entrepreneurs. Overall, it was a great two days filled with meaning, friendship, reflection, and community. We can’t wait for next year’s 3rd Annual Shabbaton.