Creating Community

Written by Ari Reis, Senior Jewish Educator at Western Hillel

“Im Tirzu Ein Zo Aggadah” – “If you will it, it is not a dream”

These are the famous words of Theodore Herzl as he urged the Jewish people to rebuild our ancestral homeland into the modern State of Israel in the early part of the twentieth century. They describe a feeling that is ever-present in the Jewish experience – the feeling that we can overcome any obstacle to turn our aspirations into a reality. Here, at Western Hillel, students embody this ideal daily, as they produce innovative, thought provoking, and fun programs which appeal to a wide range of students, while remaining exceptionally focused on their academic studies.

In the past month, Western Hillel’s leaders created a variety of popular, multi-faceted educational and cultural programs, such as Holocaust Education Week, which offered riveting testimonials from Holocaust Survivor Max Eisen and Rwandan Genocide survivor Chantal Mudahogora, a fascinating lecture from University of Toronto’s Sara Kleeb about often overlooked Asian atrocities in World War II, and a daily exhibit on campus where Hillel members discussed the facts and meaning of the Holocaust with their peers. Additionally, Israel On Campus provided a captivating,interactive Dinner and Discussion session focussing on Biomedical Ethics, and a fabulous Outreach Brunch which drew leaders from all of the various cultural, academic, and social clubs on campus. Western Hillel leaders also held an immensely popular Shabbat Across Campus weekend this month which boasted 27 separate dinners throughout the city. Each Shabbat Across Campus dinner was provided with a Shabbat Box from Western Hillel, which contained new discussion booklets, table settings, Challah, candlesticks, grape juice, and all of the essential items of the traditional meal, allowing students to create Shabbat Dinners in their homes. Our group for students of Russian heritage, Jewski, held a fabulous brunch and continued to welcome new members, broadening and diversifying Western Hillel’s offerings. And all of this was done during Midterms, one of the most challenging and time consuming parts of the semester!

As the new Senior Jewish Educator at Western, it has been a joy to work alongside our students to strengthen our kehillah (community) with such amazing programs this year. Each day I am inspired by the creativity, motivation, and confidence of our students and am honored to help them to create a Jewish home away from home at Western. Like Theodore Herzl, forefather of the modern State of Israel, Western Hillel students realize that, if they will it, their hard work can and does transform their dreams into reality.

If you, or someone you know is interested in becoming involved with Western Hillel, please reach out to me at ari.reis@hillelontario.org  – we can’t wait for you to join us!