Despite the sub-zero temperatures Ottawa is accustomed to at this time of year, January marks a really exciting, beautiful, transformative occasion for students. It is the beginning of a new (secular) calendar year, ripe with possibilities for new opportunities and beginnings. As we come back from our winter vacations, we are given the chance to reflect on the past year and search for ways to better ourselves. The improvements we strive for – commonly referred to as “new year’s resolutions – allow us to decide on some small (or large) changes aimed at improving our health, happiness and overall wellbeing.
I would like to imagine that, should I ask a large group of Jewish university students about their new year’s resolutions and how well those resolutions are being maintained, I would be confident that their most important resolutions would be for greater Jewish campus life involvement. Luckily for all of us students, Ottawa’s Jewish student life is into another bustling semester!
Both the Chabad Student Network (CSN) and Hillel Ottawa have a great deal planned for the duration of the school year. CSN will be hosting many Shabbat dinners, inviting Jewish students of all religious backgrounds to enjoy a beautiful home-cooked meal in the warmest and most inviting atmosphere (and, of course, free of charge).
On Saturday, February 6, CSN will host its annual bar and bat mitzvah gala for students who have not yet had a bar or bat mitzvah. And, on Friday, February 26, CSN will host its annual “Shabbat 200” Shabbat dinner with Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michael Moldaver as the keynote speaker.
CSN will also host a large Shabbaton in March for students from university campuses across Canada. This Shabbaton promises to be a beautiful and unifying experience and will hopefully offer strength to students from university campuses currently facing heightened levels of anti-Semitism.
Hillel Ottawa also plans for an exciting semester offering many events for students. Hillel will also continue to host free Shabbat dinners for students, including one featuring David Segal of DAVIDsTEA as keynote speaker.
Hillel Ottawa will be taking part in Carleton University’s cultural fair, featuring Israeli food and culture, so be sure to stop by and show your love! There will be a “Painting for Peace” night in collaboration with other religious clubs on campus where an artist will lead a painting event with a peace theme. As well, the Israel Awareness Committee will host its annual Canadian wine and Israeli cheese event.
Recent months have proven to be an especially trying time for Jewish people with Israel being in the news almost daily with reports of terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. In such difficult times, Jews of all religious backgrounds look to one another for support and unity. Here on Ottawa’s university campuses, we are fortunate there has been minimal anti-Semitic rhetoric or behaviour. However, some of the other Canadian campuses have not been as lucky. But increasing numbers of Jewish students on all campuses are becoming involved in Jewish student life as the unity they find with other students offers a lasting, necessary pillar of strength.
It is so important that Ottawa’s Jewish student community continues to strengthen and grow: to maintain peaceful campuses, and to offer our strength and support to our friends and peers at our other Canadian schools.
I wish everyone a wonderful, peaceful new year filled with health, happiness, and good decisions!