Hillel Ottawa has been having a record year in its mission to enrich the lives of Jewish students in Ottawa with an overwhelming increase in engagement and political activism.
Shabbat dinners have transformed from 30 students packed into the Hillel House, to exceeding maximum capacities at larger venues with an average of 120 students attending each of our last four Shabbat dinners.
Here are some stats to help paint the picture: to date, over 700 unique students have attended at least one Hillel event, and over 140 students have attended six or more events. On average, Hillel hosts three events a week coupled with ongoing one-to-one coffee dates and learning programs.
Hillel’s major events, including the Israeli Wine & Canadian Cheese tasting and the Chanukah Ball, have brought hundreds of students together to celebrate shared values and Jewish holidays.
In addition, Hillel’s student executive board has grown to 16 members, and there is a true sense of ownership and leadership amongst our Hillel leaders.
These positive events all took place despite intense adversity on the University of Ottawa campus for pro-Israel and Jewish students. In the fall, there was an attempt by the Students’ Federation to de-ratify our campus clubs. This was followed by three votes to support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Against all odds, our students, with the support of Hillel, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, (CIJA), the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and other partners mobilized, and unified under a common goal. The students were successful in reinstating their club, and defeating all three BDS votes.
While the actions of the Students’ Federation have indeed damaged the atmosphere on campus, we were heartened by the statement made by the University of Ottawa’s President Jacques Fremont, who strongly denounced BDS and explained such divisiveness had no place on campus. For Hillel, our goal is to encourage honest debate on how to reach a peaceful two-state solution. We stand against the BDS movement, whose leaders and members, (five of whom are on Canada’s terrorist watch list) don’t support peace, but instead openly state they are striving for the eradication of Israel.
With all this our community should feel proud. The end results of the barrage of BDS votes, coupled with the increased engagement on campus, have fostered a renewed sense Jewish identity on campus that is stronger, more unified, and prouder than ever before.
To maintain this kehillah, we need help. The increase in engagement, the size of Shabbat dinners, and the rise of political issues on campus, have stretched Hillel’s resources. As a community we need to look to our students as future leaders. Please join us in empowering and investing in them.
To make a gift to Hillel Ottawa, visit www.hillelottawa.ca