My Hillel story begins in the late summer of 2010. I was moving to London, Ontario from Toronto to enter my first year at Western University. I had a strong Jewish upbringing from my 12 years of Jewish schooling, 6 years at a predominantly Jewish camp and countless years of involvement in my synagogue, wherein my great-grandfather, grandfather and uncles were founding members. At the time, I thought my Jewish identity – which was strongly based on my profound love of Judaism and the State of Israel – was complete and unlikely of developing even further.
Notwithstanding, I was encouraged by some older friends to join Hillel and become involved on the executive council as the co-vice president of first year students. Fast forward to 3 years later, and now I am Western Hillel’s incoming president for the 2013-2014 school year.
Last year, as Hillel’s vice president of Jewish life, I was given the opportunity with others to plan and carry out one of the most successful Holocaust Education Week programs at my university. Holocaust education and remembrance happens to be a cause very close to my heart, largely because 3 of my 4 grandparents are survivors with remarkable stories of fortitude and heroism. Without Hillel’s backing and encouragement, I would never have had the opportunity to pay tribute to my grandparents while also educating Western’s student population about the Holocaust and its lasting impact.
Through my last 3 years sitting on both Hillel’s executive council and general board, I’ve come to realize that I am involved in something bigger than myself. A movement, some may call it, of like-minded Jewish students advocating for a goal.
What is that goal, you may ask?
Well, everyone who becomes involved does so with different goals in mind. In my experience with Hillel, as each school year progresses, what once was my goal soon became other Hillel members’, just as I’ve taken on other students’ passions as if they were initially my own.
That is the beauty of Hillel.
Perhaps one student may be looking to increase his or her ties with the Jewish community on campus. Maybe someone else is looking for the means to fundraise for a cause he or she feels very passionate about. Nevertheless, it is the diversity of every Hillel student’s values, interests and aspirations that renders Hillel as a platform for visionaries to transform their imagination into reality.
Above all, Hillel has only further motivated me to continue advocating for the Jewish community and Israel – on and off campus. And the best part is: I’m just one of thousands who Hillel has inspired so deeply.
Jessi Pollock is the student president of Western Hillel at the University of Western Ontario.