The Foundation for
Jewish Campus Life

Humans of Hillel


Formal Jewish Education: The First Step on My Journey to Working at Hillel

Toronto, ON | 2015

Elise_Loterman.This article was originally published on February 26th in the Canadian Jewish News’ section on the value of Formal Jewish Education

My journey with Jewish day school education began as a two year old at the Jewish Community Centre, continued at Associated Hebrew Schools, and culminated with four years at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (CHAT).

It’s true that my Jewish education did not conclude the day I graduated from CHAT, however it was definitely those formative years that turned me onto Jewish studies, taught me how to speak Hebrew (almost) fluently, and gave me the opportunity to learn time management and organizational skills that have been crucial in my personal and professional development.

Growing up in a traditional Jewish family, we celebrated Shabbat, were conscientious of kashrut, and had large family holiday celebrations.

What Jewish day school provided me was the opportunity to dig deeper and the opportunity to ask why. [I learned] not to accept our performance of Jewish customs and rituals “just because,” but to learn the historical significance and the Jewish legal reasoning behind the action.

Upon completing high school, I proceeded to do an undergraduate degree double majoring in psychology and religious, and a master’s degree focusing on Jewish studies.

When beginning the job search, working in the Jewish community seemed like the most natural step. I had constantly been in awe of my Jewish studies teachers and rabbis and the amount of knowledge they were able to impart in me as my mind developed and grew. I wanted to have the opportunity to be that teacher, mentor, and role model.

This led me to embark on a career with Hillel. There is rarely a week that goes by that a student or colleague does not ask me a question about an upcoming Jewish holiday, Shabbat practice, or fast day. My Jewish day school education provided the foundation to begin a meaningful and relevant career where I can confidently answer those questions. It provided me with the knowledge and interest to continue my Jewish learning and growth as an adult and helped me land a career where I am excited to go to work every day and share this wisdom with those around me. 

Elise Loterman is the Director of Engagement at Hillel of Greater Toronto. Her favourite part of her job (other than teaching) is the ability to lead trips to various destinations around the world.