Rachel Benezrah, Outgoing Student Board President

As I near the end of my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I find myself reflecting on the past four years, and how I got to where I am today. I look back on who and what played a role in my life, and in what way my Jewish Identity was affected during this time as well. Of course, my friends and family were an integral part of my support system from day one, as I was one of few who transitioned from CHAT to the University of Toronto. They reassured me that I would find my niche on campus, and still feel connected in some way if I just searched a little harder; and I did just that. The moment I walked into Hillel UofT I found the community, and the support that I needed to get me through university. Being a Jewish student at UofT is challenging, and not for any apparent reason. It is challenging because UofT is a large commuter school, so all the students are dispersed over numerous faculties and geographic locations, You can imagine that the Jewish students are even more so. Hillel, acting as my Jewish hub on campus, made all the difference. The Wolfond Centre soon became my stress-free study space, the provider of the cheapest Kosher meal in the city, and the place to just enjoy the company of a diverse group of Jewish students.

At first, Hillel only acted as my social life. It was where I met and hung out with the my Jewish friends at UofT, it was the mid-day snack and holiday party scene, and it was a place where I was able to fully experience student-run Shabbat dinners. However, as I transitioned into my final few years of university, Hillel began to play a much larger role in my personal and professional development; it exposed me to many leadership opportunities that moulded me into the person I am today. Having had the opportunity to engage others in Jewish student life by being a member of the executive board, and then this year being elected as a Hillel President of the board, Hillel jump started my passion and drive to be involved within the Jewish community at large. The relationships that I made with many of the Hillel professionals and members of Federation, were priceless, and exposed me to a much larger Jewish network outside of campus. I am excited to say that my active involvement within the Jewish in the community will definitely not end with graduation, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is attributed to Hillel UofT. Although I am very sad to leave the organization that I’ve seen grow from the ground up by incredible leadership, and professional collaboration, I am optimistic for what the future of Hillel UofT will hold.