My Jewish Home Away from Home
I don’t often advertise my Jewish heritage, but I feel the need to express how one organization–Hillel BC–has made my university life more vibrant and welcoming.
Coming from Taiwan, with a Jewish population of only 200 people, it felt great to meet more people that shared similar customs and traditions. The Hillel House in Victoria (5-minute walk from UVic’s campus) and the UVSS Jewish Student Association (JSA) club runs programs such as monthly Shabbat dinners, Tuesday hot lunches, movie nights, and Jews & Brews.
When I first came to UVic, I signed up for their newsletter at the Clubs Day fair, and stayed actively involved as a volunteer. I even lived in the Hillel House for one year, and helped prep for programs. What I love about Hillel is that they welcome all youth to participate in their programs, so you don’t have to be Jewish!
According to their website, Hillel BC promotes Jewish life on campus and beyond, providing a warm welcoming environment for students, as well as non-students, between the ages of 18 to 30. I was able to explore my Jewish identity and relationship to Israel within a safe, pluralistic and inclusive community. It was through Hillel UVic that I found out about Birthright, and journeyed on a life-changing 10-day free trip to Israel. The first year away from my home in Taiwan was hard, because I didn’t know what to do for the Jewish holidays, but since joining Hillel, I’ve never celebrated any holiday alone.
This past Friday, I attended my very last Hillel – UVic hosted Shabbat dinner. It was wonderful to see old and new faces, and I was amazed at how much Hillel has grown and thrived in the past two years. Like many clubs, Hillel suffered a slight downtown in 2013 when our committed board members all graduated. But thanks to Carmel Tanaka, the current UVic Hillel Director who started in 2014, the club has rebuilt its strong foundation.
After two years of directing, Carmel is ready to move on to her world travel journeys, and I will definitely miss her. We are all confident JSA and UVic Hillel will continue its strong programming, and continue to build its membership to all youth on campus and in the community.
The one thing I can say about being Jewish in Victoria is that I felt there was a strong community and I was happy to be a part of it. It is and forever will be my first Jewish home away from home in Canada. It can always be intimidating and sometimes lonely when you are in a new city and environment, so make sure to find what resonates with you, and seek out a community that you can feel at home in.