Hillel offers students many opportunities to get involved, including a weekend conference called Shabbat Shabang. When I first heard of it, I didn’t really know what to expect since I had never participated in such a program. During this three-day trip, we were surrounded by welcoming attitudes, warm hospitality and a friendly atmosphere. I want to share some of the many memorable events I experienced during my trip.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the interfaith Shabbat dinner called Avi Shabbat. There was good food, nice decoration and, most importantly, people of different religions. We were able to talk, become close and get to know people from different religious backgrounds. On the university campus, I generally try to avoid religious topics with other groups to avoid discomfort or potentially offending someone. Avi Shabbat, on the other hand, was a perfect opportunity to speak freely with people from other religions about their traditions, feelings, opinions and so much more. It was amazing to be able to share Shabbat with other religious people and it made me much more aware and open-minded.
There were a couple of presentations over the course of the three days, but one stood out in my eyes and left me thinking long after I had returned from the trip. The speaker, Allyson Grant from Toronto, who represented CIJA, gave a presentation on Israel advocacy. Not only did Allyson talk about current issues and challenges facing advocates of Israel, but she also spoke about many resources that could enrich our knowledge in this field. After her presentation, Allyson stayed to answer many of our questions and provided very detailed responses.
Other programs – like the Israel mock trial, the Tu B’shevat Seder, and multiple Jewish leadership programs – were also interesting and memorable. What they all shared in common was the fact that the facilitators asked for all of our opinions on every topic. This made me feel like my opinion was valued and respected even when it clashed with the opinions of others.
These programs couldn’t have been so amazing if not for the people involved. We had a very diverse group in terms of age, background and religious views. These differences made the smallest of questions lead to interesting discussions of bigger ideas. If I had to choose only one important thing this experience taught me, it would be to stay open-minded in order to see different angles of the same picture. I enjoyed this trip. I am thankful to University of Winnipeg Hillel Director Ian Brojges for inviting me to participate and to the leadership of Hillel Winnipeg, Hillel Calgary and Hillel Edmonton for a wonderfully planned event.
I came for a good time and I returned feeling like part of a big community. I will be sure to look out for future programs offered by Hillel and so should you!