Jewish students about to start university have many options for incorporating Judaism into their lives in the form of social events, politics, Israel advocacy or culture.
Although groups sponsoring such programs vary from campus to campus, there are a few that can be found at most major universities in Ontario.
Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization in the world, has local chapters at all major universities around the province. Although each has its own leadership, they share the goal of facilitating Jewish campus life.
“Hillel is the centre for Jewish culture, education and social life and religious resources on campus,” said Jeff Greenberg, who is about to start his first year as director at Hillel Waterloo, which works with students at several universities and colleges in the region.
He stressed that the group is open to Jews from all backgrounds, and even people who aren’t Jewish but are “Jewcurious.”
“We’re open to anybody… who wants to learn about Jewish culture and Israel, Jewish learning and Jewish values, and just spending time with good Jewish people,” he said.
Chabad is another major player on most campuses around the province, and far beyond. This outreach group often works with other Jewish campus organizations such as Hillel to run programs for Jewish students.
However, much of its programming is more rooted in aspects of religion.
“We’re pretty much there for anybody’s personal needs, any student that needs any type of help,” said Rabbi Mordechai Silberberg, who is about to start his 15th year running Chabad with his wife, Nechamie, at Western University in London, Ont.
He said his group is probably best known for its weekly Shabbat dinners, which can attract a couple of hundred students on any given week.
However, the group also runs educational programs and occasional trips. He said there are also social events every so often.
For male students, a fraternity such as Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) is another option. Members of Canada’s largest fraternity can participate in social events and philanthropy, as well as Israel advocacy and Jewish events.
“[Through AEPi], I became a stronger leader,” said Michael Waitz, director of the fraternity’s centennial development, who joined AEPi as a student at DePaul University in Chicago.
He said AEPi, which is marking its 100th anniversary this year, was instrumental in introducing him to fellow Jewish students, including many who became his best friends. As with the other groups, AEPi also collaborates with other Jewish organizations to maximize its reach.
So for Jewish students heading off to campus for the first time, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of ways to get involved in Jewish life on campus.