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Monday, September 1, 2014

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Hillels raise funds, awareness for Haiti

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Judy Schwartz, the director of the Jewish Student Association at McMaster University, knows why she needs to help people in Haiti.

“It is commanded of us,” she said. “From the Babylonian Talmud… ‘We sustain the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor.’”

Schwartz’s organization is one of several Canadian Hillels that have started raising funds and awareness about the recent earthquake in Haiti, which left hundreds of thousands homeless, injured or dead.

McMaster’s Jewish Student Association has started collecting donations for the country and will partner with the African Caribbean Association to raise more money.  

“The collections are starting,” Schwartz said. “We have a responsibility as humans and as Jews to do the best for the world that we can.”

The JSA would also like to plan a karaoke night at McMaster, in which students would pay to sing, with the money going to relief efforts in Haiti.  

Hillel of Greater Toronto will also be taking part in relief efforts. It’s planning a coffee house event featuring the Kol Neshama choir. Proceeds will go toward efforts in Haiti, said Joel Pearl, program associate for Hillel at York, although Pearl doesn’t yet know which charity Hillel will give the money to.

“[The event is] the number 1 thing at our table,” he said, adding that Hillel is still working out details for the event.

For Pearl, fundraising is about more than just money. It’s about awareness.

“It’s important for students to understand what’s happening,” he said. “It’s giving them an opportunity to learn and grow and understand what happens outside the bubble that is their campus and home life,” he said.

Margot Bychutsky of Hillel at York, agrees.

“You’re so far away, it’s not like you can jump on a plane and go there and help. We may not be able to rebuild houses physically. By holding events, we can help,” she said.

Hillel at the University of Ottawa took part in a coffee house event held at Carleton University last Thursday. The coffee house, which included musical performances, was organized by the Carleton’s International Student Centre to raise money for Haiti relief.

It raised about $500 for the Red Cross, which will be matched by the Carleton University Student Association.

For Jennifer Hadad, student president for Hillel at U of O, fundraising efforts are a way to unite students in Ottawa.

“It’s something that all student clubs are coming together to support,” she said. “It shows that… we’re all on this Earth together and we can have sympathy for [people in need] even though they’re so far away.”

Students can donate to UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Haiti relief fund through Hillel of Greater Toronto’s website at www.hilleltoronto.org.

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