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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Hillel’s new chair anticipates ‘year of transition’

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Shelly Feld

Hillel of Greater Toronto’s incoming chair of the board of directors said he’s looking forward to an academic year filled with changes, challenges and transition.

“We see this year as a year of transition, both in light of our leadership changes, our structural changes and our increasing emphasis on peer-to-peer engagement. With all those challenges ahead of us, it’s a year I’m looking forward to,” said Shelly Feld, who officially replaces the outgoing chair of the board, Lindy Goodman, during Hillel’s May 16 annual general meeting.

Feld, a lawyer for the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada, began volunteering with Hillel in 2006 and has since served as the board’s vice-chair and strategic planning committee’s chair.

But his dedication to promoting the benefits of Jewish campus life dates back to the 1980s, when he served as president of the Coalition of Western Jewish Students at the University of Western Ontario and as the Jewish University Student Network’s central region vice-president.

“I’ve always been inspired and I’ve always recognized the importance of the student experience within the Jewish community. I cherish my own experiences as a Jewish student activist both at the high school and university level,” said Feld, who recently participated in UJA of Greater Toronto’s Joshua Institute for Jewish Communal Leadership program.

“The university campus is one of the last frontiers for us to connect with young Jewish individuals to bring them on board their own personal Jewish journey and ensure that they are engaged and make an enduring commitment to the community as they mature.”

Feld said one of his responsibilities as the new chair will be to focus on helping the student organization adapt to some structural changes that will take place this year.

For example, there are plans to create a new position, an executive director who will oversee all the Hillels throughout Ontario.

“We expect and hope this will result in greater synergy between other campuses around Ontario. Our view is that the campuses in Toronto are somewhat distinct in that they are commuter campuses with a very diverse Jewish student body with representation from smaller communities, such as Israeli and Russian students, who are certainly present in greater numbers in Toronto.”

Another big change facing Hillel Toronto is the expected departure of Zac Kaye, the executive director since 1995, who plans to retire at the end of the next academic year.

Despite all the upcoming changes, Feld said he’s confident in his 24-member board and the five-year strategic plan they adopted last year.  

Feld explained that Hillel’s focus has evolved to accommodate new communication trends, such as Twitter and Facebook, and now creates programming that emphasizes “direct, peer-to-peer engagement.”

“We’ve identified in our strategic plan, four particular objectives. Our first objective is to connect with a greater number of students, to engage with them in a more meaningful way to truly cultivate their experience and foster more diverse and meaningful Jewish experiences, and to truly elevate their experience and empower them to take a more active role in the community,” Feld said.

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