UJA program helps students become leaders
In an effort to keep Jewish student leaders involved in Jewish community life following graduation, UJA of Greater Toronto’s Community Connect launched a pilot program at the University of Western Ontario called CORE.
CORE – which stands for capacity, opportunity, return, engage – is a leadership development initiative that aims to transition Jewish student leaders into Jewish community leaders once they leave campus and enter the workforce.
The pilot program, which involves staff and students from Western Hillel and Israel on Campus (IOC), is also meant to reach out to students uninterested in or unaffiliated with organized Jewish campus life, said Western Hillel’s executive director Naomi Mazer.
“When they came to us with the idea to have Western be the pilot campus for the launch of this leadership rollout, we were very excited about that,” Mazer said.
She suspects Western was chosen as the site for the pilot because the campus is residential, meaning many students come from Toronto and live on campus.
Mazer said the strategy is to use the CORE objectives to implement a program called the Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative (CEI).
Through CEI, Hillel hires student interns with leadership skills – particularly Jewish students who are not involved in Jewish campus life – in the hope that they will connect with other Jewish students who operate beyond the Hillel bubble.
“We’re going to use CORE to focus on the needs of those engagement interns, but we’re going to open it up to other leadership students who are doing similar type of work in other clubs as well,” Mazer explained.
“As interns they’re responsible for creating 40 new relationships and having Jewish discussions and tracking the Jewish journeys of students and go through leadership development training along the way.”
Monthly sessions will be provided to any student interested in Jewish leadership, with a focus on networking and relationship building.
Stephen Shedletzky, a consultant who worked with UJA’s National Young Leadership assistant director Lior Cyngiser to help develop the program, said he would have wanted a program like this when he was a Western student.
“When I was at Western, I was involved in starting a Jewish fraternity there, Sigma Alpha Mu,” Shedletzky said.
He said it was through his involvement with the Jewish fraternity that he formed relationships with Hillel staff, including Mazer.
Although he grew up in a family that he considers more traditionally Jewish than religious, he said when he attended Western, “I really resonated with Jewish values. When I came home, I didn’t really have that outlet anymore. I had the outlet of friends and going out to Jew-dos and whatnot, but I didn’t have a meaningful outlet to get involved in community or religion.”
Once he graduated from Western’s Richard Ivey School of Business in 2009 and entered the corporate world, he said he didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment.
“So I decided to go it on my own.”
He started a business coaching organization and, soon after, connected with UJA Federation to serve as a consultant for the pilot program.
“It was so appealing because I had such a rich and meaningful experience as a Jewish leader on campus… and I saw this as such a fantastic opportunity to approach a student like me and say, ‘Hey, when you come back to Toronto and you’re looking for a way to contribute to a meaningful cause, here’s how you can develop yourself as a Jew and a leader.’”
In addition to focusing on relationship building, team dynamics is another priority.
“You operate both as an individual and as a team working together and also across other organizations… I think that’s something the Jewish community in general can benefit from,” Shedletzky said.
For more information, contact Mazer at Naomi@jewishwestern.org.