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Former University of Manitoba Hillel student president becomes new Hillel coordinator

By MYRON LOVE Raya Margulets is the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s newest staff member.  The Israeli-born Margulets – who arrived in Canada with her family in 2009 when she was ten – has been appointed the new Hillel Co-ordinator on campus – a perfect fit since it was only last year that the University of Manitoba  Science student was Hillel student president at the University of Manitoba.

After being enveloped in Jewish culture and Jewish community while a student at Gray Academy, Margulets recalls that she felt a real sense of  culture shock going to university.  In order to help adapt to her new surroundings, she says, she sought out Hillel on campus and began volunteering.

“I met a lot of fellow students and made many new friends through Hillel,” she notes.

While Covid restrictions naturally impacted in-person Hillel programs, Margulets reports, she participated in a series of Zoom sessions through the university Jewish student organization with fellow students from Tel Aviv University and other universities.  “We discussed a variety of contemporary topics,” she says.

With the world being largely back to normal, she notes that Hillel in-person programming is back on.  “We are planning a Chanukah-lighting party along with other programs – some in co-operation with the Israel advocacy group Students Supporting Israel,” she reports.

“We are also looking forward to bringing back Shabbat Unplugged.”

The first Shabbat Unplugged was organized by Gray Academy teachers Sheppy Coodin and Avi Posen in 2016, building on the Shabbatons that Gray Academy has been organizing for the school’s high school students for many years.The inaugural Shabbat Unplugged was so successful that Coodin and Posen did it again in 2017 and took things one step further by combining their Shabbat Unplugged with Hillel’s annual Shabbat Shabang Shabbaton, which brings together Jewish university students from Winnipeg and other Jewish university students from Western Canada.

The Shabbaton – open to students ranging in age from from 18 to 25 – exposes students to a variety of new Jewish, Zionist, and political ideas, while engendering a sense of camaraderie, and presents opportunities to meet new friends . 

While Posen made aliyah three years ago, Coodin is  on-board for  the return of Shabbat Unplugged – scheduled for March 24-26.  Margulets suggests that as many as 100 students may attend – including perhaps some from other Western Canadian universities.

She reports that Hillel has about 60 University of Manitoba students on their roster of potential participants. 

“We are also hoping to revive Hillel programming at the University of Winnipeg,” she says.  “We are aware of 20 to 30 U of W students who have expressed interest in becoming involved with Hillel.”

Readers who may be interested in upcoming Hillel activities can contact Raya at rmargulets@jewishwinnipeg.org. .

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