Jay Solomon

2021: A homecoming


2020 was a year for the history books all around.  

It goes without saying that the global COVID-19 pandemic transformed the world in countless ways. Some known already; some that will not be fully understood for years to come. 

In addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic — and there have been many — the COVID world has also created new opportunities. 

This is true generally but is also personally true for yours truly. 

2020 was a year of transition for me. I had an increased opportunity to spend oodles of invaluable time with my three young children in a way that parents of generations past could have only dreamed. I supported my wife in launching her new business venture. And, I made a career move, in search of a new opportunity. 

A Jewish community professional, I’ve spent more than a decade working on behalf of Canadian Jewry.  And, in the midst of the profoundly challenging and uncertain times created by COVID-19, I am evolving. 

Just this week, I joined Hillel Ontario as its inaugural Vice President of Public Affairs.

In many ways, this career move feels like a homecoming for me. As a university student (now, more years ago than I care to admit), I was involved with Hillel, and eventually served on its Board of Directors in the mid-2000s.

Today, representing approximately 14,000 Jewish students on nine universities throughout the province, Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the world. Under the thoughtful leadership of my mentor and long-time friend, Marc Newburgh, Hillel Ontario’s dedicated professionals — many of whom I’ve known for years — are some of the very best and most innovative in the business. 

And, the world is taking note.

Late last December, at its annual (virtual) Global Assembly, Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, honoured Hillels and Hillel professionals for creating innovative Jewish experiences and meaningful connections throughout the pandemic.

Among the various honorees, Hillel Ontario was recognized with The Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Innovation Award. This award is given to a Hillel for creating innovative processes that refresh, reinvent or revolutionize the relationships, communities and experiences helping students engage in Jewish self-authorship, or for helping staff improve the impact of their work by encouraging reasonable and calculated risk-taking, exploration, and curiosity. 

In addition, Hillel Ontario’s Chief Education and Campus Officer, Rabbi Seth Goren, was honoured with The Richard M. Joel Exemplars of Excellence Award for his passion and outstanding devotion to the Jewish campus community, for enriching the lives of Hillel students and for ensuring that the organization reflects a culture of excellence.

As we begin 2021 — and hope with all my heart that it’s a better year than the one that preceded it — I want to offer a hearty mazel tov to my new colleagues on these prestigious distinctions. And, I want to thank them for welcoming me to the Hillel family with open arms. 

We have much work to do. I look forward to the year ahead, as, together, we strive to enhance the lives of Canadian Jewish students, to speak the truth about Eretz Yisrael, and above all else, take care of each other — Jews and non-Jews alike — through these most trying times.

Happy New Year.

About the Author
Jay Solomon is the Chief Advancement Officer for Hillel Ontario.
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