Graphic By: Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
As varsity sports returns to McMaster, the women’s soccer team is ready to take on new challenges in the upcoming season.
After a disappointing season in 2019, in which the McMaster Marauders lost in the Ontario University Athletics quarterfinals against the Western Mustangs in London, the players are eager to make a comeback, as an exciting season with 10 league games is approaching.
The Marauders have been placed in the central division, which will host opponent schools such as Algoma University, Laurentian University, University of Toronto, Nipissing University and Ryerson University.
The first two games of the season come against the Algoma Thunderbirds, who will have a two night stay in Hamilton for the start of the OUA season. The opening games will take place Sept. 25-26 at Ron Joyce Stadium.
The Marauders will likely slide into their games with confidence for the opening games, having a clear winning record against the Thunderbirds in previous years. McMaster has won every single game against Algoma, keeping a 12-0 conference record ahead of the opening games. The most notable win against the Thunderbirds was a dominant 12-1 win in the 2014-2015 season at Sault Ste. Marie.
The next opponent the Marauders will face are the Laurentian Voyageurs. McMaster will host the first game on Oct. 1 at the Ron Joyce Stadium, then travel to Sudbury for the away game on Oct. 3. Although McMaster has not against played the Voyageurs before, they will be hoping to grab as many points as possible, considering that Laurentian had only two wins in their season last year, while being defeated a total of eight times.
Of all potential opponents in the regular season, it’s speculated that the Marauders’ biggest challenge may be the Toronto Varsity Blues. Although Toronto did place fourth in their eastern division in last year’s season, they excelled through the playoffs and made it to the finals, where they lost to the York Lions. This high standard of soccer only promises an exciting match between the Blues and the Marauders. The first fixture will take place on Oct. 6 in Hamilton and the second game will take place four days later in Toronto.
Joelle Chackal, the Marauders’ central striker, is confident that the team has the ability to make it past the playoffs and improve on the team's previous records.
“I think that there is a big chance of us progressing into the play-offs and making it far, but we have to take it one step at a time. It is also a very young squad, composed of lower-year students, so we have a lot of potential going forward. WI am very excited to take part in the season and I am looking forward to it,” said Chackal.
When asked about the toughest challenge in the upcoming season, Chackal reiterated that the Toronto Varsity Blues would likely pose the biggest challenge.
“I think that out of all the teams, Toronto would be the toughest one. They have the biggest financing and have had an extremely strong team in the past couple of years. But I am positive that we will do our best to prevent any unwanted result against them,” explained Chackal.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted some progress in women's soccer for over a year, the new season brings nothing but excitement and confidence among the squad, who are looking forward to experiencing university-level soccer.
C/O Mary Luciani
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Art Crawl returns from its long hiatus and brings back a sense of community
Artistry. Magic. Community. These are a few words that may come to people’s minds when they think of Art Crawl. After many months in lockdown and just in time for back to school, Art Crawl made its return to James Street North. On the second Friday of every month, public health guidelines permitting, restaurants, cafés and retail shops on the street, as well as artists and other vendors, will gather on James North to create a mystical event filled with food, music, art and handcrafted goods.
Art Crawl started years ago as a grassroots event by the vendors and artists on James Street North. It is important to stress it is not a single person who is behind the event but rather a melting pot of many creatives in the community. It was also this community that drew Mary Luciani, the owner of The Pale Blue Dot, to Art Crawl for the past 10 years and inspired her to set up her shop on James Street North.
Luciani began attending Art Crawl as a self-taught painter to share her pieces with the community. She was excited to connect with strangers and exchange stories with passers-by and other artists. Through these interactions, she felt she was able to form an authentic connection with the local community and the city. Today, she sells sustainable and ethical everyday items such as bamboo toothbrushes, compostable gloss, antiques and vintage clothing at the Pale Blue Dot. Students can also use code MACSTUDENT10 for 10% off at The Pale Blue Dot.
Luciani also started and manages the Instagram account on.jamesnorth which showcases the lovely shops and faces behind the James North community. The account occasionally organizes giveaways for supporters and shoppers as well.
Given all the love, enthusiasm and pride for Art Crawl, Luciani and other vendors and goers of the fair were delighted to see it come back in August for the first time since its closure in late 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I couldn’t even tell you how magical it felt just to see familiar faces on the street and see the community back. It wasn’t revived to what it used to be just yet, but it was such a beautiful start,” Luciani said.
The community missed it very much; the crowds were energetic and emotional. People were tapping their toes to the live music, enjoying the physical company of each other and immersing in the nostalgia and regained sense of normalcy during what has been an unpredictable and distressful year and a half.
“As a young artist 10 years ago, standing up on the street, there’s nowhere else that I would have the opportunity to do that . . . to showcase my paintings,” Luciani said.
Art Crawl inspires and cultivates the spirit of local businesses and the arts in Hamilton. For those who are living in Hamilton for the first time, it can be a great introduction to the pockets of communities that exist off campus. With the next Art Crawl event coming up soon, students can watch out for details on on.jamesnorth on Instagram and for more giveaways.
“Having a space where I could just come, show up and present my work . . .and connect with community members, I think it’s so wonderful,” Luciani said.
Ainsley Thurgood/Photo Assistant
Hamilton’s rental licensing pilot provides more uncertainty as students demand safer housing
The path to achieving safe housing for McMaster University’s students has been one studded with hazards such as predatory landlords, broken fire alarm systems and an overall lack of safety. Nearly every student I know has had their fair share of run-ins with landlords asking for too much and giving too little. Popular platforms for student discussion, such as r/McMaster on Reddit and Spotted at Mac on Facebook, are routinely flooded with warnings to beware of Landlord X, Y, Z . . . and the list goes on.
Has quantifiable progress been made thus far? Yes and no.
McMaster students and the McMaster Students Union have been pushing for increased regulation of landlords for years. On Aug. 10, 2021, it seemed as if student voices had finally been heard. The big news? The Hamilton Planning Committee voted in favour of a two-year rental licensing pilot for Wards 1, 8 and parts of Ward 14 in the city. These wards cover the immediate area around Mohawk College and McMaster University.
Essentially, this means that landlords will now be responsible for paying a $215 licensing fee (in addition to a $77 administration fee) and must submit to both internal and external inspections by the city of Hamilton. Right now, the process in dealing with a housing issue is complaint-based and the tenant carries the burden of filing a dispute.
The current system presents its own set of barriers that tip the scales further towards the whims of landlords that don’t always have our best interests in mind. Quite honestly, even if I did face an issue with my landlord, would I be willing to take time away from academic responsibilities, face the threat of eviction and then wait months on end for a maybe-solution? Not at all.
We all know that finding a house in the first place often takes away time from classes, especially when you’re coordinating the schedules of six or more roommates. If you add up the time spent browsing housing posts, negotiating with landlords and booking viewings, the hunt for subpar housing often takes upwards of 50 hours.
Given all this information, does the licensing pilot provide us with a solution? Supposedly, living conditions will improve. Perhaps, affordability will rise. That being said, the consensus of McMaster students living off-campus is that some aspect of regulation is needed. MSU Vice President Education, Siobhan Teel, teamed up with ACORN Hamilton and the Mohawk Student Association to shed light on the need for this pilot project to go through.
However, it can’t be ignored that increasing fees on landlords (whatever glorious purpose it may serve) can have a detrimental effect on students. If landlords really are as predatory and greedy as we all believe, why wouldn’t they raise rent prices to compensate for their increased costs? Is rental licensing the solution we’re looking for, given that rents already seem to be rising on Facebook pages such as McMaster Student Housing Postboard?
Sure, the licensing pilot definitely has the potential to do some real good. It could lead to cleaner and safer homes, and do away with the antiquated, reactive system of tenant complaints through the Landlord and Tenant Board. Yet it almost seems like we’re playing a game of choosing between one bad outcome and another.
While any progress is appreciated, McMaster students deserve a holistic, all-encompassing solution that solves the issue of both unsafe and unfairly priced housing. Until then, off to the bidding wars we go. The prize: a closet of a room with pests, no fire safety and all the wonderful things McMaster housing has to offer.
C/O ŞULE MAKAROĞLU
A new dress code for the Pulse Fitness Centre now allows students to wear tanktops and sleeveless shirts.
Each year, students at McMaster University pay an annual fee for membership to the Pulse Fitness Centre. At the Pulse, students have access to a wide range of fitness equipment and recreational programming.
In the past, to enter the Pulse, not only was membership required, but students also had to adhere to other rules and regulations of the centre. This included wearing proper athletic footwear and a full shirt with sleeves.
However, on Aug. 25, 2021, the Pulse announced that the centre’s dress code is being updated. Students are now allowed to wear sleeveless shirts and tank tops.
In previous years, the dress code at the Pulse has been up for much discussion amongst students.
Lee-Anne Wilson, wellness and fitness coordinator at the Pulse, said that following complaints, petitions and student feedback that the staff members have received over these years, an update to the dress code now felt like the right time.
Wilson explained that the school had initially decided on the previous dress code due to findings from an old study that dates back over 20 years. The study noted that people tend to be more comfortable in the gym when other members are dressed more conservatively. This was especially the case for novice exercisers or those who are new to the gym and may be feeling more uncomfortable.
With the welcoming of students back on to campus following school closure in March of 2020 due to COVID-19, McMaster now faces two cohorts of undergraduate students who are unfamiliar with campus facilities. In addition to all the previous concerns students had expressed in the past, Wilson explained that the centre felt this was the perfect opportunity to implement a new dress code.
“It felt like this was a good time to do something that student members in particular would be happy about,” said Wilson.
Aside from consulting with other staff members within McMaster, Wilson said that the centre also conducted research into other university gyms and commercial gyms to compare the school’s dress code with others.
“I went out to other universities in Ontario to find out if there were anyone who had a dress code that was as strict as ours and at this point, we were the only one left, so that tells you something,” explained Wilson.
Victoria Cirone, a fourth-year kinesiology student and fitness instructor at the Pulse, said although the previous dress code did not cause too much of a hindrance for her, she is glad that it has been changed.
“I didn’t mind having to wear a t-shirt . . . It really [came down to] when I was really sweating and working hard sort of thing, where I felt it was physically uncomfortable,” Cirone explained.
As of now, nobody has expressed negative concerns about the dress code change or a desire to keep the previous dress code.
On the other hand, Wilson and Cirone both said responses to this change from students have been extremely positive.
Students have already begun considering the new dress code as they arrive at the gym in their workout attire.
“Some people are wearing t-shirts. Some people are wearing tank tops . . . It’s a mix, but it feels like people are wearing what they want to wear,” said Wilson.
Aside from the new dress code, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pulse has also been operating with a different set of protocols. Students who want to use gym equipment at the centre need to sign up for a one and a half-hour time slot at one of three locations. This includes the Sport Hall Pulse, Pop-Up Pulse and Track Pulse.
Sign-ups open 48 hours ahead of time and students are required to always wear a mask indoors.
Although wearing a mask during workouts might not always be comfortable, Cirone expressed that she is in agreement with the protocol as she understands it helps keep everyone safe.
“My thinking is, if this is the way I’ll keep myself and other people safe, so be it,” explained Cirone. “[I]f it’s what we got to do to prevent outbreaks and covid and that sort of thing, I’m all for it.”
Cirone also suggested that students can consider bringing an extra mask to change during their workout in order to feel more comfortable if their masks get too sweaty.
Currently, Cirone has been teaching fitness classes virtually but has also taught outdoor classes during the summer in person.
For Cirone, both in-person and virtual classes have their own set of benefits.
“[When you’re in-person] you get to actually see people face-to-face and there was more engagement and feedback . . . Whereas now, virtually, I get to join people at home where it might be a more comfortable setting for different folks,” said Cirone.
Although navigating fitness programs and other services offered at the Pulse has not been easy with the ongoing pandemic, Wilson expressed that she is most thankful for how cooperative and patient students have been.
“I really [want to] say thank you to the McMaster community and our student members who have just been so fantastic, understanding and accommodating. We’ve been working really hard. It [hasn’t] been easy for anybody in a [public service] business to get through this,” said Wilson. "It’s been a joy to see everybody back in the gym, being active and being able to have that outlet while they’re on campus.”
Graphic By: Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
A degree no longer guarantees a job, it’s time for universities to tell us why
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
A higher education is often touted as a means to working in higher-paying, more revered professions. However, students often end up in positions they neither expected nor desired after graduation. In fact, Forbes reports that individuals holding a bachelor's degree experience higher unemployment and underemployment rates. Specifically, a report from the New York Federal Reserve revealed that 33.8% of college graduates are underemployed, which means they are working jobs that do not even require a degree.
The COVID-19 crisis has not helped this issue, with Canada still steadily trying to regain the hundreds of thousands of jobs the pandemic eliminated from the country. Despite pouring thousands of dollars into their education, students are struggling to find reasonable work that connects to their degrees.
The solution to this issue is for universities to be more honest about what careers their programs can lead to, with an emphasis on professions that can be obtained without extra training or a graduate education. This will allow students to make a more informed decision on their post-secondary education and balance their expectations.
After graduation, it seems logical that one with a science-based degree would search for jobs in research or healthcare. Moreover, someone with a business degree might look for jobs in a field within the world of business. However, depending on the degree and the courses contained, some programs may not lead to jobs that seem to be common sense.
One reason this might be is that some programs focus on classroom learning, as opposed to exponential learning, like co-op. The lack of experience that comes with classroom-based programs has been shown to deter employers from hiring graduates from such programs.
Other factors concern the idea of "prestige" that is associated with some programs or universities and a lack of networking skills integrated into programs. The former has even been formally studied, with results showing that students graduating from more reputable universities are 40% more likely to receive a positive response from employers. Any of these reasons could be justifiable for companies looking to hire. Thus, schools need to be honest about where they stand so students know what to expect when job-searching post-graduation.
Yet, the key to this transparency needs to be carefully articulated and prepared. Schools cannot simply state that an education in political science can lead to jobs in public service and likewise. Rather, they need to do empirical studies on alumni and graduates to be certain of the information they are conveying. Students will likely find information about the careers that alumni have followed to be more trustworthy than if they are to simply try and connect similar themes between programs and careers. Schools should begin conducting this type of research and perhaps even include alumni interviews or mentorships for students, both programs that will also be helpful in building a student’s resume.
Overall, choosing the right university and program is a pivotal step in beginning any career. Students should have all the information they could possibly need to make the right decision, including the profession they might consider in the future. Universities need to take steps now to ensure that students’ potential futures are transparent and accessible.
C/O Adam Thomas
Repeal of the 2020 encampment protocol sparks disapproval across the community
In fall of 2020, the city of Hamilton worked with a number of activist groups to develop an encampment protocol agreement. This protocol allowed unhoused individuals to remain in encampments for up to fourteen days and in some cases, to remain indefinitely. The protocol also called on the city to assist these individuals in moving to shelters or housing.
On Aug. 9, 2021, Hamilton City Council held an emergency meeting in which they voted to repeal this protocol and return to pre-pandemic policy, which disallows all encampments on city property. According to a media release, the decision came because the protocol was deemed ineffective.
“Following today’s Council decision, the City will return to the pre-pandemic approach to services, which includes continued dedication to helping those sleeping rough find safe and humane options while enforcing its bylaws prohibiting camping on public property,” City Council stated in its media release.
The council held this meeting as a closed session in a private video conference room. Activist groups who were a part of the development of the protocol were not included in the discussion. The motion to end the protocol was moved by Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr.
Many activist groups have criticized the city’s decision to prohibit encampments once again. Keeping Six, one of the activist groups that first worked with the city to develop the encampment protocol, released a statement on Aug. 10, detailing their position.
“For the city to walk away from this negotiated settlement unilaterally and without even the courtesy of any communication with us, or any apparent consultation with those on the front lines, is deeply anti-democratic and repressive,” wrote Keeping Six.
Hamilton Encampment Support Network, another activist group criticizing the city’s decision, has put forward an open letter to Hamilton City Council.
HESN is a volunteer-run activist group that supports and advocates for unhoused Hamiltonians. According to their Instagram, HESN advocates for the principle that housing is a human right and they seek to make housing accessible to all Hamiltonians. Their methods, as stated on their Instagram, include site monitoring and check-ins, supply drop-offs and observation and de-escalation during teardowns.
In their open letter, which has amassed a number of signatures from both organizations and individuals, they stated the following: “Encampment evictions have been and continue to be dehumanizing, insidious displays of violence in a sustained municipal war on Black, Indigenous, racialized, disabled, poor and unhoused communities, both in so-called Hamilton as well as across Turtle Island.”
The open letter goes on to detail how encampment evictions are currently a public health crisis and how the national and provincial governments have been lacking in addressing this issue.
According to Vic Wojciechowska, a volunteer with HESN, even the previous protocol did not adequately protect people from encampment evictions.
“People [were] displaced from park to park, often faster than within a 14-day framework. That's because the city was initiating that 14 day process the moment that a tent would appear in a green space. This was not public information; this is something we learned by showing up to encampment teardowns.”
Further, the letter emphasizes how the current pandemic has exacerbated the public health threat that encampment evictions pose.
“We also know that houseless community members are at far greater risk of contracting COVID-19 under current overcrowded shelter conditions and that encampment evictions physically prevent homeless community members from accessing resources, supports,and medical care through routine displacement,” stated the open letter.
According to Wojciechowska, the open letter is an important way to create awareness about encampment evictions.
“It was one thing that [could] be done to bring people together, to talk about what it means for the protocol to happen, [to be] repealed and to just create some sort of initial conversation,” said Wojciechowska.
According to Wojciechowska, there are many reasons why shelters may be inaccessible for some unhoused individuals or why they may choose encampments over shelters. They explained that, due to COVID-19 precautions, shelter space has decreased dramatically. As well, Wojciechowska said that shelters can restrict the autonomy of their residents in multiple ways, such as through implementing strict check-in and check-out times.
“People have shared with us that they actually look forward to the summer months when they can stay in an encampment and can actually create their own communities and ways of keeping each other safe,” stated Wojciechowska.
When discussing the city’s response to encampments, Wojciechowska emphasized the importance of listening to unhoused individuals in the community.
“Let them choose to stay outside. Let encampments exist. If people are telling you that they feel safer in encampments, listen to them and build that into your response,” said Wojciechowska.
When the Silhouette reached out to Councillor Jason Farr, they were not available for an interview.
Graphic By: Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
With more study spaces and expanded facilities, an updated hub for student life is underway
At McMaster University, the David Braley Athletic Centre serves multiple purposes for students, including recreation, fitness training and rehabilitation. As a staple building of McMaster for more than 14 years, this year, facilities at DBAC will be undergoing some changes.
In February of 2020, the McMaster Students Union announced that a new building will be added next to DBAC. The referendum to build this building was initially voted through by students in March 2017.
The MSU presented three name options for students to vote on, including “The Marauder Activity Centre”, “The Student Life Centre” and “The Hub.” Ultimately, students voted for the building to be called the Hub.
Within the Hub, there will be four floors. The main floor will have an open-concept study area and event space. The second floor will have a grocer and more lounge areas. The third floor will include peer support services. The fourth floor will have bookable multi-purpose spaces as well as multi-faith prayer spaces.
Currently, MSU peer support services such as the Student Health Education Centre and Women and Gender Equity Network are located on the second floor of the McMaster University Student Centre.
John McGowan, general manager of the MSU, said that even though the third floor of the Hub will include spaces for MSU services, the original location of SHEC and WGEN will not be moved. “The intent of the Hub was not to relocate our current services, but to provide more meeting space,” said McGowan.
Following the completion of the Hub, it will also be physically connected to DBAC, allowing students to walk between both buildings with ease.
Although the Hub was previously scheduled to open in 2021, the building is now scheduled for completion in the summer of 2022.
Along with the building of the Hub, an upcoming expansion to the Pulse Fitness Centre will be completed. Currently, the Pulse is where students have access to a wide range of fitness equipment and facilities.
With an additional 60,000 square feet of space, this expansion will include new equipment, a women’s only fitness area, more cardio and weight training spaces, a climbing wall and a bouldering wall.
Since 2017, students approved a $95 per year fee whichwill increase by $2.99 per academic unit following the completion of the Hub. Included in this fee is the annual membership students have for access to the Pulse.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who wish to workout at the Pulse must sign up for a one and a half-hour timeslot in one of three Pulse locations. This includes the Sport Hall Pulse, Pop-Up Pulse, and Track Pulse.
As a consequence of the current construction occurring at the Pulse, fitness equipment is not evenly distributed amongst the three locations. However, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator Lee-Anne Wilson, said that students can check ahead of time to find out what sort of equipment is available at each location.
Fitness trainers are also available at each location and can support students in finding alternatives for their workouts.
Although she might not be able to experience the new expansion and facilities offered at the Hub following graduation this year, Victoria Cirone, a fourth-year kinesiology student and fitness instructor at the Pulse shared that she is excited to know that the Pulse will be expanded due to how busy the gym was prior to the pandemic.
“The gyms were crowded, there were a lot of people to a squat rack and especially at peak hours, it was really busy. I’m glad that there will be more equipment, facilities, rooms and that sort of thing," said Cirone.
If all goes according to schedule, students who will be at McMaster in the 2022-2023 academic year can look forward to enjoying this new change for DBAC as well as all the added facilities brought forward by the Hub.
Ainsley Thurgood/Photo Assistant
Remember that you aren’t the only ones who live here though
By: Derek Elliott, Contributor
Every September, the areas of Ainslie Wood and Westdale welcome a new group of McMaster University students who are eager to participate in university life and enjoy living in the area. Truth be told, there really is a lot to enjoy. You will find as you settle into the area that it is a great place to live. It’s very walkable and very convenient, close to Cootes Paradise, with parks and playgrounds, miles of cycling trails nearby, the recently renovated Westdale Theatre, lots of bars and restaurants and of course all the facilities that the university has to offer. You can even hop on a quick bus or train to Toronto, but Westdale has everything one would need.
For those of us who live in this area, the presence of McMaster students adds a spark of life that it otherwise just wouldn’t have. We really do hope you enjoy the few years that you will be living among us.
As a long-time Westdale resident myself, there are a few things I’d ask you to keep in mind.
Please be aware of those around you. Westdale and Ainslie Wood houses not just students, but many families and elderly folks live in the area. Some folks have very young children and some are commuters who have to get up early to travel for work.
Have a good time and enjoy yourself but remember that you need to keep the noise down, especially after 11:00 p.m. Unfortunately the mix of large numbers of young, energetic people, alcohol and/or other stimulants can result in otherwise decent responsible people acting in irresponsible ways. This can make things challenging for the more “permanent” residents of the areas surrounding campus.
In the age of cell phones and social media, a small gathering of friends can quickly get out of control. It happens at least once a year around here. If you’re renting a house and it happens to you, don’t be afraid to call the police for help. If you don’t, be assured that somebody else will and you’ll get the blame for the loud party.
Along the same lines, residents take pride in keeping our yards clean and tidy. It’s part of what makes the neighbourhood a pleasant one to live in. If you’re renting, please keep your yard in a reasonable state — free from garbage and overgrown weeds. When it snows, the sooner you shovel your sidewalk, the easier it is to do. You may be lucky enough to live next door to someone who has a snow blower. Many of us who do just keep going down the sidewalk when we’ve finished our own. In Hamilton the temperature fluctuations cause freezing and thawing which can lead to really dangerous conditions on sidewalks. If someone is injured, the signatory in your house could be held legally liable.
Consider this — if your parents or guardians were living in this neighbourhood, how would you behave? I know you're here for a good time, but please respect those of us who are here for a long time.
Welcome to the neighbourhood and by following these suggestions, we can all live together safely, comfortably and happily.
C/O McMaster Hillel
When Jewish students need support, McMaster Hillel provides
By: Hannah Silverman, Contributor
McMaster Hillel, our campus’ only club for Jewish students, focuses on creating meaningful connections and experiences for Jewish students while they are studying at university. I believe that McMaster Hillel is extremely important in helping Jewish students feel welcomed and represented on campus. We provide invaluable resources to Jewish and non-Jewish students alike — creating a home away from home, providing Shabbat meals and holiday experiences, opportunities to engage with Jewish theology and learning and chances to connect with others with similar interests.
Without Hillel, myself and many other Jewish students would not have access to such opportunities that are critical to our wellbeing and identity. There are between 500-700 Jewish students at McMaster University and Hillel serves as a conduit for anything from fielding questions around finding kosher food in Hamilton, to providing holiday programming or to hanging out with newly made friends.
While many Jewish people share cultural and religious beliefs that unite us, there are a variety of individual opinions and Jewish practices that represent the diversity within our community. Hillel aims to meet the needs of as many Jewish students on campus as possible; as the current President of McMaster Hillel, I am committed to ensuring that all Jewish students feel safe, respected and valued at McMaster.
When asked about the way in which McMaster Hillel supports students, Gal Armon, a fourth-year student expressed the utter importance of the club in the experience of Jewish students.
“As many Jewish students will tell you, being Jewish is a different experience for everyone and we all require different things in order to feel connected. For me, it is keeping up with traditions such as weekly Shabbat dinners. Having a club on campus that supports me in my desire to keep up with tradition is not just important, it is essential for my own mental and spiritual well-being," explained Armon.
McMaster Hillel staff and students have collaborated with university partners and clubs, including the Equity and Inclusion Office, on various programs. We recently joined the newly formed Spiritual Care and Learning Community in hosting joint Interfaith weekly lunches. Additionally, in 2018, we were showcased on McMaster University’s website in recognition of being a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus.
The Jewish community at McMaster has existed on campus since at least the 1950s and it is imperative that there is a space on campus where those from our community can gather. Like many other cultural, ethnic and religious groups, there are times we need to lean on one another for support. Hillel provides the guidance and support that my peers and I rely on.
In 2019, it was reported that Jewish people account for the highest number of religious-based hate crimes in Canada and this number has continued to rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Jewish students often mention that they need designated spaces to help them process antisemitic experiences. This is what McMaster Hillel aims to achieve for Jewish students.
“To me, Hillel is a safe space on campus for students like myself to come together as a Jewish community and it acts as a support system,” explained Rachel Altman, a fourth-year student “I feel like Hillel is a way for me to connect to my Judaism and my Jewish peers while I’m on campus.”
Our community’s connection to Israel is varied and multi-faceted, though the vast majority of the Canadian Jewish community feels a strong connection to Israel. McMaster Hillel aims to give students the option to explore these connections while also being a place for education and conversations around a complicated geo-political conflict.
We are committed to holding space for all students who want to have conversations critically and respectfully with each other. Most importantly, I and the rest of McMaster Hillel pray for peace in the region so that all Israelis and Palestinians can live their lives without fear or war.
What I find most remarkable about the work our club does on campus is that it has not diminished in the wake of the last year and half, when a large majority of students were not located on campus.
Our Hillel Director, Judith Dworkin, wrote in a recent article about our virtual programming, shedding light on the creative ways we have approached building community.
“We are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be a part of this community,” said Dworkin.
Like many other clubs, we found ways to adjust our programming and foster connections even from afar. Knowing that Jewish students were able to bring their authentic selves to Hillel, even in the midst of the past year, has been one of the things that staff and students alike are most proud of.