Over the past few months, I have bumped into a number of old friends and colleagues from the past. While catching up, they would often ask me if I’m still at Hillel and my response time and time again is, “Yep, I’m like furniture on the wall.” This month, I will be celebrating my 7th term with Hillel Montreal. I couldn’t be happier. It is not a coincidence, nor a mistake, that I have spent the majority of my professional career working for this tremendous organization. In fact, I feel privileged that I have had, and continue to have, the opportunity to enrich the lives of students and staff while supporting my professional and personal growth over the years.
While I spend my days trying to provide our students with meaningful experiences, I too have been incredibly nourished by our organization. Last year, I graduated with a Master’s degree from Spertus College. Not only did my Hillel subsidize this program to relieve me of any large financial burdens, but I was encouraged to participate, even if it meant being away from the office for a few days every few months. Additionally, I have been highly encouraged to participate in other various exciting opportunities, such as the Weinberg ACCELERATE: Hillel’s Executive Training Program, and the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals.
We work hard to find rich learning opportunities for our students, and we take pride in developing ourselves as well. On a rotating basis, every Friday morning over bagels and coffee, a different staff person leads us in a learning session. Together, we delve into Jewish texts, read newspaper articles and have heated debates over various subjects. This activity empowers our staff to gain facilitation skills while enriching our own learning. It is a safe space to ask troubling questions, and share our interesting and often diverse viewpoints.
Our Hillel staff team has become much like an extended family to me. Our relationships often go beyond the office and we pride ourselves on our ability to model positive relationships for our students. While work-life balance is always a challenge, we try our best to support each other and are incredibly flexible. Throughout the year, we come together for holidays, simchas, and BBQs, inviting our own families so they too can be a part of our wonderful team.
Last year, our Executive Director, Jeff Bicher, encouraged our staff team to dedicate 40 work hours to volunteer with an organization of our choice. His hope was that this morale booster would be the perfect way to show our staff and students that volunteering is an important value that our organization is committed to. I took part in organizing a party to raise money for Twist Out Cancer, an amazing online cancer support community started by a close friend who battled cancer. (Pictured at the Twist out Cancer launch party: Ilana Chriqui, Jessica Sharafi, Bev Shimansky, and Dan Hadad.)
Hillel believes in a set of values that resonate with me as a professional, a Jew and a global citizen. It is an unbelievable gift to wake up every day knowing that I work in an environment with like-minded, passionate people who share a love for Jewish peoplehood, pluralism and Israel. I guess my passport stamps from travelling around the world are just the icing on the cake!
Bev Shimansky has been the Director of Jewish Student Life at Hillel Montreal since 2008. Prior to her time at Hillel Montreal, she spent three years working at the Bronfman Israel Experience Centre as the Associate Director of Birthright Alumni Engagement. When not meeting students for coffee or travelling to Israel, Bev can be found in her kitchen cooking up new Pinterest recipes!