Coming to work at Hillel Montreal, I can’t really say I had any idea what I was coming into. Even with trainings, conversations with prior Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows, and emails with the Hillel Montreal staff, I still couldn’t imagine the everyday life here.
I arrived about a year and a half ago. For a few weeks, I listened and watched my colleagues work while learning as much as I could. I found an office of joyful people, coming to work with smiles on their faces, excited to do their jobs.
The enthusiasm is contagious and I found myself happy to wake up and come to work. I was taking it for granted, but really, it’s not that common to love what you do. So what is it that I do? At the beginning, I got excited to basically just be Israeli. That’s not too hard for me, born and raised in Israel. Then I came to understand that being an Israel Fellow is not all about just being Israeli; it is about relationships with the students. It’s about finding what connects you to each individual you are getting to know, realizing how you can connect them to yourself, and by that, to Israel.
With some of the students, my work is not that difficult. It can be a natural conversation with a student telling you why he or she loves Israel so much. With others, I find myself challenged to really explain why I love Israel so much. I am doing my job just by challenging other people to think. Further, having the students challenge me to evolve is amazing.
Hillel Montreal has given me the opportunity to grow in other fields as well. All staff members are eligible to get “professional development” budgets that allow you to learn and develop yourself. I learned French - merci beaucoup!
Last year was the first year Hillel Montreal had an Israel Fellow. Although there was always someone who dealt with Israel programing, there was never this specific job description. Looking back, I think my main focus last year was stabilizing the “Jewish Agency Israel Fellow” position.
All in all, I managed to spread the word about Israel and the students realized the importance of my job at Hillel Montreal. I find little moments of joy when I get an email from a student asking to help them get back to Israel, to go for exchange, to learn Hebrew, or just to talk about Israel. Those are times I feel lucky to work in an organization such as Hillel - an organization that allows you the freedom to find what you’re good at and to excel in what you do best.
Shira Prigat is Hillel Montreal’s first Israel Fellow. As an Israeli, she isn't used to the chilly weather, but she is trying to take advantage of it as much as she can.