Coming into my freshman year at Western University, I saw this blank canvas in front of me. I was eager to get involved, but I didn’t know how to start.
During my first week, I went to a barbecue hosted by Western Hillel for first year students. As soon as I took this first step, I felt that I was given a support system as well as a platform to connect to Judaism and Israel.
However, I realized that many of my peers wanted to get involved in Jewish life on campus, but they just didn’t know how to take that first step.
When I became the vice president of communications of Israel on Campus in April 2017, a club powered by Hillel, our members spoke about the importance of showing Jewish students what Hillel could provide them: a tight-knit community of peers who shared their passions and interests.
We made a goal to engage the unengaged and connect Hillel and Israel to the Jewish commu-nity on campus. And we knew what we needed to make that happen.
To bring a more creative flare to Israel on Campus, I started Cooking with Brian, a series of short videos that teach viewers how to create simple and nutritious Israeli dishes. By doing so, I slowly began to change the “diet” of content students were receiving from Western Hillel.
But Cooking with Brian started months before I joined Israel on Campus. During the fall semester of my freshman year, I wasn’t taking care of my eating habits. To encourage myself to eat healthier, I began posting videos of me cooking dinner — steak, salmon, chicken — regularly on Snapchat. I received an overwhelmingly positive response from my friends, and they started to expect new Cooking with Brian videos to keep them updated on my nightly creations.
When I decided to bring Cooking with Brian to Israel on Campus, I had my work cut out for me. I was tasked with filming videos without a production facility, adequate lighting or cutting-edge video editing software. However, I quickly discovered that I didn’t need any of that.
Zahava Eklove, a close friend and student at Hillel Waterloo, and I became resourceful. We used elastic bands and tissue paper to hold my phone on a makeshift stand, and we climbed on top of bar stools to make sure the video angle was just right. We used free video editing software on my computer and used my home as the production studio.
Reaching more than 16,000 people and increasing social media engagement on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat by more than 1580 percent, Cooking with Brian has become our way to engage Hillel students at Western University and internationally.
And it was all because of the support of Western Hillel. It provided me with a platform to connect to Judaism and Israel as well as work with staff and students to create a meaningful impact on our campus.
By taking that first step, we encouraged dozens of others to take their first step in getting involved with Western Hillel.
Try one of our recipes! Make your own Israeli date bars or follow us on Facebook @israeloncampusuwo to create it with me.
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tsp. Water
3/4 Cup Sunflower Seeds
1 Small Pan
1 Small Cutting Board
A Pinch of Salt Directions:
Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
Place Tinfoil on Pan
Pour Sunflower Seeds on Pan
Put Pan in Oven for 10 Minutes
Pit 7 Dates and Place in Cup
Take Sunflower Seeds Out of Oven
Pick Up Foil and Put All Seeds in Blender
Add Dates to Blender
Add Water and Blend
Place Blend on Pan, Flatten, and Cut into Squares
Freeze for 30 Minutes