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Connection and belonging: Jewish Heritage Month

UM’s Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre offers spaces for students to connect with each other and their faith traditions

May 21, 2024 — 

Raya Margulets is the Hillel Post-Secondary Leadership Coordinator at UM and is a member of the team of UM’s Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre (SCMC), which comprises coordinators, chaplains and Elders from numerous traditions including Indigenous, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Humanist. Hillel is a Jewish youth organization that offers a safe and supportive space for Jewish students and opportunities to deepen their connection with their culture and identity through social activities, social justice programming and religious and holiday events.

Margulets graduated from UM in 2022. She recalls feeling overwhelmed during her first year at university until she became involved with Hillel. Through Hillel, she started networking and participating in fun events such as religious festivals and cultural and social gatherings. Now in her current position, she gets to share that sense of community with other Jewish students.

“Hillel offers social and holiday religious events programming and also advocacy and support for young adults,” Margulets explains. As part of the Jewish Federation, Hillel Winnipeg has many resources available to students, building the on-campus experience by connecting students to content, community and Jewish life.

She says that the objective of Hillel at UM is “creating community, creating a space for belonging, a space where UM Jewish students feel welcome and safe, and where there’s a sense of commonality and connection within their own heritage and tradition.”

Many of the cultural and social events take place at external venues, and there’s also a designated lounge space (one of the rooms within SCMC) for Jewish students at UM, she adds. “It’s a place to hang out, and after October 7, it became more of a safe space. A lot of Jewish students told me that they honestly didn’t feel safe outside of that room, which is very unfortunate. But I’m happy we had that space for them. It’s just a very inviting space.”

The largest event is the Shabbat unplugged leadership retreat, which takes place annually at an external venue. This year’s event drew over 100 students including 60 to 70 UM students as well as Jewish students coming from all over Canada — Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and Ontario, she says.

“It’s very exciting and students always look forward it,” she says.


Spiritual Care and the Multi-Faith Centre at UM

UM’s Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre (SCMC) opened in 2022 on the fifth floor of UMSU University Centre as a combination of student lounges and the larger Multi-Faith Centre in room 521 A/B.

Edgar French is the Coordinator of SCMC. He says that his main role is “to provide direct one-on-one support or refer students to spiritual care that is attentive to their uniqueness of identity in all its dimensions.

He facilitates numerous workshops related to spiritual health and building of community, and Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre also offers programs and workshops aimed at addressing spiritual wellness.

Along with various events, SCMC offers: existential and spiritual care, supporting students in their ability to make meaning of life’s struggles and opportunities; the gift of presence, accompanying students through the twists and turns of their dynamic lives; hospitality and community, creating space for belonging and social connections.

French says he is privileged to oversee the multi-faith sacred space at Fort Garry campus.

The Multi-Faith Centre itself is intended as an inclusive space open to all students and staff and faculty to gather for either corporate, communal spiritual practices and gatherings or individual spiritual practice.

The Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre is an extension of student support at UM and “we’re here to support students and encourage students to reach out,” he says.

He emphasizes the importance of human connection and belonging.

“That human connection — whether that is with others, with the environment and with nature, and with oneself — is so integral to what we mean by spiritual well-being,” he says.

“I think we find the most fulfillment when we do find that sense of belonging.”


Learn more about the Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre.

Visit SCMC at 528 UMSU University Centre, where you can connect with Sabina Loewen, office intake assistant at the front desk.

Reach out to Edgar French, Spiritual Care Coordinator, at spiritualcare [at] umanitoba [dot] ca


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