Jewish Toronto Campus Life
The city of Toronto boasts a large vibrant Jewish community with a host of synagogues, day schools and institutions to meet the needs of the various sects within the community. There are numerous kosher restaurants and establishments, bakeries, delis and grocery stores that offer a wide selection of Kosher cuisine. The Jewish community is primarily clustered around a main street, Bathurst Street, which runs North through the city. Locals will often refer to the main Orthodox neighborhoods as either “down south” or “up north,” depending on where on Bathurst Street the location is. York University is located about 20 minutes west (driving time) of the “up north” Orthodox community, and about 35 minutes northwest of the “down south” community.
York University offers numerous options where a Jewish student can feel at home. The York Hillel is located within the Student Centre, and boasts a spacious Beit Midrash filled with newly purchased sefarim. It is here that most of the shiurim and programs take place. There is a daily mincha minyan at Hillel, and many times students can find a “Lunch and Learn” opportunity to combine fine dining with fine learning. York’s Kosher Country Style (supervised by the COR), a dairy restaurant, is located in one of the colleges on campus. Therefore, for the 150-200 religious students (comprised of graduates from public schools, Jewish community schools, Yeshiva Day Schools, Ner Yisroel and Bais Yaakov) on campus in addition to the thousands of Jews on campus, there is quite a dynamic thriving Jewish life.
York offers opportunities to major or minor in Jewish studies, and is highly acclaimed for the caliber of courses offered by the Centre for Jewish Studies. York is also home to the very popular and internationally recognized Jewish Education program that offers students an unparalleled opportunity to pursue a Bachelor’s of Education in both secular and Judaic studies while concurrently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts. Students who graduate this program go on to receive job offers in both the public schools and Jewish day schools of their choice. This program also works in conjunction with the Hebrew University to offer students the option of pursuing their degree for a year in Jerusalem.
The University of Toronto is located in the historic neighborhood of downtown Toronto. The campus stretches across numerous city blocks, and is in the heart of the city’s urban community. U of T’s Hillel, a beautiful new state of the art structure, usually offers a daily mincha service, and is host to various shiurim and visiting guest speakers. There is a selection of sefarim for students to take advantage of as well. There is no kosher food on campus; however, the cafeteria at the nearby Mt. Sinai hospital offers a selection of kosher sandwiches and snacks. A beautiful shul and a reasonable amount of sefarim are available for students.
Since the Toronto Orthodox student community is 99% a commuting community, campus life plays an auxiliary role to one’s Jewish religious and social life. By 5pm (if not earlier), most students are on a car/bus/subway (sometimes all of the above) on their way home. Socially the city offers a plethora of opportunity for programming, including emphasizing community involvement in various youth organizations (such as NCSY and Bnei Akiva) and various local tzedakahs.