History

Vancouver Hillel is the largest Jewish student organization in Western Canada and a vital force for Jewish culture, social justice, citizenship, and tikkun olam. We operate facilities on British Columbia’s three largest university campuses.

The organization was founded in 1947 as the B’nai Brith Hillel Foundation. In November 1947, Hillel officially opened its doors on the University of British Columbia campus. This was a momentous time in Jewish history – just days later, the United Nations would vote for the creation of a Jewish homeland. Israel has been at the heart of Hillel ever since. In addition to the great number of Israeli students who are welcomed to British Columbia by our students and staff, generations of Hillel students have travelled to Israel to volunteer, study, work, live, and serve in times of war.

The modest “hut” that opened its doors in 1947 continued to serve Jewish students and their friends at UBC until 2008. In 2010, on the precise spot where Hillel had stood for more than 60 years, the magnificent new Diamond Foundation Centre for Jewish Campus Life opened its doors. This new Hillel House is one of the finest Hillels in the world and we are proud that this building and the superb programming that takes place inside it continue to attract Jewish students from around the world to study at UBC.

The opening of the new Diamond Foundation Centre capped a decade of unprecedented growth and expansion for the Hillel movement in British Columbia. In 2005, Hillel opened our first permanent facility at Simon Fraser University, invigorating Jewish life on the Burnaby Mountain campus. In 2006, Hillel opened at the University of Victoria, and has become a vital component of Jewish life in the capital city and on Vancouver Island more broadly.

In 2005, the Vancouver Hillel Foundation became a non-profit organization, independent of its B’nai Brith parent organization, reflecting developments at the international level, where Hillel had become independent from B’nai Brith International.

Vancouver Hillel is governed by an elected lay board representing the campus and Jewish communities. On each campus, student boards are elected and conceive, develop and execute diverse programs in areas including Jewish spiritual exploration, cultural and historical education, Israel advocacy, social justice, philanthropy, leadership development, sports and recreation, the arts, and any area of interest to students.

Perhaps most importantly, Hillel is simply a place where Jewish students and their friends meet and socialize.

On the three campuses we serve, Hillel is the exclusive location for kosher meals.

Hillel represents Jewish students to the larger campus population and administration, and has for decades played a role demystifying Jews and Judaism to the next generation of societal leaders, contesting instances of anti-Semitism, educating peers about Jewish history and the Holocaust, correcting imbalanced portrayals of Israel’s reality, and engaging affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish students to explore their identity in ways that are comfortable, appropriate and meaningful for them.

In celebration with the opening of the Diamond Foundation Centre and the 65th anniversary of the organization, an historical book has been produced titled Planting for the Future: Hillel in British Columbia. View it at any of our facilities to learn more.