Director's Corner Megan McLean, Director of Hillel
At W&L Hillel the Academic Year 2015/16 and the Hebrew Year 5776 are off to a great start! The first weekend that school was in session at Washington and Lee, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah as an inclusive Jewish Community, with undergraduate and law students, faculty and staff from W&L, cadets and rats from VMI and residents of Rockbridge County. Everyone enjoyed and felt uplifted by the services with Student Rabbi, Emily Langowitz, from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. We gathered together again during Yom Kippur, and shared an incredibly meaningful and blessed holiday. Because of the support of our generous donors, we were able to celebrate and observe the High Holidays with great food and great company. Our Sukkot, although rainy, was a powerful experience as well, for those who helped build or invited guests to eat in, the Sukkah.
We welcomed 22 new Jewish students to campus and reconnected with those who returned from a fun and eventful summer. Our Rat Class (first year students at VMI) was by far the largest ever this year - 9 - bringing our cohort of Jewish Cadets to 19. We also met many wonderful families during Washington and Lee and VMI's Parents and Family Weekends. And we connected with some of our beloved Alumni during the Five Star Festival, Capital Campaign Celebration and Young Alumni Weekend.
We have started new programs and grown programs that bring new people and new energy into our Hillel House. Our brand new Gan Katan has brought families into Hillel House, and given children in Rockbridge County a chance to learn about Jewish customs and holidays with their neighbors and peers. Washington and Lee is offering Hebrew courses for credit for the first time ever, and the students enrolled are getting an opportunity they have never had before, to read and understand the Torah as it was originally written. The students in our Modern Hebrew class are able to have conversations in Hebrew and are more confident as they plan their travel to Israel. And speaking of travel to Israel, we had 11 students register for our Birthright Israel trip this winter - by far the largest group we've ever had. We are excited to travel with students from other small schools in Virginia and look forward to sharing our journey with you in the Summer issue of the Star.
Our 13 member Student Board has been working hard to keep up the positive momentum and plan a year of exciting and engaging programs for our students. They have just ratified their new constitution and creating their own identity, as a new student group called JCA (Jewish Cultural Association). The Executive Board Members of JCA sit on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) Student Board and thrilled to be part of a movement to create more multicultural programs for W&L students. Our Hillel Advisory Board is working on a new Constitution as well and has been working equally hard to ensure that Washington and Lee is home to a vibrant, thriving Jewish community that is welcoming to all and helps fulfill W&L's mission of encouraging a diverse and engaged student body.
We know that we are so successful at what we do because not only do we have amazing leadership here on campus, but we have incredible supporters all over the country! We rely on our Alumni, Parents and Community Members to meet our financial goals. As I am writing this, we have raised just over $19,000 towards our Operating Budget this year (goal: $54,000) and $670,000 has been pledged towards the Hillel Endowment for Programming (goal: $1.1 million). We also have been awarded three grants so far, and have applications for several more in the works!
Thank you for your support of Washington and Lee Hillel, financial, moral or otherwise! We welcome your involvement and encourage you to follow us on our Social Media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), sign up for our emails and look for updates on our website. And we hope that you'll read all of the articles in the Star every December and June. We're so proud of what we've done and love to share our success stories with you! In this publication you will see what our students have been up to and how we are striving to keep our promise to you, the promise to use your support to grow and expand our programs, to reach and engage more people, to sustain Jewish life on this campus and in Lexington, and to repair the world in whatever way that we can. And, as always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Hillel at Washington and Lee.
With sincere gratitude,