Director's Corner Brett Schwartz

Last year we instituted Lunch and Learns - time for students to get together in the Hillel House over lunch and discuss various Jewish topics of interest. Some of the discussions we have had included: Jews and Tattoos, Madonna and kabbalah and Splitting Seas and Talking Snakes: Are the stories in the Bible really true?

One of our latest lunch and learns, led by Rabbi Kathy Cohen, titled "Why?", allowed our students to reflect on why they are here and why Judaism is important to them. Students shared, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike, experiences that centered around traditions, culture, and community. As students were sharing why Judaism was important to them, several students continued to describe how Hillel has been an important part in their college experience. Their responses provided me with an opportunity to reflect on ‘Why are we striving so hard to continue to develop and enhance Jewish life on campus?' My simple answer is we are enhancing the college experience. Along with our religious and cultural focus, we are also providing a place for spirituality, education, leadership and social outlets.

But it is so much more than that! It is about all the small things that happen on a daily basis, both inside and outside the building. For example - When we are out at a Very Interesting Professor dinner, and I look over at a student, I am overwhelmed when I see how they are engrossed with what the professor is saying. My day doesn't feel complete until a student stops by my office to have a discussion - whether it's about an upcoming program, this week's Torah portion or just to say hello.

It is not a Friday evening without students of all faiths joining us in the Hillel House to light candles, say kiddush and motzi and to sit down for a Shabbat Dinner. Have you ever asked someone what their favorite part of the week is? It is truly amazing to see their smile once you do.

I run into an elementary school teacher who tells me that a child comes into school every day smiling because our students were able to purchase and donate sneakers, clothes, and toys through the Novack Fund for Jewish Responsibility.

So, ‘Why?' Why is Hillel important? Why are we continually trying to raise money each year? Why do I love my job? Why are you connected to Hillel? Why do students find it meaningful to have Hillel a part of their college experience?

Not only is it because of the programs, events and celebrations. Not only is it because of the religious, educational, leadership and community service opportunities. Not only is it about community. It is about the everyday meaningful experiences and the values of Hillel. These are what students will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives, which in turn will create a better world.