Prospective Student Fly-In Pilot Program Maya Epelbaum '16
On Jan. 24, 2013, six active Jewish first year students met six prospective Jewish students in the Elrod Commons. Over the next two days, each host adopted a senior in high school interested in Washington and Lee, and schlepped them to and from Hillel sponsored events. Starting Thursday night, all of Hillel was invited to get together at Sweet Things for some delicious ice cream, allowing for introductions and time to enjoy each other's company.
Sweet Things was only the beginning of a jam-packed two days of activities for them. The next day's itinerary involved eating in our dining hall, shadowing classes, meeting athletic coaches and teams, having lunch at Hillel, taking a campus tour, and then, finally, a few hours of free time where we showed the prospective students our favorite parts of campus.
Sharing the bond I have formed with Hillel here at Washington and Lee not only benefited my prospective student, but also helped me realize how closely Hillel does resemble a family. On Friday evening it was exciting to see our family grow at Shabbat dinner, even if it was only for a day. After the lovely Tu B'Shevat themed service, we celebrated the harvest complete with mangoes, apples, nuts and other fruits.
Fellow host Emily Danzig raves, "It was exciting to show off Washington and Lee and our Hillel to a prospective student looking for the same Jewish connection I have here." Like us, a few of these prospective students were skeptical that at a small, traditional Southern school whose most renowned building is a chapel could have a thriving Jewish life. Yet by sharing my favorite moments with my new Hillel family-eating in the Sukkah, planning and carrying out High Holiday services, going on service projects and more-I realized that some of the best times I have had and some of my closest friends are because our small, vibrant Jewish population allows us to create strong bonds and look forward to Jewish activities.
While it was sad to see them leave on Saturday morning, this weekend for Jewish prospective students was a great plan and an awesome way for them to get to know an underrepresented but flourishing part of campus. I am excited for them to join in on our adventures next year!