Graphic: Created by Evan Brooks with Wix.
West Chester University is home to an overwhelming diversity of students and organizations alike. One strand of diversity that can contribute to identity building is religion. In this week’s installment, the first faith-based organization makes its debut. A part of the WCU community of organizations since the 1980s, Hillel has served as a home to students that both do and don’t identify as Jewish for decades.
President of Hillel, Sophie Koval, has been with the organization for about three years. When talking about Hillel, Koval said it is a “…center for Jewish student life on campus” and how Hillel strives “…to create an inclusive and safe community that’s supportive to all Jewish students and allies on campus.” She added “…regardless of their personal or religious backgrounds” all students help create the organization’s community.
Koval went on to say how Hillel “…allows students to understand their own Judaism in ways that represent who they are” and “who they want to be.” She continued, saying how this is accomplished through enabling students “…to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”
Hillel is one of the most active organizations you will find at WCU right now. Each week you can engage in numerous amounts of events and activities with the organization. Koval listed just some of them, stating you can attend “…Shabbat dinners and programs, coffee dates, bagel brunches, socials, Jewish learning opportunities, holiday celebrations, volunteer opportunities” and “free trips to Israel through Birthright.” And while that list is typical for a normal, in-person semester, Hillel is still holding adapted Shabbat programs, coffee dates and bagel brunches online. Online or in-person, the variety of opportunities to get involved in Hillel are immense, which is great for those wondering what to do at home during these remote semesters.
Some special Hillel events you can attend are coming up this November. On Nov. 6, you can join Temple University and WCU Hillel for an Israel Shabbat, and on Nov. 13, you can stop by for a joint Hillel JUC Pitt (Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh) and WCU Hillel Shabbat.
In terms of the experience offered by Hillel, Koval said that her “…experience in WCU Hillel has been nothing but positive!” She also said how “WCU Hillel has truly given [her] a second family on campus, as well as a strong support system, with whom [she has] made some of [her] closest friends.” Hillel is a place, like most WCU organizations, where you can connect and make lasting relationships with your peers.
Vice President Lizzie Gittleson, who has been with the organization for about a year, said her “…experience with Hillel has been amazing because of the immense support system that it has provided.” Gittleson continued to praise Hillel for “…the connections it has fostered on campus and the life-long friendships it’s facilitated.” A characteristic among WCU organizations is their unique, helpful and positive atmospheres made possible through students’ grit and good nature. Hillel is no exception, with Gittleson saying she could truly not imagine her “life on campus without West Chester’s Hillel being a part of it all.”
Treasurer Becca Porter, who has been a part of the organization for about two years, echoed the benefits of being a part of Hillel. Porter said within the organization’s community she has “…been able to explore [her] leadership capabilities in a safe and encouraging environment while also delving deeper into Jewish learning.” A common theme with Hillel is its emphasis on inclusivity. Porter highlighted this theme, saying how she has “…made friends that will last a lifetime and [she is glad she] found a community so accepting and inclusive.”
Overall, Hillel is a welcoming community of students, built on the principles of togetherness. To keep up-to-date on all that Hillel has planned, visit any of the organization’s pages listed below.
If you’re interested in learning more about WCU Hillel, please reach out to Jenn Reiss, Director of Jewish Student Life: Jreiss@westchesterhillel.org
If you’re a West Chester University organization, and you are interested in having an article written about it, contact me using the email listed below in the byline.
Evan Brooks is a third-year Business Management major with minors in Economics and Civil and Professional Leadership. EB916132@wcupa.edu
Ramconnect Page- https://ramconnect.wcupa.edu/student_community?club_id=19821