Relationships matter to college students. Hillel student leaders at Temple University are building meaningful friendships through a wide range of experiences — from a student's first on-campus Shabbat celebration, or a latke-eating contest during Chanukah, to an unforgettable Purim celebration. From community service to community building, Temple students are creating a vibrant Jewish community on campus. Student achievements are many and underscore a vital community of Jewish leaders attending college at Temple University.
Temple students at Hillel successfully organized dynamic social, educational and charitable programs during the 2011-2012 academic year. There are many highlights. Just this past April, Paige Guber (class of 2013) spearheaded the most successful Israel Week ever held on campus at Temple. Guber and her team designed a curriculum of Israel education using a positive, fair portrayal of the Jewish state, promoting a healthy dialogue during a week-long experience that engaged the broader student community.
Student leader Danielle Ellis, class of 2014, ran a Cook for a Friend program through which students cooked and packaged over 2,000 meals for homebound seniors. And Tara Levine, class of 2015, celebrated her Judaism by participating in Hillel's visit to Philadelphia's National Museum of American Jewish History. "I feel grateful and lucky to be involved with a community where I can lead while continuing my personal Jewish educational process every day," Levine said of the Temple students' visit. "Everyday interactions with Hillel staff and students provide a warm community and sense of belonging while I am in college."
Last year brought growth in student outreach at Temple Hillel, with the number of students engaged in meaningful Jewish experiences on campus jumping from just over 600 the previous year to more than 800 undergrads at Temple this year. The kosher restaurant, Café 613, has become a hot spot for all students on campus.
Students enjoy Temple Hillel's rooftop deck for programs like the Chill-N-Grill-A-Thon and the Charitable Open Mike Night, which packed in over 100 students each for important student causes. The skyline views from the rooftop deck have also been drawing alumni back to campus since the dedication of the Edward Rosen Center for Jewish Life inside the new Hillel building located at 15th and Norris streets. As word has spread across campus, Hillel at Temple has become the place to be.
This next academic year, nine new student volunteer leaders are serving on the Temple Hillel Student Board and have begun preparations for the yearlong programming. Molly Weinberg, Freshman Engagement Student Intern, has been busy planning Fresh Fest, Hillel's orientation for Temple's incoming class of 2016. Temple Hillel's Student Board is planning a student-run "alternative" spring break, creating new opportunities for community service in Philadelphia, and developing new social structures, like an intramural sports team. These volunteers demonstrate that the Jewish student leaders at Temple Hillel don't take the summer off.
As Temple alumnus and parent Samuel Domsky attested: "Hillel positively affected me when I attended Temple 30 years ago. Now both my children — Alex (class of 2013) and Sara (class of 2014) — enjoy a great new Hillel house where students may seek their own Jewish identity through community service, Israel advocacy, social activities and geo-political awareness. Hillel's kosher restaurant is great for my kids because they can observe kashrut right through Temple University's meal plan!" Recalling a Friday Night Lights Shabbat dinner, Domsky said: "As a parent, it's great to come back to Temple for Shabbat dinner at Hillel with my kids."
Becoming the Lead Student Intern for Hillel at Temple this upcoming academic year is an opportunity for me to engage a revitalized Jewish community. With the support and partnership of generous volunteers and alumni, led by the president of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, Jeffrey Barrack, and the chair of Hillel's Temple Board of Overseers, Mary Bernstein — who are both an inspiration for hard-working student leaders — Temple Hillel facilitates meaningful relationships among Jewish students and provides programs that create indelible memories.
Hillel nurtures the values that best equip Jewish college students for the world on the other side of graduation. So Temple students at Hillel are rolling out the welcome mat for Jewish friends and alumni to come back to Temple University, to the home of the Jewish community in North Philadelphia, as we celebrate our past, seize the moment and secure the future.
Yuval Yarden is a member of Temple University's class of 2013.