Hillel’s Role in the College Search

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By Eli Kaufman
The college search process can all be quite overwhelming. Should I pick a big or small school?  Should I choose a school in the city or in a more rural setting? Do they have my major? Can I study abroad?

These are all questions that go through the minds of many students during this stressful time, and I definitely thought about every one of these questions during my search a little over four years ago.  But I also had a few more questions. I wanted to know if there was a strong Jewish community on campus and if I could get involved with the community.

I visited 10 schools in six states and Washington D.C. and as it turns out, I found my dream school:  Goucher College. Goucher, a school with an undergraduate population of roughly 1,500, has a Jewish population that sits above 30 percent.

At every school that I visited, the first question I would ask was about Hillel. ‘Does the school have a Hillel?’ ‘Is it active?’ ‘What are some of the different leadership opportunities available to students in Hillel?’

Every school had their answer, but there was just something about Goucher’s answer that grabbed my attention.

Goucher Hillel is a place where students can learn and grow Jewishly, but it does not stop there. Outside of the Hillel space is where Hillel seems to thrive. There are so many amazing opportunities to get involved in the community, more than I ever could have imagined.

Goucher Hillel has an impact locally. Students take part in CHAI’s Good Neighbor Day where they weatherize homes and do yard work for those who cannot do it themselves. Students volunteer at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. And students serve food in local soup kitchens.

Goucher Hillel has an impact internationally. As a first year student, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with Hillel to build a school at a place that teaches locals how to farm organically and sustainably.

I said before that Goucher Hillel’s Jewish population sits above 30 percent, but that population does anything but sit.  Hillel is one of the most active groups on campus and goes above and beyond anything that I originally thought when Rabbi Josh Snyder told me that it was very active. From handing out apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah to discussing Israel advocacy, Hillel is always in the public eye. If there is ever any conflict on political or social issues on campus, Hillel is at the forefront promoting open and engaging dialogue.

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Hillel also has its fair share of fun/social programming as well. Sushi in the Sukkah, Build-A-Bear donations, and Challah for Hunger are all events that have been huge successes in the past year. Hillel’s balance of programming keeps everyone interested, involved and engaged.

Now, as I begin my senior year, I can firmly say that Hillel has been the reason why Goucher continues to be so special. It has become a home away from home for me. I spend hours doing my homework on the couches. I eat meals there with my friends. And I celebrate holidays with Goucher Hillel.  It has been everything I thought it would be and more.

 

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