For the Jewish community at Seton Hall, the lack of a dedicated on-campus organization to their community has long been frustrating.
Esther Belfer, a junior biology major, decided to change that. Belfer chartered Seton Hall’s chapter of Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. Hillel, founded in 1923 at the University of Illinois, has actively been promoting the celebration of Jewish living and learning across college campuses.
Prior to the founding of Seton Hall’s chapter, Belfer noted that the lack of a space for Jewish students was a point of concern. “There’s a club for everyone on campus, but there was no dedicated organization for Jewish students to gather and express themselves,” she said.
To Belfer’s knowledge, there had been previous attempts to found a Jewish Student Association, but none came to fruition. Belfer settled on bringing Hillel to campus due to its global reach and recognition with the Jewish community.
“Hillel provides a space for Jewish students and their peers to come together to celebrate the higher holidays and to express themselves,” Belfer said.
Recently, Seton Hall Hillel held a Purim party, which was co-sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA). Belfer was blown away by the support for the event, saying the experience was “heartwarming” and felt that she personally had found the acceptance that she had been longing for on campus.
Jacob Abel, a junior diplomacy major, echoed many of Belfer’s sentiments.
“I was really happy to be able to finally have a Jewish org here on campus,” Abel said. “Before the formation of Hillel, I knew there were Jewish students here on campus but there wasn’t really a unified place where we could meet.”
Abel said that the reception of the organization has been positive on his end, as the Purim event had a substantial turnout of both Jewish and non-Jewish students. The need for an organization has been noted by many, with Abel saying that a recent Seton Hall graduate had said to him that they wished Hillel was around while they were attending Seton Hall. Seton Hall Hillel has also previously held an event where they discussed the role of Valentine’s Day and love in a modern Jewish context.
Hillel International, which is the parent organization of Seton Hall’s chapter, prides itself on engaging its members to be leaders for the future.According to their website, one of the fundamental pillars of the organization is understanding. “Hillel attempts to engage others, seeking first to understand them, and then to identify common interests, offerings, or experiences that meet them where they are,” the organization says.“With a focus on relationships and not on participation, we create vibrant, relevant, Jewish life across campus, enhancing the accessibility of Jewish experiences for all students through conversations with peers.”
Hillel also exemplifies a strong desire to bring attention to Israel and its role in the lives of Jewish people. The organization also says that it has seen a 38 percent increase in student involvement over the last five years.
Seton Hall’s Hillel hopes to add to that statistic. Seton Hall Hillel is currently working with the SOAC committee to help obtain a set operating budget for next year to help ensure the continuity of the organization on campus. In addition, they are also actively planning future events for this semester.
Belfer said that they hope to have events for Passover, but they are still in the planning stages and hopes to have more information soon. As the organization grows on campus, Belfer hopes that non-Jewish students who are interested about Judaism and Jewish culture attend the group’s events – a pillar of Hillel International’s mission.
If you’re interested in learning more about Seton Hall Hillel, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Zachary Shaw can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @ zach_shaw_.