It was an incredible first year for me as Executive Director and Rabbi at Texas A&M. When I arrived last summer to an amazing, brand-new building, I knew I had my work cut out for me as the first new executive director at Texas A&M Hillel since the 1980s. Texas A&M is the third-largest university in the country and while it hasn’t always been a primary destination for Jewish students, that is rapidly changing. The university has been incredibly responsive to Hillel’s push to grow the Jewish population at Texas A&M. Modern Hebrew will be added as a language on campus by next fall and within a few years, we expect to see the creation of a Jewish studies program. Texas A&M is also working on opening a branch campus in Israel and would become the only foreign university to have such a presence in Israel.
Prior to my arrival, Jewish students on campus didn’t have much of a home, as our building was under construction. Now, with the opening of our new facility, students have 24-hour access to this home away from home and can be found studying day and night (especially during finals week). We’ve expanded all of our programming - social, educational, and religious - to create a model Hillel in College Station, TX. Thankfully, my network of Hillel colleagues around the globe has helped me to envision what success looks like in terms of serving our students.
We’re moving forward at a breakneck pace in our transformation as a Hillel. I’m so pleased that we’ve grown to the point where about fifty students show up for our weekly Friday night services, followed by a delicious kosher meal prepared by our new in-house chef. I love that our Tu b’Shevat seder and end of the year pool party, planned by our brand-new Jewish Student Life Coordinator, were among students’ favorite events of the year. I love that the students have revitalized the student board and are working to launch Aggie Students Supporting Israel, Challah for Hunger, and a spate of tzedek and social justice programs. We’re also training four students as engagement interns to reach out to Jewish students on campus, expanding our reach.
There is a renaissance of Jewish life at Texas A&M, and I am honored that Hillel is such an essential catalyst of that resurgence.
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg is the Executive Director and Rabbi at Texas A&M University. He was ordained in 2013 at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to rabbinical school, he was a Red Cross disaster manager, author, and geographer. Matt lives in College Station, TX with his wife and three kids.