This piece was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. Read the full issue and sign up for your FREE copy of the next issue at hillel.org/magazine.
Shalom! It wasn’t long ago that I was in your shoes, looking at colleges and the Jewish life that they provide. Now I am a sophomore at Ithaca College studying Music, Theatre Arts Management and Strategic Communications and am an active member of many student organizations. I have led the communications team for a conference held at IC, worked with Relay for Life, and served as a President’s Host Tour Guide and an intern for Hillel. All of these roles are important to who I am as a person. Specifically, my involvement with Hillel at Ithaca College has been an important part of my growth as a student, a musician and a Jew.
Before attending Ithaca College, I was an active member of my temple community and attended a Jewish sleepaway camp for 10 summers. Judaism has always been a part of who I am. Music came along a little later, but it became just as integral to my life. They are both a part of who I am and I make it a priority to fit both into my weekly schedule. Every Thursday I make sure I leave time to attend Hillel’s “Coffee in the Pub” to ensure that I get my cup of coffee and some “me” time.
I had the opportunity to travel to Israel this past January with Hillel through Birthright Israel, which left me feeling more connected to the Jewish people. This is just one of the many opportunities Hillel at Ithaca College has given me to explore my Judaism. Each year Hillel hosts more than 100 different events. Some involve Judaism; others involve bonding with friends over a cup of coffee. There are also opportunities to attend weekly Shabbat services, the annual Passover Seder or the Rosh Hashanah banquet. With the wealth of activities offered by Hillel, my friends and I are able to determine how active we would like to be and which events we choose to participate in. This really makes Judaism fun, allowing you to choose how Jewish you want to be.
As a music student, I have been able to integrate my interest in Judaism into the classroom. In the fall of 2014 in music history class I was able to study a Jewish composer, Salamone Rossi.
Some of his most famous works are some of the most well-known prayers, such as “Adon Olam.” It was interesting to learn about how his Jewish identity affected music, which led me to my new research topic for the spring semester of music history: Froméntal Halévy and his “Grand Opera La Juive.” It has been a captivating topic as I grow as a Jewish student, musician and leader at Ithaca College.
Judaism, music and leadership make up the person that I am, and the Ithaca College campus and Hillel communities allow me to thrive in these areas. Each is an integral part of my life and there are countless opportunities to get involved. You can be a musician, you can be a Jew, and you can be a leader. Most importantly, you get to be you.
Brandon Schneider is a sophomore music major at Ithaca College.