Hillel seniors sign off with reflections on college experience


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May 19, 2022

Cap, gown, tassel — check.

Hillel seniors are preparing to cross the graduation stage this summer. Meet the soon-to-be college graduates who say the Hillel effect lasts long after they leave campus.

Alanna Margulies, Johns Hopkins University, Class of 2022

Hopkins Hillel encouraged me to explore my Judaism beyond celebrating holidays and keeping kashrut. I became part of the Modern Orthodox community, and little by little, I began observing Shabbat. I turned off my phone, powered down my laptop, and spent time with my friends. I chose to live an observant Jewish lifestyle, but that didn’t mean I had to give up the things I loved. I still celebrated Shabbat with all of my friends from different denominations, and I still participated in college activities that were important to me before and are still important to me now. 

I knew I wanted to make a difference on campus, and that’s why I began participating in leadership roles. I’ve been an intern for the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC), president of the Israel Middle East Forum, and social and marketing chair for the Hillel student board. In these positions, I learned how to create community by planning events, like ‘The Great Latke vs. Hamentashen Debate,’ where I recruited professors and worked collaboratively with other members of the Hillel community. Most recently, I was Hopkins Hillel’s student board president, where I was able to become more confident as a leader and continue using my voice. As a leader, I’ve learned how to make ideas come to life, and that’s what’s truly meaningful to me. 

As I prepare to graduate, I’m thinking about my Jewish future. I’ll need to be much more intentional about the communities and activities I’m a part of because I won’t have the structural support of Hillel anymore. I’ve definitely grown a lot as a Jewish young adult, and it’s become something that’s personally meaningful to me. As I move into adulthood, I’ll need to build my own community around me, and in many ways, I want to emulate what we have at Hillel.”

Harrison Rosengard, Brandeis University, Class of 2022

“My first day on campus, I saw someone wearing a Brandeis Hillel shirt and pulled him aside to learn more. He took me to services that Friday, and that encouraged me to go every week. From there, my involvement with Hillel continued to grow. I signed up for the Jewish Learning Fellowship, a seminar to help students deepen their Jewish understanding. That was my first experience with Jewish learning that wasn’t sitting in a classroom and reading prayers. From there, my passion grew. 

Originally, I came to Brandeis thinking I would study science. Once I got to experience Brandeis Hillel, the community that is here, the other people my age who are excited to be Jewish, something just felt right. The community was so vibrant and lively that it made me go from Jew-ish to someone who keeps Shabbat, who keeps kosher, who wants to devote his life to a Jewish community. Now, I want to be a rabbi. I want to support people — spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. 

I can’t think of an aspect of Hillel that wasn’t a meaningful role, a meaningful experience in some way, shape, or form. There is no other group of people who can match the energy, the spirit, the welcoming attitude, and the fun times that I’ve had here at Hillel. I’m going to infuse that same energy into my community when I become a rabbi. For my entire career, I want to do whatever I can to get close to that same level of passion and enthusiasm at Brandeis Hillel.” 

Lauren Milstein, University of Southern California, Class of 2022

“Before I was even accepted into USC, a close family friend gave me the most recent edition of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. One article, called ‘Freshfest,’ was about a USC Hillel retreat for incoming Jewish freshmen and transfers. Reading the article further solidified my goal to go to USC and my desire to be a part of the Jewish community on campus. 

The following spring, I was accepted into USC, and that summer, I actually went to Freshfest. I experienced so many of the things described in that magazine article, like making s’mores and lifelong friends. The words from that story leapt off the page in real time. That inspired me to pay it forward as a freshman engagement fellow at Freshfest in 2019 and 2021. 

And when I wasn’t at Freshfest, I was still involved with USC Hillel. It always provided a place of lively conversations and snacks, as well as a wonderful way to connect with my Jewish heritage and identity, whether through Shabbat dinners, Passover seders, or networking events with Jewish alumni.”