Hillel International interns have come to Washington D.C. from near and far to further their passion for Hillel’s mission: to enrich the lives of Jewish students so they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. Hailing from all different religious backgrounds, the interns bring fresh and diverse new voices to the Schusterman International Center. Here are their stories.
Mark Feinberg: Advancement/Development Intern
Growing up, Mark, was never a fan of Hebrew school, and he would frequently make excuses to get out of it. However, one of his goals for college was to become more involved in the Jewish community. During his first semester at college, he joined Hillel at Virginia Tech and pledged Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Before college, Mark didn’t tell many people that he was Jewish. Now being surrounded by Jews in his fraternity and Hillel, he feels more comfortable and proud of his heritage and feels a sense of pride and responsibility to the Jewish community. “It’s actually nice to meet people who don’t know a lot of Jews, because I can make a positive impact on them, which will give them a positive impression of us.” After Mark became more confident of his Jewish identity, he was elected the vice president of finance at Hillel at Virginia Tech the second semester of his freshman year. Mark’s chief accomplishment was organizing the Hillel at Virginia Tech’s phone-a-thon fundraiser which raised over $4,000.
Lindsey Sigal: Hillel Institute Summer Conference Intern
Lindsey grew up in a culturally Jewish home in south Florida. It wasn’t until high school that she became more interested in the Jewish community. Lindsey became very involved in BBYO, and the organization showed her that she wanted to continue her Jewish experience in college. Being involved in the Jewish community gave her leadership opportunities that grew her confidence. “I didn’t have a voice before I got involved in the Jewish community.”
After high school, Lindsey became active with Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach when she started school at Florida Atlantic University. She became president of Owls for Israel and served as the tikkun olam intern, where she planned different community service opportunities to engage Jewish students, for the past two years. For example, she helped organize alternative spring breaks the past two years that incorporated community service and outreach in communities that focused on social justices. Lindsey is looking forward to becoming the senior programming intern this upcoming semester. “I got involved with the Jewish community so I can help engage other students for them to have a Jewish backing and community to support them.”
Annie Weinberg: Jewish Experience Intern
Annie was born into an interfaith family, but her parents raised her with the hope that she would establish a strong Jewish identity. Annie grew up attending a Jewish day school until high school. The school was run by members of the Orthodox community, but students came from all different Jewish backgrounds. At one point in her childhood, her parents bought a second house near the Orthodox synagogue so she and her brother could spend time with their more religious friends on Shabbat. Her parents wanted her and her brother to not feel like add-ons to the Orthodox community, but rather engaged members despite identifying with other denominations. Her parents always gave them “choices,” and their family’s grasp and acceptance of an Orthodox way of life was another choice their parents presented them. “We decided to embrace Orthodox Judaism on the weekends.”
From a young age, Annie was able to understand that there are many different denominations of Judaism. The multiple communities she was immersed in instilled her with an anthropological interest in community, because she “appreciates” how Judaism emphasizes personal meaning, connection and interpretation to the religion and community. Annie’s early Jewish upbringing was based more around the religious side of Judaism, but she became interested in the cultural side in high school. Annie’s life was then centered around BBYO for four years, and that was when she began to develop her new Jewish identity through all of her travels and friends within the organization. “I have developed a big interest in community and the psychology behind it, which is how my career interest developed,” Annie said. “It all comes back to growing up in a Jewish community.”
Logan Kramer: Hillel Institute Summer Conference Intern
Logan was raised in a Jewish home down in Austin, TX, but she charted her own path of Judaism in high school through NFTY. She served as the regional religious and cultural vice president, and she planned regional weekend-long events. In high school and now college, a Jewish community continues to be important to her, and she appreciates opportunities to foster religious experiences for others.
Logan got involved with Hillel at the Claremont Colleges her first semester at Scripps College. During her second semester on campus, she served as the religious activities chair. Logan understands that some of her peers have trouble connecting with Judaism, which motivates her to create chances for the Jewish community in Claremont to come together. “It is important to create spaces where people can ask questions and learn more about what they want Judaism to mean to them so that people can connect to Judaism in whatever way works for them.”
Aaron Schimmel: Jewish Experience Intern
Aaron grew up in a Conservative home, kept kosher and attended a Jewish day school until high school in Los Angeles. High school was the first time he felt like a minority as a Jew, because he was spending more time outside of the Jewish community than he had ever before. “You can live your whole life in Los Angeles entirely in the Jewish community and not really have to interact with non-Jews” Aaron said, “High school showed me that there is a wider world out there, and not everyone is Jewish.”
Aaron moved to Portland, OR, to attend Lewis and Clark College, and there weren’t many Jews there, either. “I grew up in Los Angeles where there are a ton of Jews, so going to Hillel, especially in the beginning, made me feel like I was at home again.” Aaron became involved with Greater Portland Hillel where he eventually became an engagement intern and will be serving as co-president this upcoming semester.
Monica Weitz: Hillel Institute Summer Conference Intern
Unlike many of her peers who grew up practicing one denomination of Judaism, Monica has experienced many: She was born into a Reform community in Atlanta, and then moved to Connecticut where she attended an Orthodox preschool. When her family eventually settled in Philadelphia, they became active members of a Conservative synagogue.
When she was applying for colleges, it was important to her to go somewhere that had an active Jewish life on campus. Monica chose the University of Delaware, where she is one of the founders of Blue Hens for Israel and a member Alpha Epsilon Phi. She feels at home among the university’s diverse Jewish community, and she has learned all that Hillel does to bring a community together. This past semester, Monica studied abroad in Prague, and while traveling, she realized there was no one trying to bond Jewish students. “I realized in that moment that I really needed that in my life.”
Paige Gutter: Communications Intern
Paige grew up in Columbus, OH, and being Jewish was a way of life for her, and most of her close friends. Paige really started to appreciate her Judaism when she began going to Camp Livingston in 2006. “Even though I grew up in a very Jewish area, camp inherently taught me about Jewish topics that couldn’t be explained in a classroom, like about relationships and being an active member of a community” Paige said. “It is one thing to be told about the amazing network of Jewish people in the world, like I was even told at 8 years old, but it was powerful to truly start to understand it’s worth at a young age.”
The community she found at camp followed her to Miami University. The first week of her freshman year, an older boy she had gone to camp with invited her to the Welcome Back Barbecue with the Hillel Foundation at Miami University. From there, she was instantly hooked. Hillel was the first place she felt accepted and valued at college, and it was a feeling she knew she didn’t want to lose. She joined the programming committee, and the following year became an engagement intern. It wasn’t until going to Miami that she truly appreciated the Jewish community, because it was the first time it wasn’t “normal” to be Jewish. “Growing up, all of my friends went to the same synagogue and camps, but going to college, I realized that wasn’t how the real world is,” Paige said. “A Jewish community is something people need to consciously work to maintain, and that idea didn’t become apparent to me until I realized I was a minority at school.”
Darian Rosengard: Strategy and Measurement Intern
Darian grew up in Sacramento, CA, going to Hebrew school, holding leadership positions in USY and attending a Jewish sleepaway camp. Despite all these experiences with Judaism, she has continued to struggle with defining her Jewish identity. She doesn’t see that as a problem—that is what she finds so beautiful about Judaism. “You can really have any belief and be a part of Judaism,” Darian said. “It doesn’t matter if you keep kosher or pray three times a day, if you are Jewish, you are just part of the community.”
Darian was never fully comfortable with her Jewish identity, but it was inevitable she would continue her involvement in college. While studying at the University of Oregon, Darian has served as both an engagement and development intern at The Oregon Hillel Foundation, and she will continue her work this upcoming semester.
As she continues to seek out her Jewish identity, Darian isn’t alone. Her family is her companion on this journey. Her extended family still comes together to celebrate the Jewish holidays, and the festivities give them reasons to reconnect. “Whether we are at synagogue or in my grandparents living room, there are always fun filled activities surrounding a Jewish holiday, and the coming together of a family and community.”