Finding My Path Through Hillel: Mallika’s Story



June 5, 2023

There’s no one playbook for growing up, establishing your independence, and finding confidence in yourself. While each person takes their own path, mine led directly through Hillel.

I grew up in a traditional Modern Orthodox home that looked a little different from others in my community. My father is from India and my mom’s first language is Yiddish so our house was always filled with different languages—we spoke Tamil, a South Indian language, with my dad, and Yiddish with my mom. 

Growing up with multiple cultures and languages inspired me to look for a smaller Jewish campus community where there would be more incentive to seek out friends outside my immediate circles.

In 2013, Princeton’s Jewish community was small and close knit, and after a few visits, I decided that’s where I wanted to enroll. I was also interested in a biology major and Princeton’s unique program meant that I could pursue my academic interests while also growing socially and personally. 

Singing with Princeton’s Jewish a capella group was a highlight of Mallika’s college experience

The community at Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL) introduced me to new friends and new experiences. The smaller size of the community meant that all kinds of Jewish students studied, ate, and spent time together. That diversity and warmth contributed to the overwhelming feeling that the CJL was my home at Princeton. It was this environment that led me to Sam, who later became my husband. Meeting Sam was the best example of what I loved about Princeton – we came from different backgrounds and different social circles, but we connected at the CJL and built our relationship through the shared experiences and community we found there. 

Mallika and Sam at Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life

While my studies were challenging and engaging, my involvement with the CJL was where I found the independence and leadership opportunities I was seeking. I led Shabbat services, ran Princeton’s Jewish a cappella group, Koleinu, and got involved with the CJL play (where I met Sam!). These experiences gave me confidence in my ability to build a meaningful Jewish community for myself and my family wherever we live.