In 1978, when I was a freshman at University of Wisconsin, Madison, I lived in a dorm that was half a block away from what was then called the Hillel House. Hillel was my primary connection to Judaism and Jewish practice those first few years of college. I would go there to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. Hillel was always there for me and provided a base for me to explore other Jewish programming, like Israel education.
When I became a law student at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU), I wanted to take a more active role in exploring my Jewish identity. I connected with Jim Diamond, the WashU Hillel director at the time, and Devora “Reb Deb” Jacobson who was the dynamic Jewish educator of WashU Hillel. I would meet with teachers and friends at Hillel, exploring who I was and what I wanted from Judaism.
During that time, at the beginning of my second year of law school, I started to think about how I wanted to approach celebrating Rosh Hashanah differently than I had in the past. When I was an undergraduate student, I celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a sense of routine and tradition. But now, with the ideas I was exploring through Hillel, I wanted to approach the new year with intention and thoughtfulness.
I took time before Rosh Hashanah to think about what I wanted to accomplish in the new year, and even more so, what I wanted my Rosh Hashanah experience to look like. I wanted to connect more deeply with the prayers and the community I was sharing the holiday with. That Rosh Hashanah was the beginning of a forty year long (and counting) Jewish journey. The way I think about the Jewish identity and practice of my family, my children, and myself started all those years ago with the conversations and relationships I found through Hillel.