There was no vegan options for me. So, my Hillel director changed that.



July 2, 2018

“Hillel is still fairly new to UT Dallas, so my goal this year is to introduce Hillel to people who either don’t know that we exist, don’t really understand how Jewish life in college can make a personal impact, or have checked us out and then decided that Hillel wasn’t for them. I was the latter as a freshman, until my director reached out to me to figure out why I wasn’t going to Hillel events. I told her that a lot of the events revolve around a meal, and that I wouldn’t be able to fully experience the events because I’m a vegan. Her immediate response was, ‘Oh, really? We can make vegan food happen – what would you want?’ At the next event, not even a week later, there were vegan options. The immediate accommodation is exactly what got me involved. Now that I’m president of Hillel at UT Dallas, I’d like to pay it forward and find out what we could be doing to make Hillel more inclusive and meaningful to students on the periphery of Jewish life on campus. Until we reach out and find what it is [students] need, they don’t realize that we can make Hillel into what they were expecting. There are certainly students who have disconnected from their Judaism, or just haven’t thought of joining a religious organization like Hillel, and we do everything in our power to engage them. Having a diverse range of events is extremely important, because the people who aren’t actively seeking a Jewish experience don’t really know what they want. We have to hope that somewhere in the mix of both camp-like and traditional services, social action projects, cultural events and vegan food options, they find something they connect with. Hillel wants to provide meaningful experiences to as many students as possible, but the fact is that we don’t actually know what those other students need. My role in Hillel is to find those students, figure out what it is that would make them involved in Jewish life on campus and make sure they know that Hillel will do it for them.” — Debbie Pehr, University of Texas at Dallas