What it’s like to be a Jewish university student today: Mandi’s Story



October 17, 2023

The recent attacks in Israel have shocked the Jewish community across the nation. At Elon Hillel, we are processing, grieving, and sticking up for our community. As a student leader in the Jewish community, I want to offer comforting and empowering spaces and opportunities for my fellow students, while also dealing with the emotional trauma of losing friends, wondering whether other friends are alive, and watching my people get raped, murdered, and kidnapped. 

We opened the Hillel house to all students, at all hours, as a way for us to come together, share our thoughts and feelings, and attempt to process this tragedy.

We draped an Israeli flag over a table, and placed on it the Prayer for Israel, a memorial candle, and a notebook to write down thoughts and prayers. I am part of countless group chats with hundreds of students sharing resources, positive thoughts when possible, and condemning  hurtful and false information about Israel masquerading as news. 

My Hillel co-president and I worked with co-presidents of Chabad at Elon to create a gathering to show our love for Israel. Without any support from the university, we joined more than 100 students to pray for those in Israel and for the Jewish community. 

I am so inspired and heartened to see vigils and gatherings come together across the nation;  however, I am also horrified watching the counter-protests against Israel, and witnessing other student groups around the country support the terrorist attacks in Israel.  

It has been an exhausting week. We’re continuing to push the university to release a statement of support empathizing with the Jewish community and condemning these attacks; we’re contacting friends in Israel who are stuck in shelters and fighting for their country; and we’re trying to keep up with school work, in the midst of this devastating time. Still, there’s nothing more important to me, and to so many of the Jewish students that I know, than standing united as a Jewish community. Thank you to everyone who is standing with us, each and every day.

Mandi Lichtenstein is a senior at Elon University studying biotechnology and molecular biology as well as Jewish studies. She is an active member of Hillel International’s Student Cabinet, a previous member of the Israel Leadership Network and the cohort of content creators, and a current co-president of Elon University’s Hillel.