Hillel Impact Stories
Every week Hillel at ASU hosts a Shabbat experience, complete with services and a free meal, for all students. We create opportunities for those in attendance to connect with their Hillel community and different groups across campus through collaborative efforts led by our student leaders. Earlier this month we partnered with Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) and Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi), the Jewish fraternity and sorority on campus, to host Shabbat in the Hillel parking lot. They both worked with our staff to offer a unique ‘camp-style’ service for those in attendance. Everyone then came together for an Italian-inspired dinner catered by Hillel at ASU alum Chef Amber Sampson. We were thrilled to welcome both Greek chapters, especially the over 20 students who joined us for the first time at Hillel.
“Hillel helped establish AEPhi at ASU and the partnership between the two is still strong today. It was so fun for AEPhi to host Shabbat with ASU Hillel! Most of our chapter members were able to attend which provided a great reminder of how impactful the relationship between AEPhi and Hillel can be. The sisters of AEPhi know that if they ever need anything, from chapter development to personal development, the Hillel staff and community are always there for us. I have no doubt that the important relationship between Hillel and AEPhi will continue to grow and flourish for years to come.” - Bella Schneider ‘23
“AEPi had a great time cosponsoring Shabbat with Hillel. Having the opportunity to gather our brothers for a Shabbat experience with other members of the ASU Jewish community in a COVID safe way was amazing. Hillel has always been supportive of our brotherhood, helping us grow and strengthen our organization, and we’re always excited for the opportunity to continue partnering with Hillel to create social and educational programs. I am grateful to be a member of AEPi and that Hillel is invested in us as an organization and as individuals.” -Ian Lockwood ‘22
There was a lot of built-up energy and momentum for students returning to campus this year and Hillel at ASU took the opportunity to capitalize by providing not just one welcome week, but a full 6-weeks of programming, called ‘The First Six’, focused on showing that we were ready to welcome all students back in full swing. One of the highlights was our annual Street Fair where we had nearly 100 students gather in our parking lot to socialize and enjoy free food all while collecting SWAG and getting to meet the many student groups and campus partners that make up our Hillel community. With the lifting of campus restrictions, we’ve also been able to return to tabling and programs around campus where over 300 students have already connected to Hillel, both on the Tempe and Downtown campuses.
Our staff and student leaders felt moments of shock and adjustment when we all returned to campus, but they also continued to show resiliency and jump back into things despite the sense of ambiguity that we all face as a result of the pandemic. There was a communal sense of relief to being back in person and feeling the impact of connecting without a screen in between us.
This is a semester all about experimenting, what does our new normal look like? To Hillel at ASU this looks like learning from the last 18+ months that students are open to new things. We had over 20 first-year students show up to pizza by the dorms. We had many students join us for high holiday meals and services (you can read about one of them, Liora, here), and others join us on campus for ‘Bagels and Shofar’ during Rosh Hashanah and yoga during Yom Kippur. A Yom Kippur meditation followed by break-fast rounded out the holiday.
We are constantly innovating and iterating to meet students’ needs as we all learn what those needs are. We are excited to keep you updated as we all evolve together.
Liora Hyman ‘22 helped lead Hillel at ASU’s High Holiday services this semester. She first became involved through one of our virtual classes last year and has since grown her connection not only to the Hillel community but to her Jewish identity. While reflecting on her experiences this holiday season she shared, “Working with Hillel was such a spiritually strong experience. Both of my parents are clergy, so I have always struggled to find my own place of leadership within the Jewish community.”
Liora’s role in the High Holidays not only gave her the platform to be a Jewish leader but allowed her to re-explore her personal connection to Judaism. She worked closely with Rabbi Suzy leading up to the fall semester to find her confidence in praying so she could feel empowered to lead a group of students in prayer.
She is proud of her accomplishments and appreciates the privilege she was given to lead services. But when thinking about the entire experience she said, “looking back I would do it all again, everything but fasting. Leading prayer services and fasting is a new level I had never experienced before that left me emotionally and physically exhausted. However, I would do it all again for Hillel at ASU.”
Imagine spending your first semester of college at home, while other first-year students are on campus doing what they can to safely meet new friends and adjust to this new chapter in their life. That’s what the first 5 months of my life as a college student were like. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but without Hillel it would’ve been nearly impossible. Having now completed my first year of college, I can say that I am a proud Sun Devil, thanks to ASU Hillel!
Before fall semester started, Hillel staff members reached out to me for a virtual ‘get-to-know-you’ and I could not be more thankful for that opportunity. Zoom fatigue made it challenging to connect with people outside of my ASU classes. There were times when it felt like it would be impossible to make friends and feel a part of the greater campus community during my virtual semester. Because of that one Hillel call, I joined two Hillel classes that helped me build deep connections with students and the Jewish community at ASU. Hillel constantly reminded me that being virtual might have made things harder, but not impossible.
I loved learning more about life’s big questions and about Israel through the two classes I took, the Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) and the Engage Israel fellowship. Both classes were structured differently than my academic classes; they gave me the chance to talk with other students one-on-one and in small groups. Having this weekly commitment with students who were there for the same reasons I was made building friendships easy. These classes allowed me to build real relationships with other ASU students and I can confidently say that I feel a part of the community because of Hillel.
I honestly believe that there’s no other space or community that makes such a real effort to reach out to someone new and to make sure that every person feels comfortable. I am so grateful for the amazing and generous donors who make it all possible.
Allison Thompson ’23 is one of many students at ASU who helped read names as part of our 24-hour Holocaust memorial program.
Reflecting on her participation, Allison shared that “the Yom HaShoah name reading was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced. I read during the middle of the night, during the day while people passed by to attend class and was the final reader to end the event. Each time felt so powerful because I was able to honor those who passed. It was also devastating since we hardly put a dent in the number of names that we were able to read for 24 hours. This event was a reminder of how important it is to continue to memorialize the victims so the Holocaust can never happen again"
Allison’s participation in not one, but three different reading shifts allowed her to experience this emotional act in different environments. We are proud of our students, like Allison, who took time out of their day, and night, to be a part of this meaningful reading.
Allison also serves as the VP of Marketing for the newly established Jewish Greek Council and is a Hillel Birthright alum.
Hanna Griffin ’23 stepped into a new leadership role as the VP of Programming at ASU Hillel just a few months ago. She has always been actively involved in the Hillel community and was excited to use her new role to bring a focus and passion for Tikkun Olam, ‘repair the world’, to Arizona State Hillel. Hanna had a personal goal to increase community service opportunities for Jewish students at ASU. “Mitzvah on ‘A’ Mountain” is the first of many programs that not only builds Jewish community but also gives back to the Tempe community and environment. Hanna worked closely with the AEPi fraternity leadership team to plan the event, from a distanced ‘team huddle’ to kick off the event, to ordering re-usable ASU Hillel water bottles for all participants to take home. She believes it is important to offer a variety of opportunities that can feel important and relatable to all different students. Hanna values the community Hillel provides for her on-campus that helps her grow and learn outside of the classroom.
Jamie Horowitz ’22, the Social Justice Chair at ASU Hillel in partnership with Repair the World, is working closely with Rabbi Suzy to lead a new weekly social justice class. Her personal goal is to get students engaged and outside as a community in a COVID-safe way while giving back to the greater Tempe community. Jamie led the February 19th clean-up efforts and relished the opportunity to embrace action alongside their learning. She helped build a fun experience with music as they performed their good deed and brought in Shabbat together. Jamie sees this leadership position as her ‘saving grace’ throughout COVID. It has provided her the opportunity to grow and show dedication to her passion for community service, while safely engaging in person with others. Jamie finds activism to be a core piece of her Jewish identity and appreciates the space ASU Hillel has created for her to be surrounded by like-minded people and grow with them. Jamie has always found a place of comfort at Hillel and is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring that experience to others.
After graduating from Arizona State in 2006 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy, Ashley knew that Judaism was always going to be an important part of her life. As an out-of-state student, she had walked onto campus four years earlier without a familiar face to turn to, feeling lost, as most first-year college students do. Ashley knows how fortunate she was to have found herself, her Jewish self, during college because of ASU Hillel. She found a home-away-from-home surrounded by the staff and community who cared about her; her success and happiness were important to them as if they were family. Ashley remembers the feeling of gratitude when Rabbi Lee called her personally with an invite to her first Hillel program and later on to celebrate Shabbat. Hillel was fundamental in her Jewish discovery as an individual and her time engaged with Hillel still drives her connection to Judaism. Ashley joined the internship program at Hillel and became part of the daily Jewish life at ASU earning herself the Joan Frazer Memorial Award for Judaism and the Arts. She learned the ins and outs of nonprofits while doing work that brought her joy and allowed her to make a difference in the world every day. Ashley now works at a Jewish day school in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband and three children. She will always have a special place in her heart for ASU Hillel, and Rabbi Lee, who empowered her to embrace her Judaism in every aspect of her life. She hopes every student at ASU can continue to have such amazing experiences with Hillel where they too can discover their true selves.
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