Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Rollins' Hillel is home away from home at Rosh Hashanah


September 7, 2018

Emily Block

"Why are we here?" the question hung in the air of the first board meeting of the revamped Rollins Hillel student board. Sure, who doesn't love free Shabbat dinners and trips to Israel, but really, at the end of the day, why are we here? There are over 100 student organizations in addition to athletics, Greek life, internships, etc., that students at Rollins can be a part of. Why is it important that there is a Jewish student organization on campus?

After a moment a student leader looked up, thought for a moment, and said, "Everyone needs a place where they feel like they belong, and for the nearly 200 Jewish students at Rollins, this is that place. I want this to be a place for the Rollins Jewish community to call home. Whether this is a physical space or through events and relationships, I want Jewish students from across campus to feel that they are welcomed and connected to the other Jewish students."

That sentiment sums up the hours of work our student leaders dedicate to the Jewish community on campus, and every Shabbat we hold, every brunch and holiday service, is in pursuit of creating a community where Jewish students feel connected to their peers and ultimately, to their culture and faith.

This past year at Rollins has been one filled with peaks and growing pains as we establish a formalized student-led Jewish community on campus. We restructured our programming reflect the values of the Jewish community on campus and to be able to truly meet the diverse needs of the Jewish students at Rollins College. From Shabbat dinners, to Tuesday Schmooze-Day bagel brunches, Torah on Tap happy hours, the creation of an AIPAC cadre and increased opportunities for student leadership, Hillel is reinventing the way students can "do Jewish" at Rollins.

We started off the fall term strong with a Welcome Back Bonfire, and even though the rain may have forced us inside for some very creative microwave s'mores, this was our largest entirely student attended event, with over 50 students present. We will be continuing our Welcome Back week with a "free and open to all" Shabbat dinner on campus.

Rollins Hillel will be welcoming in the New Year by facilitating multiple different holiday experiences for students. Students will have the opportunity to attend services at a local synagogue of their choice, or with Central Florida Hillel at the UCF Campus. We will also be holding break-fast at Rollins with all the traditional noshes.

This year, many Jewish students will celebrate the High Holidays away from home for the first time. Students will be presented with a multitude of freedoms and challenges when it comes to celebrating at college. We here at Hillel work to empower students to have ownership over their High Holiday experience. No matter how they celebrate they know that Rollins is there to support them as they navigate what it means to do Jewish, on their own terms.

L'Shana Tova! Wishing you a sweet, joyful and healthy New Year, from our family to yours!

Emily Block, Rollins College Hillel director


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