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Op−Ed | Why Tufts Hillel is the foundation of my Jewish life on campus

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 07:11

hillel

Andrew Schneer / The Tufts Daily

I thought that when I went to college, it might be the time to rebel against my Jewish upbringing. However, upon entering Tufts Hillel at the orientation Bagel Brunch, I had a feeling that my adolescent rebellion would be short−lived. As I stood crammed in the Hillel basement, bagel and lox in hand, and as I looked around and saw so many different types of people, I knew that Hillel was going to be a central part of my college experience. I could feel welcome in this space for many different reasons.

As an active citizen, I have felt welcome in Hillel. On Monday evening, I sat in a circle of chairs, “Magic Treehouse” book in hand, in the chapel in the Hillel building. I was reading with third through fifth grade students from Medford and Somerville public schools and fifteen Tufts students for a Hillel program, JumboRead.

As a Community Health major, I have felt welcome in Hillel. On Tuesday night, I sat in Cohen Auditorium with 600 of my classmates, professors, staff, alumni and community members at a Hillel event. Moral Voices, a Hillel initiative hosted Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” as their signature program on this year’s study theme: food security.

As a Jew who struggles with my relationship to Israel, I have felt welcome in Hillel. Yesterday, I engaged in a fruitful lunch discussion about the recent tragic events in Israel and Palestine at Friends of Israel’s and J Street U’s event “Café Dilemma.” At the table, literally sitting on both sides of me, were people with whom I strongly disagreed. There were students from the political far right and students from the far left. Together, we read and discussed the same diverse articles on the situation. Together we argued about what we felt the best direction was for Israel and Palestine, a conversation nobody took lightly. This all happened over a kosher lunch in the Hillel building. A Hillel staff member was in the room, listening and supporting, suggesting additional resources on all sides of the spectrum.

I became involved with Tufts Hillel because it was a place where I felt welcome, and not just because I am Jewish. I felt welcome as someone who is passionate about pursuing social justice, engaging in the greater Medford and Somerville community, living as a global citizen, promoting health and wellness and education. Tufts Hillel felt like a place where I could do good and act well. I stayed involved after my first experiences. Hillel became my home and during my senior year, I became Hillel’s president. For Hillel and for my presidency, I feel privileged.

I feel privileged that Tufts Hillel is a safe space. I can question my feelings about my religion and my culture with the staff and rabbis, and with my peers and student leadership. I can express my support for Israel as a Jewish state and I can be critical of specific policies and still know I will be welcome around the Shabbat dinner table on a Friday night.

Tufts Hillel’s Israel policy is crafted and shaped for our campus and it actively states just what I love about Tufts Hillel. We are committed to “promoting broad based educational programs on campus that address Israeli society, arts and culture, technology and an historical and political understanding of the conflicts in the Middle East” and to “engaging in active dialogue” with all students and groups on campus. We choose not to sponsor speakers who do not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. We disassociate ourselves from the BDS movement because around the world, this has been associated with a movement to delegitimize Israel. I invite you to read our Israel policy for yourself and get the facts about our approach to Israel programming.

Hillel’s mission is broad and actively addresses many aspects of being Jewish including cultural, social, religious and social justice issues. In the next few weeks, the majority of our programming is in observance and celebration of Hanukkah. I feel privileged to be in a leadership position of the vibrant, welcoming and open “foundation for Jewish life” on campus. I invite you to join us on Friday evenings for a Sabbath dinner with friends. I invite you to volunteer with JumboRead and engage with the youngest members of our community. I invite you to come to the Granoff Family Hillel Center to question, to challenge, struggle and to learn about Israel. We want to see you here and would love to hear your voices.

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Emma Goldstein is a senior majoring in American studies and community health. She is the president of Tufts Hillel. 

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