Rutgers Hillel developed the Reform Outreach Initiative, the first program on any campus dedicated to the Reform Movement. With a full-time Rabbi, a cadre of student leaders, and support for programming, the Reform Movement now has a voice on the campus with the 2nd largest Jewish population in the country, to compliment our staff’s Orthodox Rabbinic couple and Conservative Rabbi.
Funding for this program has been generously supported through a dollar for dollar, $250,000 matching gift by Arthur and Betty Roswell. With a deadline of December 31st to raise the remaining $64,000, we offer you a chance to help complete the match by clicking the button below and leveraging your gift to double its value.
Enjoy the following blog by Rutgers Hillel Reform Chair, Kelsey Maxwell ’15, and see first-hand what a difference this program is making.
Hillel as Home
By Kelsey Maxwell ‘15
From the day I arrived on campus, I knew I wanted to become more involved with Jewish life. While I attended Sunday school and Hebrew school for the majority of my life, the Reform community at Rutgers Hillel is where I finally began to discover my Jewish identity. The community of Reform students and staff, in particular Rabbi Heath Watenmaker, was where I finally began to build my Jewish identity and find a Jewish home.
The community is extremely welcoming and open to any type of Jew. I love that regardless of how religious I am, it didn’t matter within this community. They simply want to include people who are Jewish and want to express their Judaism in their own way, which is perfect for me.
I was raised Jewish and attended Hebrew school until sometime in middle school and then worked over the summer when I was thirteen to learn my Torah portion for my Bat Mitzvah. Other than this initial exposure, I never went to services at synagogue except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and I barely identified with my Jewish heritage.
When I arrived at Rutgers, I finally began to discover my Jewish identity, mainly with the help of the Reform community at Rutgers. Within a few weeks, I found myself at Reform Shabbat services, and things have never been the same since.
Having an active Reform Community at Hillel with our own Reform Rabbi is something that has made a huge difference to me. With over 6,000 Jews on Rutgers campus, many of these students, like me, are exploring what it means to be Jewish for the first time. What I love about the Reform community is that we are a natural place for them to have some of their first Jewish experiences.
We reach out to students who are just discovering their Judaism, students that are Jewish but don’t know a whole lot about the religion, or just those students who are Jewish and don’t identify themselves as belonging to any particular sect of Judaism. This is what the Reform community is all about and what is so inspiring to me. We bring these students into Hillel in a non-threatening environment on their own terms. We invite students to events both within and outside of the Hillel building to reach a broader audience and get rid of the intimidation factor that often accompanies walking into the Hillel building for the first time.
As the Rutgers Hillel Reform Community, we involve all students, regardless of their religious or spiritual commitment to Judaism and help these students find where their Jewish identity lies.
Rutgers Hillel is so very important to me and I would love to see every single Jewish student on campus feel comfortable and welcome enough to walk through our doors. This organization helped me to discover and uphold my Jewish identity and it is my mission to do the same for other students.
Please help student leaders like Kelsey strengthen the Jewish community at Rutgers Hillel. These students are the future Jewish leaders of New Jersey.
Your support of Reform Judaism at Rutgers Hillel will be doubled through a matching gift by Arthur and Betty Roswell.
Please click the button below and support the Reform Outreach Initiative at Rutgers Hillel.