RU Reform Rocked Out with Penn RJC

By Julia Motis, Reform Community Chair, Class of 2017

Julia Motis '17

Julia Motis ’17

This past weekend, November 7-8, the Rutgers Hillel Reform community took a ride into the other city to share a Shabbat with the Reform Jewish Community (RJC) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia!  Appropriately deemed “ROCK Shabbaton,” the Friday evening service featured guitar players from both communities and some familiar secular tunes with a Jewish twist, including Oseh Shalom to the tune of “Imagine” by John Lennon and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to close it out.  The service was a big hit!


Rabbi Brandon Bernstein leading improv at ROCK Shabbaton

Rabbi Brandon Bernstein leading improv at ROCK Shabbaton

Following the service the groups enjoyed a delicious catered dinner from Hummus Grill with all our Middle Eastern favorites, like pita, falafel, and of course, shwarma.  Finally, the evening ended with some ridiculously silly improv games, led by Rutgers Hillel’s very own Rabbi Brandon Bernstein, and a speed-dating style discussion about what we all think it means to be Reform Jews.  Many of the participants highlighted this as a great bonding activity to kick off the weekend, and even their favorite part of the night. Paulee Manich, a first-year student at Rutgers, reflected that, “Before going to the event, I was nervous about the new people we would meet and how we would all get along.  After the improv games and discussion program, we were all friends instantly.”




Rutgers Hillel LOVED hanging out in Philly with our new Penn Hillel friends in November 2014

Rutgers Hillel LOVED hanging out in Philly with our new Penn Hillel friends in November 2014

After spending the night at the apartments of Penn RJC board members, the group met back up for brunch at City Tap House, and the rest of the day was free time for students to go enjoy the city! We visited all the big tourist sites including City Hall, the famous LOVE statue, and got some great food at the Reading Terminal Market.  We were already stuffed and we hadn’t even gotten to the best part, Max Brenner (an Israeli chocolate shop) where we met to have an afternoon snack before heading back to Hillel one last time to close the weekend with Havdallah.  We knew that everyone had a good time because as Rutgers sophomore Adam Nachman explains,“The energy throughout Shabbat was exuberant from the time services started to walking around Philadelphia to Havdallah.”


Overall, this weekend was such a great experience for everyone who attended.  “The Shabbaton was the perfect combination of social, spiritual and educational programming,” says Chad Edwards-Kuhn, junior and religious co-chair at Penn.  Not only did we get to show some hard-core New York fans what Philly has to offer, but also we really got a chance to bond with students who share the same values as involved Reform Jews.  Ultimately, this was our goal with the event.  We want to make connections with all of the Hillel communities near us. Together, we can create awesome new events and learn from each other in order to make each of our respective communities even better!  “It was so valuable to talk with other college-age Reform Jews about our Reform Jewish identities and beliefs,” articulates Jacob Ruden, a senior and the Reform chair at Penn.  Not to mention, it is awesome to have friends all over to reach out to when we are back in their area.  We hope for next semester to host Columbia students and hopefully have Penn students come to us this time for another great event with them!  RU sophomore Leila Gordon sums it up nicely saying, “We made new, lasting friendships and explored the city of Philadelphia—what could be better? I would love to host another school at Rutgers and show them what RU is all about!”


Rutgers Hillel Reform students join UPenn Hillel for ROCK Shabbaton  in November 2014

Rutgers Hillel Reform students join UPenn Hillel for ROCK Shabbaton in November 2014

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.

Your support of Reform Judaism at Rutgers Hillel will be doubled through a dollar for dollar matching gift by Arthur and Betty Roswell.