Rutgers Hillel as “Bookends” for my College Career
by Esti Mellul, class of 2016
To say that Hillel has been an important part of my college career would be an understatement. Hillel has not just been a part of my college experience, it literally began and ended my four undergraduate years at Rutgers. After I moved in to my dorm, the first place I remember going to was Hillel (at the time it was at 93 College Avenue!) to go to a “meet new students and eat bagels” event. The next day I went to the Hillel BBQ, signed up for almost everything, and started going to events. I became the female Freshman Representative on Mesorah/Orthodox Community Board. I joined Kol Halayla, the Jewish A Cappella singing group, in my first semester, stayed until my last, and was Assistant Music Director somewhere in between. I worked on pro-Israel programming, and made events when there were none, because I felt it was important to celebrate with Israel on her holidays and grieve with Israel when she and her citizens were grieving. In my senior year, I started a theater group with Sarah Harpaz and Esther Shimanovich called “Shem Productions”, which enables students of all backgrounds to get involved in the theater without feeling the need to compromise their religious beliefs and practices. While this club is not directly affiliated with Hillel, it gives observant Jewish students the opportunity to take the stage comfortably and confidently, which is something Hillel helped us accomplish.
I went to Hillel for prayer services, Israel advocacy, great friends, and of course, free food. While I knew this at the time, I now truly see that Hillel is always there for whatever a student needs, whenever a student needs it, regardless of his or her religious affiliation, how he or she connects, or how often he or she frequents Hillel. Hillel is a fun place and a safe haven for students, and I can’t wait to see just how much they grow and accomplish once they have a prominent new building on College Ave.
At first glance, the fact that Hillel began my undergraduate career may not seem so special, since many students go to Hillel to tell their parents they went to Hillel.
However I stuck with it, and Hillel became a major part of my Rutgers routine. Eventually, Hillel was also with me at the end of my undergraduate career. The last thing I did on campus happened just a few weeks ago. I attended the Hillel gala for my fourth and final time as an undergraduate student, and I was honored as a Rising Star. It’s crazy to look back and realize that the “bookends” to my four years was Hillel. When I entered college as a freshman who did not know how to get around (funny how College Ave is one straight line and I was so daunted by it) Hillel was there to help guide me. Now that I have just graduated with a BA in Communication and I am pursuing my MA, I know that not only has Hillel given me the tools to be confident and succeed, but they will continue to be there for me while I am a Masters student, as well as when I am an “adult” (one day). I have experienced Hillel’s open arms first hand, and I hope that by being involved I was able to help pass on that same experience to other students.
Thank you Hillel for all that you have done not just for me, but for countless Jewish students on campus.
Rutgers Hillel was proud to honor Esti Mellul at the Annual Gala on Thursday, June 2nd, 2016.
Rutgers Hillel cultivates the next generation of Jewish leaders. Esti is a true testament to that.