Rutgers Hillel Reflections after Graduation
By Ariel Lubow, Class of 2014
When I was a senior in high school, I visited Rutgers for a weekend. To be honest, I was not very excited about it. I didn’t really want to stay in New Jersey and although everyone told me how great the Jewish life is at Rutgers, I didn’t view that as a top priority.
My whole mindset changed the weekend I first visited Rutgers. I was apprehensive when it came to the size of Rutgers, but the school seemed to become more intimate when I went to Hillel for services and found a welcoming Jewish community. After Shabbat dinner, I walked around with a few people and went to onegs at different houses.
I remember the distinct moment, standing in one of those houses, that I thought to myself; this is something special. This is a community. One that is tight-knit, yet extraordinarily welcoming at the same time. I thought it was amazing that these students, college students who could do anything with their Friday nights, chose to join together as a community. They sang. They socialized. They had a good time being Jewish together.
The next morning, I went to services by myself, as the person I was staying with had to leave Rutgers for the day. While I was very nervous, everyone welcomed me. I got invited to three different Shabbat lunches that day, all from people who did not know me. I woke up thinking I was on my own for the day. I ended up spending the day with a community that embraced me.
Fast-forward two years and I found myself coming to Rutgers as a sophomore, after spending a year in Israel. I found that even though the faces at Rutgers Hillel had changed, the sense of community I found during my Shabbat there was even stronger. I got involved in Hillel immediately, and especially in Koach, the Conservative Community. It may sound cheesy, but Koach truly became my family at Rutgers. I met a wonderful group of people who welcomed me and helped me feel comfortable both at Hillel and at Rutgers. I learned the ins and outs of Hillel, from finding the popcorn machine in the basement to where Rocky the raccoon lived.
Having the opportunity to serve as Hillel’s president this past year has been truly incredible. I have been able to see some extraordinary people create amazing events and initiatives. More than that, I have been able to see people connect with Hillel more than I ever have before. Whether it is a board member working towards expanding and improving Hillel, or a first-year student who takes an interest in Hillel, seeing people develop their bonds with Hillel is great. Having just graduated, I look back on my Rutgers experience and I know that it would not have been as meaningful without Hillel.
From walking to my first football game with my Koach friends, to cleaning up at Shabbat dinners, to constantly answering questions about when the new building will be up, my time at Rutgers was shaped by the impact that Hillel has had on my life. I will always look back fondly on my college experience and remember all of the amazing people I met and the life-changing things that happened at Rutgers Hillel.
Rutgers Hillel encourages our students to build Jewish community and teaches them critical leadership skills. Please support Rutgers Hillel as we help our students to strengthen their Jewish identities and become the next generation of Jewish leaders.