Expanding the Rutgers Hillel Jewish Network
By Ezra Chefitz ’15
I have always felt the need and want to be an active member in the Jewish community. Even as a freshman I was constantly going to Hillel events or helping out in different ways. This is what led me to Rutgers Hillel’s Peer Network Engagement Internship (PNEI). As an intern, my responsibilities have been to reach out and connect to Jewish First Years. Entering a huge state university such as Rutgers can be a daunting experience. Our job is to make that experience easier and beneficial. Building such relationships makes it easier to connect to Jewish life on campus, as well as creating meaningful opportunities.
The most amazing thing I have learned from PNEI is just how big Jewish life on campus is, and how eager people are to become a part of it. Even though I was active last year in Hillel, when I first started PNEI I only knew two of the other interns. This really emphasizes how big the active Jewish community is, because the other eleven interns had also been active, I just never had the opportunity to meet them. That in itself is what PNEI is about, making those connections to people you would have never met otherwise.
The thing that surprised me the most was when I began to go and reach out, was the high percentage of people who were eager to meet with me. To most of these people I was a complete stranger, yet in most cases they were so happy to be engaged by someone from the Jewish community. In a few instances they had almost been waiting for someone to reach out to them and help them be a part of the vibrant Jewish community which is Rutgers Hillel. For instance, there was one out of state student who couldn’t go home for Hanukkah, and was anxious to find ways to continue the tradition of doing something special for the holiday. I connected this student with the opportunities on campus and he was heartened to know about the vast array of things that were happening. During the fall semester I had the privilege of making over 45 connections that I will continue to grow over the course of the spring semester with the goal of reaching 60 new students total.