Some Unexpected Insight
By Julia Motis, Class of 2017
Rutgers Hillel Student Board Reform Community Co-Chair
Julia Motis was one of six Rutgers students who attended the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial last month, along with Rutgers Hillel staff member Sarah Magida, our Reform Community Educator.
We were sitting in a room in the Marriott World Center Orlando, and we had just finished having lunch with Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs to talk about how we, as young adults, are a part of the overall URJ mission and the future of Reform Judaism. Now don’t get me wrong, this was an awesome opportunity to talk to a prominent leader in the Reform Jewish community. However, it wasn’t the most impactful part of that learning session for me. What really sparked my interest was the discussion we had after Rabbi Jacobs left the room. Within the tables we happened to be sitting at, we got a chance to share our experiences working with the Reform communities at our respective Hillels. That’s when a nicely dressed girl with glasses raised her hand and said that she was a freshman who is basically trying to build a Reform community at Drexel from scratch. She shared that her Hillel really doesn’t have a huge Reform presence and that she struggles to work with the other denominations to find compromises. She also said she is struggling to balance finding her place in college and creating a community for others to find their place. It dawned on me that I had this exact same experience, and I immediately raised my hand to share my story.
I, too, ended up as the Reform chair on the Hillel student board second semester freshman year. To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I had been President of my synagogue youth group for my last 2 years of high school, but Hillel was a whole new scope. Working within my temple was fairly straightforward, since everyone there was a Reform Jew like me, with similar beliefs and practices. Conversely, working with the Reform community at Hillel proved to be somewhat difficult for me at first, since not everyone in Hillel practices Judaism the same way that I do, nor do they always agree with the way I practice it. I did not have any experience working in a pluralistic community that caters to all different forms of Judaism, which makes programming a bit more difficult because I had to make sure that events were as inclusive as possible to all denominations. Let’s just say I have learned a lot about compromise.
Over the past three years, I have learned so much from when I was basically appointed the position of Reform Chair as a clueless freshman to now as confident junior. However, this was not without a lot of struggling myself. After all that I have experienced, it felt really amazing to be able to impart some of the wisdom I’ve figured out to another person who is just starting her journey. For the first time since I started this position, I was able to take a step back and reflect on my journey and how far I have come from where I started. It reminded me that I am so fortunate to have an amazing community at Rutgers Hillel that supports all that I do, and that I should never take that for granted.
Rutgers Hillel developed the Reform Outreach Initiative, the first program on any campus dedicated to the Reform Movement. With a full-time Reform Educator, a cadre of student leaders, and support for programming, the Reform Movement now has a voice on the campus with the largest Jewish undergraduate population in the country, to complement our staff’s Orthodox Rabbinic couple and Conservative Rabbi.
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