Featured club: Hillel at GVSU

Courtesy / Hillel

Courtesy / Hillel

Erika Collin

Last year, more than 400 Grand Valley State University students and community members gathered at the Genocide Awareness Night and were deeply moved as they listened to a Holocaust survivor tell his story.

This event was put on by Hillel, which is a Jewish community at GVSU. Hillel is made up of about 40 active members who host several events over the course of the school year and will be putting on another Genocide Awareness Night this March.

“Events like this are instrumental in bringing the GVSU community together,” Hillel President Noah Zucker said. “They help everyone become more knowledgeable about the world we live in.”

Zucker has been involved with Hillel since he came to GVSU four years ago. While the organization doesn’t have regular weekly meetings, it conducts between two and four programs or events a month. These programs, held both on and off campus, include Shabbat dinners, baking nights, movie nights, volunteer opportunities, informational programs, and campus-wide events.

“While most of our smaller events are usually just attended by Jewish students, all of our events are open to all students on campus and are almost always free,” Zucker said.

One of the most innovative events, and an example of the Hillel members’ desire to mesh with all students, was the Avi Shabbat dinner held last year. The Jewish organization invited the Muslim Student Association to have a Shabbat dinner with them.

“This dinner was an amazing experience that brought students from different faiths and cultural backgrounds together, strengthening the GVSU community,” Zucker said.

Hillel will be hosting this event again this year along with an abundance of others. The organization also provides avenues and opportunities for Jewish students to take free trips to Israel in order to experience the culture.

One of the most popular events during the fall semester was challah making, where students made the braided bread traditionally served during a Shabbat dinner.

“My favorite event was challah making,” said Danielle Kay, a member of Hillel. “ It was a fun event because we got to make something, but it was also fun to feel more connected to my Jewish heritage.”

If interested in attending any of Hillel’s events or becoming more involved with the organization, students can go to the “Hillel at Grand Valley State University” Facebook page.

“My favorite part about this club is that it provides a sense of community for the Jewish students on campus where they might struggle to find this community elsewhere,” Zucker said. “It is a great group of students, and I always know we will have fun when we get together.”

With a small Jewish population on campus, it can be difficult for those who are Jewish to feel connected to other Jewish students.

“Hillel has a sense of community,” Kay said. “People just get it there. In a school with few Jewish kids, it’s nice have that kind of understanding. My favorite thing is that it connects the culture and the community and the religion really well. It’s welcoming. It’s easy to feel at home at Hillel.”