by Rachel Borgman
Hillels across the country are helping students retain their Jewish identities while they are away at college. The Hillel at Bradley University has taken this mission a step further. With a new house, the BU Hillel began an era of dedication to upholding Jewish customs and traditions. One way to encourage learning is to have students become more personally involved in everything that Hillel does. Shabbat services are one of the programs that students are being encouraged to become more involved with.
One student has taken her experience to another level by actually leading her fellow Jews in a Shabbat services that she designed along with the Hillel Director, Rabbi Daniel Bogard. This opportunity was made possible through focusing the services on the students themselves.
Gabriela Granote, a senior at Bradley explains that "Rabbi Bogard wants to make this our service, not his. Which I think is cool. He emphasizes in educating us so we can make meaningful decisions for us in terms of how we maintain Judaism after college and lead a Jewish lifestyle."
With the invitation to lead a service, Emily Goldberg, a freshman at Bradley, decided that she wanted to share some of her own traditions with others. To prepare for Shabbat, she got together with the rabbi and prepared the service that she wanted to experience with everyone.
The service started much like the other Reform services. Rabbi Bogard lead students through the starting psalms and then passed the role on to Emily. Before each prayer, Emily would explain the melodies that she had chosen, many of which she had held on to from her experiences at camp.
"I have gone to the reform Jewish camp, Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, for 8 years as a camper, and I recently worked there on staff. I always really liked the way we ran services at the camp, so I decided, why not bring some OSRUI into a Hillel Service," explained Goldberg after the service. "I just kept thinking of the melodies I always sing at camp, melodies that I am used to, melodies that I love to sing."
Other students followed her lead as she introduced new songs to the group. Audrey Hutnick, a senior member of Hillel, expressed how much she enjoyed the service because it was different than others she had been to. "Back home you go to synagogue and the rabbi runs services. It is a fun, new experience to have a student working with the rabbi to run services their own way."
As an active member of Hillel, Emily's Jewish Identity remains very important to her, and through her participation, she hopes to share her passion with others like her."I love being able to express my Reform Judaism to the Hillel Community and to be able to share this experience with them, along with experiencing other types of services. It's a great way to see other perspectives and aspects of Judaism", Emily said.
Because Hillel is open to all sects of Judaism, experiencing different customs is another way that students help each other learn about the differences in Judaism. Having students lead their own services is a great start to teaching young Jews how to further connect with their roots.
Although Rabbi Bogard will continue to lead services, the option for a student led service or a learner's service will always be available with the goal of continuing to educate young Jews and strengthen their religious beliefs.
Emily standing in front of one of the stain glass windows in the sanctuary.