by Emily Tuchman
As an incoming transfer student this fall at Loyola University, I was anxious to make friends and establish a sense of community with the unfamiliar people around me. I planned on joining clubs and student organizations as a way to meet people and form relationships. But when my dad suggested that I try Hillel at Loyola, I told him that it did not interest me. While I was raised in a Jewish family and participated in Jewish traditions with my family growing up, I never considered myself particularly religious. However, after the Hillel community personally reached out to me and warmly welcomed me, my ideas completely changed.
Before I even registered for classes at Loyola, I received a welcome email from Hillel, expressing the wish that my Loyola registration goes well. Then, shortly before classes began, Hillel sent me a letter in the mail welcoming me to Loyola and inviting me to join the Hillel community for lunch every day of the first week of classes. Hillel sent such a letter to every new Jewish student. I was so pleased with the way in which Hillel reached out to me that I decided to attend one of the lunch events. As soon as I walked in the door, I introduced myself and was greeted with a warm hug from Patti Ray, the Hillel Director. Patti welcomed me to Hillel, introduced me to each person there, and gave me a tour of the Hillel offices. I quickly learned that the Hillel community is welcoming to all students as well as Loyola graduates and friends and faculty from the greater campus community, both Jewish and not.
Even though I never thought I would be involved with a university Hillel group, I found myself at the Hillel events every day of my first week at Loyola. Each time I went, Patti and the Hillel Board made sure that I was introduced to every other person at the event, so that I was able to feel like part of the community. Even after the first week of classes, Hillel continued to reach out to new and returning students. During the campus-wide Hillel "Party on the Porch," involved Hillel students looked for ways to connect different new and returning students with each other; and finally, the "New Student Dinner" was the last event aimed towards welcoming new students.
The incredibly inviting and hospitable people in Hillel really helped me to form a strong sense of community and adjust to a new school as a transfer student. I am so impressed with the way in which the Hillel program welcomes new Jewish students to Loyola. Personally, I have never felt so welcomed by a university group. Not only has Hillel made my social transition into Loyola so much easier, but it has also brought me more in touch with my Jewish heritage. Because I am so inspired by the way in which Hillel reached out to new students, my goal as a new member of the Hillel community is to make other new students feel just as welcome as I felt.