Bradley University Hillel offers a multitude of programing options and opportunities for Jewish students to embrace their Judaism, from Friday night Shabbat Services led by Rabbi Daniel Bogard, and Shabbat dinner prepared by a dedicated group of student chefs, to Sunday Bagel Brunches, Challah for Hunger, and so much more. Bradley Hillel extends its reach as far as possible to the Bradley and Peoria communities. The amazing element of Hillel's accomplishments is that they are all student inspired and orchestrated.
Walking through the door on a Friday night, Bradley Hillel will greet you with cheerful chatter, and the mouth-watering aroma of a home-cooked meal straight from one of the two kosher kitchens. The students of Hillel thoroughly appreciate these amenities, and take advantage of the opportunity to engage in kosher practices. Nora Cook, sophomore psychology major from Louisville, Kentucky, and Bradley University Hillel's food manager, enthusiastically volunteers every Friday to lead the preparation of the meal.
"Cooking at Hillel is the best part of my week. It's a great place to be with my friends and be part of the Jewish community," Cook said. "This has been a great opportunity to learn what it means to cook in a kosher kitchen."
Preparations for Friday night feasts are not the only uses for the kosher kitchens. In the 2013 spring semester, junior Jessica Rubens, a public relations major from Lake Zurich , and the Hillel Board began a creative program: Challah for Hunger. Students, Bradley faculty, and the Peoria-area Jews may order fresh-baked challot and receive them for Shabbat. By purchasing a challah they are helping prevent hunger in Peoria. Half of the proceeds from the sales go back to maintaining this beneficial service program, while the other half is donated to the Peoria Area Food Bank. Patrons order online, and a quality challah and a good feeling from doing a mitzvah are both guaranteed.
Supporting Bradley Hillel's Challah for Hunger Program is not the only way people find happiness at Hillel. Students who take advantage of everything Hillel offers attest to the benefits they savor each time they walk through the door. Junior Rachel Vass, psychology major from Northbrook, and the Hillel Intern, is often one of the first people to arrive at Hillel, and one of the last to leave. "Hillel is a great place for people to hang out or study and it's always so welcoming!" exclaims Vass. "I love spending time with all the amazing people and I always have a great time."
All of Hillel's successes are truly a product of the people who have the passion to help Hillel grow. Dr. Seth Katz, Bradley Hillel's Executive Director, attributes so much to student involvement. He explained, "It is larger than just a Hillel thing: we foster connections with Bradley administration, alumni, the student activities office, and help support recruiting and admissions. We work with Hillels of Illinois and the Chicago JUF. And we regularly partner on programs and events with the Jewish Federation of Peoria and the local congregations. We all support each other's missions."
Hillel's mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. Hillel's vision is of a world where every student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Bradley University Hillel makes every effort to emulate Hillel's global mission and vision, and this is a major factor in the successes of this small-but-mighty Jewish student organization. n
Bradley University Hillel is part of the department of Campus Affairs and Student Engagement at Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago/Jewish United Fund and a partner of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Ellie Silver is a junior at Bradley University majoring in Junior Health Science and minoring in Biology.