NJIT Hillel provides resources for Jewish students on campus to celebrate traditions and explore their culture, community, and religion. The organization hosts celebrations for religious and cultural holidays, informational events, guest speakers, and much more. It also provides resources for students who need religious accommodations or a safe space on campus. The club is open to everyone: Jewish students as well as allies!
At least once a semester, the organization aims to hold a Shabbat dinner. Most events are casual and often have free food and activities. Rabbi Minsky from Chabad Newark comes in monthly to give a lunch discussion, and the club plans on having some events with the other schools involved with Hillel of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Second-year web and information system major Benjamin Shuster said, “The first event I went to was a Halloween Shabbat; I was not too familiar with how the club operated and was used to a slightly more formal Shabbat meal. I was very surprised when I walked in — it was just a bunch of people hanging out and having food — overall a great time.”
Edie Westrich is a third-year information technology major and serves as the club’s public relations and social media manager. She outlined some of the specific events coming up this semester, like the “masquerade for Purim — which is a Jewish holiday where we dress in costumes and celebrate our triumph and survival in the fifth-century Persian Empire. It’s in early March, and it’s a great chance to reuse a cool Halloween costume or show off your cosplay!” There will also be a candle lighting for Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, in April.
Anyone interested in Jewish culture, faith, or community is invited to join the club. Zoe Coughlan, a third-year information technology and computer science major, joined because their partner is Jewish, and they would like to learn more about his family’s faith. “My favorite parts of the club are the Lunch-and-Learns. Getting to learn more about major holidays is really great, especially while talking to other students,” they mentioned.
Hillel has no denominational affiliation, and it welcomes all who are willing to learn — and those who really like bagels. “I loved meeting people because of Hillel. I met other students who have taken or are taking some of the same classes as me, and I got advice on different classes and professors to take,” said Temima Hirschman, third-year biomedical engineering major.
Westrich mentioned that she is proud of the resources the club has provided for students along with the sense of community. “I’ve been pushing to include more LGBTQ+-focused events as a member of the queer Jewish community myself. I want everyone to feel welcome at our events and would like to affirm that there is no ‘right way’ to be Jewish; that your relationship with your identity and your faith can go hand in hand.”
“Being able to unite college students of all Jewish backgrounds and levels of observances in one room is an educational and inspiring experience. It shows us that no matter where we come from, we have something important to us in common that we care about and want others to join in on,” said club treasurer Mira Sapozhnikov, third-year forensic science major. “It is also especially heartwarming seeing non-Jewish members, who we see as allies in a regard, join us for our cultural Lunch-and-Learns and Shabbat dinners; to witness that kind of bonding, support, and respect particularly in a time where we see antisemitism rampant in public spheres — it’s so wonderful.”
To connect with the club, feel free to check out its Instagram at @njithillel, Highlander Hub at https://njit.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/hillel, and Discord server at https://discord.gg/a8ucSbv5b3.
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