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Reflections on Vanderbilt Hillel

Posted by on Monday, November 28, 2016 in News.

By Grant Hansell, Class of 2017

Before I even moved into my first year dorm, I went to Move-in Shabbat at Vanderbilt Hillel because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. As an active Jewish student in high school, getting involved in a Jewish youth group, I had just assumed that the natural next step in my Jewish journey was to participate in services and meals wherever and whenever they were offered on campus. Fast forward three years, and I’m still going to services and meals at Hillel, but for a completely different reason.

What many of us often forget is that there is no right way to be Jewish. When you get to college there is no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you go to High Holiday services or keeping tally on how often you attend Shabbat. This newfound freedom will liberate some and paralyze others. While some students may love the idea that they no longer need to attend weekly Shabbat services, others may become lost without structure. But no matter where one may fall on that spectrum, Vanderbilt Hillel and the remarkable community is there to make you feel at home.

From Move-in Shabbat to Senior Send-Off, Jewish students at Vanderbilt have endless opportunities to get involved in Jewish life on or off campus over their four years in whichever way they see fit. With six student boards and 10 campus organizations underneath the Hillel umbrella, students are more likely to complain about being unable to fit everything they want to do in their daily schedule than being unable to find a way to express their Judaism.

But even more important than the opportunities to get involved is the people with whom you do it. Some of my best relationships on campus have formed because of my involvement with Hillel. I can’t even begin to express how fortunate I feel to be surrounded by such genuine and passionate individuals. Hillel’s innate ability to foster great relationships is just another way Hillel has made me feel at home on campus.

It’s been awhile since that first Shabbat in August of 2013. Since then, my interests have changed, my career plans have changed, and the way I embrace and express my Judaism has changed more times than I can count. But what hasn’t changed is that no matter who I am, how often I attend Shabbat, or what I choose to do while I’m here, Hillel has been there for me. As I begin counting down the long list of lasts in preparation for graduation in May, I know that my relationship with Hillel is not one that I’ll check off and forget. Instead, I look forward to maintaining an amazing relationship in the future, whatever that may look like.