UNL Jewish organization welcomes all walks of life

Story, aggregated content and video by Bekkah Watkins, NewsNetNebraska

Going to college out of state can be scary. It can be even worse if you don’t have anyone who practices the same religion as you. But for Jewish students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, coming to college is a little less worrisome.

Hillel is the Jewish organization at UNL and the students who run it want nothing more than for others to feel welcome and have a home away from home.

Talia Halperin, Hillel’s president, said on a campus that is predominately Christian it was nice to have a community of people who grew up with the same kind of culture that she did.

Hillel’s advisor, Jean Cahan said, “Hillel provides a Jewish home away from home during holidays as well as the regular week; enables students to form new friendships outside of their classes; and encourages them to think about their Jewish identity (if they are Jewish) or learn a bit about what it means to be Jewish if they are not Jewish.”

Campus Challenges

Some of the members of Hillel face some challenges when it comes to their religion and being on campus. One of those is having kosher meals in the dining hall which the campus doesn’t have according to Gabby Williams, treasurer of Hillel.

Along with meals, getting people on campus to understand things about their holidays also comes into play. Sometimes the community isn’t very aware when it comes to scheduling tests or things which means students can’t always celebrate important days.

“What I want to do with Hillel is make people realize that we are here and that we do matter,” Halperin said.

Having a diverse community means more than just making friends to Mira Kafka, meal director for Hillel.

“I never had a Jewish community,” Kafka said. “It’s really important for me to have people to connect with through Judaism and I think that Hillel helps me connect with other Jews.”

Creating a Conversation

Hillel has worked with other religious organizations in the past such as the Muslim Student Association. The two organizations have had dinners together in hopes of creating a dialogue between groups to show that working together can be something positive.

“Hillel has had events with different religious organizations on campus,” Williams said. “We have brought in rabbis and other religious leaders to facilitate talks between our groups to try and get an open conversation going.”

The organization has also held bake sales to earn money for hurricane victims and have hosted various volunteer work for the community.

Hillel is open to bringing in all students, Jewish or not, to get to know new people and to teach others about their religion. When the organization hosted their Rosh Hashanah celebration, the Jewish New Year, they welcomed in everyone.

“We just want to hang out and get to know you. We want to teach you a little bit about what we do and we want to learn from you too,” Halperin said. “Everyone is the same but also everyone is different. Everyone has their own experiences, everyone has their own story, and if you don’t appreciate that then you aren’t appreciating humanity.”


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