Guest Post: Being Jewish in College

8 Jul

ImageAs a rising senior in high school, I’ve been on the college prowl for several months. In the beginning of the summer I toured several southeastern colleges. As I’ve recently realized, the Jewish student community of a future university is a more compelling factor than I once thought. I’ve been naturally surrounded by a vibrant Jewish community in all three towns I’ve lived in, Overland Park, Kansas, Atlanta, and Sarasota. In college however, I will have to actively enter into the Jewish community and make choices for myself—which services will I want to go to or to what extent will I keep kosher for Passover?

At both Wake Forest University and University of Richmond I visited the Hillel offices after the generic campus tour. On both campuses I spoke with religious affiliates representing the university who were able to give me lots of details about programming and types of services offered. It became evident that many smaller private universities are highly enthused when a Jewish student comes and visits. I noted a mentality, sort of “The more Jewish the student population, the better.”

During the second semester of this past school year I visited my sister, Arianna, at Emory University and informally toured around the campus. She took me to Friday night services at the Hillel house. This service was extremely dynamic, full of energy, and solely comprised and led by undergraduate college students. A group of lively young men led the services. They were so enthused by the feeling of Kabbalat Shabbat and frequently clapped their hands to the rhythm of several upbeat songs.  I heard melodies that I’d become accustomed to during summers at Camp Ramah Darom. I also noticed tunes I was used to from services in Sarasota back home. The molding of prayer melodies from different aspects of my life was truly magical.

In college, I will surely have to make a concerted effort to be an active member of the Jewish community and participate ritually. My mom and dad won’t be there to offer me a ride to Saturday morning services or pour me a cup of grape juice on Friday nights after we light the Sabbath candles. It will be up to me to actively enter into my future college’s Jewish community and ensure I seek involvement in ritual efforts as well as programming activities. I am excited about this transition although I still have one more year to soak up the Sarasota sun and embrace everything Jewish Sarasota has to offer.

Written by Sammy Robbins, Joseph J. Edlin Journalism Intern for The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

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