I came into Hillel because I already had some people I knew from high school who were involved there, and I was scared I wasn’t going to make friends in college. The first time I walked in the building, I was nervous because I really didn’t know anything about Judaism. Except for the word “shalom”, I didn’t know any Hebrew. I didn’t know any of the prayers or rituals or anything. I had never been to Israel. However, I can’t even begin to explain to you how happy I am that I got involved.
I started going to Hillel every day. Just from watching and overhearing, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the religion and culture, so I started going to Friday night services. At first it was hard because I didn’t know how to pronounce any of the words and I didn’t know the tunes to any of the songs. After going a few times, I started to pick up on it. By the end of the year, I was the one leading some of the services. Nobody ever sat me down and taught me how to do it. Nobody ever handed me a textbook and told me to learn it from there. I learned completely through other people, and I think that’s the best part about education at Hillel.
When second semester came around, I was asked if I wanted to take over the education intern position. Like everything else I’ve been saying, I was nervous to accept it. How could I educate others when I’m not even educated myself? That’s the thing though. Through this internship, I learned that the best way to learn is through other people. I worked with the Rabbi and his wife to plan dinner and discussions. And honestly, even though I was the one planning them, I wouldn’t have known what to say if I was a participant in them. Being the one who asked the questions instead of answering them, I learned so much from other people about Judaism.
When Passover came around, I was asked if I wanted to lead one of the Seders. I think you can guess by now that I was nervous. I had never been to a Seder before. I didn’t even know what the story of Passover was about. But I accepted the offer because I knew that I wanted to learn. There were a few people who came to the Seder who weren’t Jewish, just because they were curious to see what it was like. After the Seder, they came up to me and told me that they learned a lot from it. Honestly, I almost started crying because just a few weeks before, I didn’t know any of that information either.
I have grown and learned so much in the last year, and I owe a huge amount of it to Hillel. Now, I can’t imagine my life without Judaism in it. It has become a really big part of me, and I’m so happy I got involved, especially in education. I still only know a fraction of what there is to know, and I’m so grateful to keep learning new things every day - not through textbooks and lectures, but through other people. Getting involved at Hillel has taught me so much not only about being Jewish, but about myself, my passions, and my goals.
Hannah Bader, Class of 2019