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Hillel Center provides community during Family Weekend and beyond

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Michelle Tomaszkowicz | The Daily Wildcat

The Hillel building front entrance, located on Second Street and Mountain Avenue. 

Family Weekend is a special time when parents and family members celebrate Shabbat on campus with students at the Hillel Foundation. Shabbat starts at 6 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 11 at the Hillel Center, located at 1245 E. Second St.

Shabbat is a Jewish ceremony commemorating the seventh day of creation when God rested. It begins sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday each week. Abbii Cook, assistant director at Hillel, said that the Hillel Center and Shabbat are open to all students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. The center has participated in the Family Weekend Shabbat since its inception.

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Cook explained that there are three different services to choose from at Shabbat: reform, alternative and conservative. Reform is the least observant service with many songs and a more “campy” feel, according to Cook. The alternative service is more of a discussion led by students, while the conservative service is more for “middle of the road” people.

After service, all participants can meet downstairs for dinner. There is a short prayer over the wine, Kiddush, followed by ritual hand washing. It is customary not to talk after the hand washing until the blessing of the bread, HaMotzi, and eating of the bread, Challah, is complete. Dinner and dessert are filled with conversation and getting to know one another.

Berkley Selvin, a junior majoring in political science, was an intern in her freshmen year and is now a lead engagement intern at Hillel. 

“Being a freshman is intimidating and scary,” Selvin said. “Hillel is very friendly and becomes a home away from home for many students.” 

And that speaks to the welcoming environment for all students, Selvin said.  

“We also have friends, roommates, whether religious or not, come to programming and Shabbat, and it’s so awesome to see that,” Selvin said.

Cook explained that Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year celebration, ended on Oct. 1. There is a significant 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which ends on Oct. 9. This time is meant to be reflective and introspective. 

“Thinking about things that you did last year and how you can improve this year,” Cook said of the time between the holidays. “Also, spending time going to people that you may have hurt last year and asking for forgiveness.”

A Jewish community is vital to some students when choosing a university.

“I specifically looked for a school that had a Jewish presence on campus, especially a Hillel,” said Jenny Sternheim, a senior in ecology and evolutionary biology.

She said she enjoyed how welcoming everyone was at Hillel and became an intern after her first semester. 

“Parents like that their children have a way to carry on their culture without being home,” Sternheim said.

RELATED: Hillel Butterfly Project draws to a close after remembering 1.5 million children who died during Holocaust

The Hillel Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for all students, no matter their religion. Student leaders are available throughout the day to chat and answer questions about programming. Cook explained that there is an extensive amount of programming, from Israel studies to social events like kickball. 

“We are always looking for students to come and enjoy the programming and get involved,” Cook said.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/18)
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Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 18, 2020