Since stepping foot on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus in late August 2017 as an incoming-freshman, Hillel has always been there for me and many other students.
It was at Hillel events where I met my closest friends. It was through Hillel that inspired me to spend a summer in Israel following my sophomore year, take on leadership roles in the Jewish community and expand my social circle to include people of different faiths and cultures. Hillel helped me find my place and identity as a Jewish-American. Now as a senior, I have the privilege to serve as president of the Hillel student board, along with Katie Friedman of Atlanta.
Although we are not yet finished with our term, I would like to share with the Cleveland and Columbus Jewish communities our accomplishments thus far this semester to spread light, hope and joy during this holiday season.
Our first project was creating the first virtual OSU Hillel mentor program, where more than 30 upperclassmen mentored more than 40 incoming-freshman. Relationships were formed over the summer before school started and a big welcome event via Zoom was held in September. The program helped to ease the uncertainty many incoming students were facing while entering college during times of social distancing.
Senior Hannah Blumenfeld, a public health major from Bexley, chairs our volunteering committee on the board. She organized a fundraiser to make more than 30 “Blessing Boxes,” filled with many canned food items that were distributed around the Columbus area.
Junior Leah Marek, a psychology major from Shaker Heights, chairs our student outreach committee. She helped spearhead a virtual mezuzah-making event.
Sophomore Carly Shocket, a political science major from New Albany, chairs our community engagement committee. She is planning the “Lilah Tov Project,” where board members will record themselves reading children’s books. She has also worked with matching student board members with mentors on the OSU board of trustees.
In November, we hosted the third annual Hanukkah Diwali Festival of Lights via Zoom with our close ally on campus, Hindu YUVA. Praneeth Madhu, president of Hindu YUVA, and I created this event three years ago, and it took off. We had more than 100 attendees and were fortunate to have OSU President Kristina M. Johnson speak on the importance of the two holidays.
Participants picked up goodie bags at Hillel before the online event started, which added a nice personal element. This year’s event was chaired by Leah Marek, as well as David Mack, a junior and international studies major from Shaker Heights. And senior, Ashley Schlaeger, a human resources major from Cincinnati, and myself, who chaired the event in the past, assisted in planning this year’s event. This event has inspired Purdue Hillel and Hindu YUVA Purdue to collaborate as well.
Last, but certainly not least, OSU Hillel and Michigan Hillel put aside their rivalry for one evening to host a voter engagement event called “Why Vote,” featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Gilda Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. I was honored to moderate the event along with Sarah Pomerantz, chair of the Michigan Hillel student board. The event would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our board member, Ethan Wolf, a junior and economics major from Deerfield, Ill. He is also the co-founder and executive director of Jewish Unity PAC.
Thank you for taking the time to read some of the reasons why I call OSU Hillel home. Katie and I will be graduating this spring, but we know the student board and OSU Hillel are in great hands.
If you would like to read more about OSU Hillel, visit osuhillel.org.
Jack Spero of Beachwood, who is a pre-med major with a minor in Hebrew, is co-president of the Ohio State University Hillel student board in Columbus.