Hillel House at Lehigh University (Gaby Morera/B&W photo)

Jewish groups accommodate Lehigh students

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For Lehigh’s approximately 800 Jewish students enrolled in the university, there are two primary options for them to embrace their religion on and off campus.

Hillel, a Jewish organization, describes itself as “devoted to creating vibrant Jewish life on campus, no matter the size of the Jewish population,” according to its website. Hillel is an international organization, operating on five continents and active in over 550 colleges and universities across North America.

Lehigh’s Hillel is stationed in a home located at 216 Summit St., across from the Alumni Memorial building. Here, students can attend weekly Shabbat services and have a “home away from home.” The Sabbath — or Shabbat in Hebrew — is the seventh day of the Jewish week and is a day of rest, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

Friday evening Shabbat services are student-run and last about 30 minutes each, followed by prayer and dinner. Shira Morosohk, ’18, the vice president of Religious Culture, leads the services with prayer and song, in both English and Hebrew.

Hillel is a tight-knit community and usually hosts approximately 30 guests for dinner following the service. Morosohk said she loves Hillel because it gives her more of a connection to Judaism.

“At home I have family dinner on Shabbat and we do the blessings, but I don’t go to service,” Morosohk said.

Other students who are regular attendees at Hillel have similar sentiments. Emily Krulik, ’18, an active member of Hillel, said her involvement connects her more to the Jewish community. Not only has she made friends at the Hillel, but because she doesn’t celebrate at home, she said it gives her the opportunity to be more “Jewish.”

While Hillel has a huge presence on campus, there are other options for Jewish students, as well. Chabad, an off-campus organization, also provides some Jewish students another way to celebrate their religion while at college. Chabad at Lehigh is a “meeting place for social, religious, educational, and cultural events,” according to the website. Chabad holds weekly services as well, and sponsors major campus events such as Shabbat 250. This year’s Shabbat 250, a large Shabbat service that will be held in Comfort Suites on South Side, will be held on Feb. 20.

Ariana Weintraub, ’17, is a regular attendee at Chabad’s Shabbat services.

“Rabbi Zalman and Dit Greenberg are so accepting and welcoming,” Weintraub said. “They invite us into their home every week and we all truly feel at home.”

A large aspect of Chabad is the idea of turning no one away. Jewish students are encouraged to bring anyone with them to services, and they can observe prayer and enjoy dinner. Chabad is built upon the values of growth of students, dedication to the community and helping individuals.

Rabbi Danielle Stillman, the director of Jewish life at Lehigh, is the primary rabbi of Hillel and attends and helps direct the services and dinners. Stillman has over a decade of experience working for Hillel and believes Judaism isn’t a religion that should just be practiced in a temple. She said she believes Hillel is not only a place for students to observe Judaism, but to also have a safe and quiet place away from the school environment. Stillman explained that the top floor of the Hillel house has quiet study rooms full of computers. Any student with a Lehigh ID has swipe access to the building, so the rooms serve as a place to escape and get away during finals week.

Another role Stillman feels she takes on is serving as an advocate for Jewish students on campus. Students who are Jewish may have certain dietary restrictions or need to miss a class due to a holiday. In this regard, Stillman acts as a liaison between the Jewish community and the administration.

Stillman also emphasized the way Hillel functions outside of an academic setting. The group is very tight knit and participates in events from laser tag and community service projects.

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