Mizzou Hillel is a community. It’s a community that serves together, works together, travels together, and celebrates what it means to be Jewish together. It’s a community that finds the balance in being distinctively Jewish, but also universally human. And like all Hillel International organizations across the world, Mizzou Hillel provides a space not only to meet and spend time with friends, but to participate in activities that enrich the lives of Jewish people and the world.
Mizzou Hillel is built around strengthening the bond between Jewish students and their impact not only on each other, but the community. For Andea Sak, a Chicago suburbanite, joining Mizzou Hillel was a way of remaining closely tied to the Jewish community, like she was in high school. “I knew what Hillel was and visited it my first time on campus,” she says, “It’s different because I grew up in a Jewish town, all my friends growing up were Jewish and still most of my friends here are Jewish.” “Opposite for me,” says Matan Kadosh, a Dallas native, “Not everyone I grew up with was Jewish…but [Mizzou Hillel] has offered me a way to self-identify with another group; it has a nice community aspect and is a way to keep in touch with your roots.”
Social gatherings are a huge part of Mizzou Hillel. At the beginning of every school year the local Aepi House, a Jewish fraternity, hosts a Welcome BBQ. It provides a chance for Jewish students who are part of Hillel, Jewish Students Organization, and AePi a chance to hang out and get to know each other. Mizzou Hillel also participates in Summer Welcome and other Fall Welcome fairs that provide students the opportunity to learn more about organizations they can be part of.
The programming at Mizzou Hillel combines aspects of Jewish culture and religion with social engagement. “We have lots of different events, some are cultural, some are social, and some are more religious for Jewish learning. That’s the goal,” Jeanne Snodgrass, Director of Mizzou Hillel said. “We do programs every week. Some are repetitive some are more special that happen maybe once a semester.” Weekly Shabbats are held on Fridays, sometimes an alternative program with a Kosher dinner is provided. “Once a month we do a Jewish learning program, so far one was at the Heidelberg and that was about what is was like to be Jewish on Mizzou campus. Our second program was called Pizza and a Parsha. We took one of the Torah portions for that week, discussed it and related it to current things going on in Jewish student life. So it’s Jewish learning but also social.” Special events also based around different Jewish holidays. “We have a Purim party. In the Fall Sukkot we built a sukkah which is the religious aspect, but then we had a social pot luck in the sukkah just as a gathering,” Jeanne said.
A significant part of activities involves participating in social action programs. Mizzou Hillel participates in a number of local social action programs as a way of building and enriching themselves and the community. Recently, students volunteered at the food bank, the animal shelter, and worked in an interfaith community garden; they also have a team they are putting together for Relay for Life. So whether it is discussing Jewish life as a Mizzou student over pizza or running for a cause, Mizzou Hillel promotes activities that keep students in touch with their Jewish roots and engaged in the local community.
Mizzou Hillel runs free 10 Day Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips every Winter and Summer break for students interested in taking the trip. Some of the many trip highlights include praying at the Kotel, hiking to Masada at sunrise, touring Yad Vashem, and camping out in a Bedouin tent. It’s an active trip that will bring you closer to your Jewish identity while building friendships that will last a lifetime. There are many organizations, like Aepi, that also run their own trips, but Mizzou Hillel provides the unique opportunity to travel with others you can share the experience with once you are back. “We definitely encourage students to do our trip, but encourage them to go and then connect those students with other students [who have gone] when they get back to have someone to relate those experiences with,” Jeanne said. Regardless of who organizes the trip, it’s important to just go to experience this once in a lifetime experience first hand.
Another focal point of Mizzou Hillel is giving students the opportunity to get hands on work experience in their interest area through paid internships. “The way it works is we have 6-8 interns they do some desk hours, which is more administrative and then they all also have specific jobs, Matan for examples is an engagement intern who reaches out to other Jewish students on campus about Hillel. To let them know what is here,” Jeanne says. Other interns work on special projects (like organizing Shabbat), and the marketing and development interns write newsletters, work on weekly emails, and fix the database. “It gives them a way to develop specific skills and it also helps us.”
Mizzou Hillel offers Jewish students an all encompassing experience. From engaging activities that fosters religious Jewish learning to programs that enrich the community, Mizzou Hillel gives students the opportunity to not only learn more about Jewish life, but explore their own identity in the process.