A Hillel Alumna looks back:

More Than One Way to be Jewish - by Alumna Melissa Stanger, Sarah Lawrence College 2010

This is where I am right now: I’m at a desk in an office doing a job I love (despite the fact that the phones are ringing off the hook today, but that’s what happens when you run a free legal clinic), putting to use all of the Jewish values—torah, avodah, g’milut chasidim—that I impressed upon myself when I was in Hillel. 

I always tell anyone who asks what Hillel taught me that there is more than one way to be Jewish.  I think the reason some students are so reluctant to get involved in Hillel is because they think they “aren’t Jewish enough,” associating “being Jewish” with being observant.  I would tell them that this isn’t true.  Hillel opened up so many wonderful options for me, so many ways for me to express myself Jewishly that I hadn’t thought of before.

 My Judaism stems from social service; and, when thinking about social service, this is one thing I never thought of as a Jewish value.  I had always thought of it as just a human value.  But Jewish culture teaches torah (learning), avodah (work), and g’milut chasidim (acts of loving kindness).  I didn’t have to mechanically perform acts of loving kindness.  Putting my Jewish self into the social justice work that I do, for me, gives the act meaning.

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