For more than half a century, RIT’s Jewish students have benefited from the support of Hillel, an international organization devoted to Jewish campus life that has a chapter right here on campus. RIT Hillel offers several Jewish services to RIT students as well as an opportunity to meet other Jewish students. It also hosts a multitude of weekly social events such as Midnight Snack every Wednesday in Hillel House, in the residence hall tunnels under Eugene Colby Hall and Kate Gleason Hall.
Hillel works to play a supportive role in the community in many ways. In March, Hillel participated in the PBJam, where students and staff from around campus came to make nearly 2,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were distributed to local residents, agencies, and homeless shelters in need of food. In addition to charity work, Hillel also focuses on ways to fight against discrimination and discriminatory behavior. The organization promotes positive views of Israel, attempting to debunk radical propaganda that is usually associated with the state. This past quarter, Hillel offered a free Hebrew class, not including the $10 fee necessary to purchase the book. The non-credit class was set for 20 students, many of which were not in Hillel.
Among the religious services Hillel provides are the Kabbalat Shabbat, the prayer service welcoming the Jewish Sabbath. In lieu of a university rabbi, Shabbat services are held under the supervision of 10 Jewish students who lead Shabbat prayer every Friday night. Shabbat services are completely volunteer-run and open to any who wish to attend.
Steven DuBois, a second year Computer Science student currently in the process of converting to Judaism, and Kourtney Splaulding, Hillel program director, promote the upcoming Chanuk-a-thon as an event that encompasses Hillel’s family atmosphere. DuBois, who comes from a Catholic family, cites Hillel as a valuable resource as he benefits from the family atmosphere, the variety of different backgrounds, and the strong friendships made.
According to Spaulding, “Hanukkah is not a holy day. There’s nothing in the Torah that says we have to celebrate Hanukkah.” Hanukkah (often spelled Chanukah) is instead celebrated in remembrance of the miracle, following the reclamation of Judea, when one day’s worth of lamp oil lasted for eight days. Since Hanukkah begins during winter break, Hillel is hosting Chanuk-a-thon, an all-day event on December 7. It will begin at 11 a.m. with the story of Hanukkah and activities including menorah and dreidel making, movies and enjoying foods like latkes, sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and much more. A dance party, sponsored by WITR will be held for the remainder of the night until 11 p.m., after the final telling of the Hanukkah story.
Hillel is currently organizing a Passover Seder, as well as other social and religious functions. For students who are still unsure about attending a Hillel event, DuBois says “... if you’re wary, just stop by and we’ll make you feel at home.”
For more information on RIT Hillel, you can contact Spaulding at email@example.com or by phone at 585.703.6090, visit RIT Hillel’s website, rithillel.org, or RIT Hillel’s Facebook page.