I’m sure you’ve all heard the clichés about Hillel being a home away from home, a place where Jewish students can truly feel comfortable, and so on. I’m sure many of you were part of Hillel on your very own college campuses. Every student’s experience is unique in its own way. Some feel spiritually connected, others more religiously, and most a little bit of both. It is no coincidence that Hillel is consistently referred to as a home away from home. This particular cliché rings true for Hillel Milwaukee students.
On a personal note, Hillel has allowed me to explore my passion for Judaism and Israel beyond my high school BBYO days. If it weren’t for Hillel Milwaukee, I would have never felt encouraged to co-found a pro-Israel student organization on my college campus. I would not celebrate Shabbat. I would not have met my best friend. I would not always have a stocked fridge to go to when I’m hungry between classes. I would not have met an incredible Israel fellow. I also probably wouldn’t have spent so much time at board meetings, planning events, or posting on social media. But when I reflect on my past three-and-a-half years at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, I know that I truly wouldn’t be the confident and passionate person I am today if it weren’t for Hillel Milwaukee allowing me to excel in leadership.
I was lucky enough to be chosen for Hillel Milwaukee’s first leadership mission to Israel this upcoming spring. A group of 10 UWM Jewish student leaders will travel to Israel during spring break and explore the startup nation in a trip that dives deeper than Birthright. I am grateful for this opportunity and value the experiences I receive because of Hillel.
I encourage every Jewish student I come across to join Hillel on our campus. I’ve learned to counter every argument ranging from, “I’m not that religious…” to “I’m barely Jewish.” I try to convince Jewish students that no matter how connected they are to their Judaism, there is a place for them at Hillel. I’m proud to have seen the transformation of this particular Hillel from when I was a freshman to now. We have done great things here and it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the amazing staff we have. Not only are they a team of strong, quality women, but they are also dedicated to making every Jewish student’s college career a smooth ride.
I am thankful I’ve had Hillel Milwaukee here for me. As my college career comes to an end, my one regret is not getting involved sooner. Without committed donors – especially those from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign – who truly believe in the importance of Jewish leadership and education, there would be a wide gap in my college career.
Nicole Gorelik is a University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee senior from Mequon. Gorelik is president and co-founder of Students Supporting Israel at UWM. She’s double-majoring in public relations and digital arts & culture.