I am a sophomore studying history and Jewish studies. I grew up in Barrington, Illinois and I have four older siblings. At the University of Illinois, I have been involved as a student leader at Illini Hillel and I am currently serving as the organization’s 2016 Vice President of Engagement. In addition, at the University of Illinois, I have participated in two theater productions with Illini Student Musicals. For the past eleven years, I have spent my summers at Olin-Sang-Ruby-Union-Institute (OSRUI), a Union for Reform Judaism camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and I will be returning to OSRUI this summer as a third-year senior counselor. My experiences at camp fostered my Jewish identity and contributed to my interests in education, spirituality, and the environment. As a history major, I have loved interacting with inspiring professors in discussion-based settings and learning about a diverse array of perspectives and cultures.
At the University of Illinois, I have thoroughly enjoyed the classes I have taken in Jewish history such as the course “Jewish History Since 1700” as well as Professor Avrutin’s “Soviet Jewish History” class this semester. The history of Judaism is powerful to study based on my own Ashkenazic ancestry. Having a connection to the individuals I read about makes their life narratives much more expansive and meaningful. In addition, through the primary sources dissected in class, the Jewish people consistently offer an important commentary about living on the periphery of empire, acculturation, and cultural expression. Within the Illini Hillel atmosphere, I enjoy being a leader in our discussions regarding Israel, Jewish principles, current events, and the Torah. For example, this semester I led a discussion regarding the various Jewish perspectives on affirmative action, and worked with Erez Cohen, Illini Hillel’s Executive Director, on a program considering the song “Hallelujah” in popular culture. These educational opportunities have sparked vibrant conversations and have provided many students with an environment in which they can deepen their connection to a Jewish identity. This past summer, I was Rosh Limmud “head of learning” in one of OSRUI's specialty programs. As Rosh Limmud, I was given the opportunity to work with many camp faculty members such as Jewish educators, cantors, and rabbis. Together we would plan and implement Jewish educational programs for our campers each day. Specifically, I got to work with the campers on studying the book of Genesis, Jewish perspectives on the environment (teva) and developing Jewish morals (middot). By serving in this education-based role, I appreciated the importance of Jewish studies and helping others deepen their own personal connection to their faith and heritage. In my upcoming semesters at the University of Illinois, I am excited to take more classes on Jewish life and culture and to continue to concentrate on the Jewish people in my history course and educational conversations.