Warm, Welcoming and Inclusive: Hillel at Gettysburg
By Gracie Meisner, Features Editor
Through spiritual, cultural, and social opportunities, Hillel at Gettysburg College offers a close-knit community among Jewish students, while also reaching out to and embracing the non-Jewish population.
Over the past few months, Hillel has organized and co-sponsored a plethora of events open to all students on campus. Hillel Director David Bass reflects on what he considers the highlight: American-Israeli professional baseball player Ryan Lavarnway coming to campus in an event co-sponsored by Hillel and the Gettysburg College Baseball Team.
“One event I’m most proud of is bringing Ryan Lavarnway, the Jewish baseball player to campus. It was incredible. He spoke about being a Jewish Major Leaguer winning a World Series with the Boston Red Sox, and he took tremendous pride in playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic,” said Bass.
Bass explains that students can become involved in Hillel in a variety of ways.
“Most students get involved in Hillel through coming to Shabbat, which we host bi-weekly either at [the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life], in Glat Lodge or elsewhere. Some students get involved through going on the birthright trip, which is our annual trip to Israel. Other students get involved living in the Hillel house,” said Bass.
In addition to bi-weekly Shabbat, birthright trips, and the Hillel House, which is open to students of all backgrounds, Hillel organizes opportunities for interfaith connections, volunteering, and intersectional collaborations.
Each year, Hillel and the Muslim Student Association collaborate and visit a synagogue and a masjid (mosque) together.
“To visit a synagogue and a masjid together was inspiring and informative,” said Bass. “Collaboration between Hillel and Muslim Student Association is essential work. Students have really worked together over the last few years to plan these trips. It’s been amazing, and I think students have gotten a lot out of it. I love working with Niamate Leeper, who is the Muslim Student Association student advisor, and we’ve learned a lot.”
Hillel has also done interfaith work with Catholic Campus Ministry and the Newman Association. This year, the groups collaborated for a movie night where students watched Keeping the Faith.
In addition to interfaith work, Hillel takes opportunities to do good both domestically and internationally. Throughout the year, Hillel organizes its Challah for Hunger events, in which students bake Challah to raise money to fight poverty and food insecurity.
In terms of Hillel’s collaborative events, Bass takes great pride in Hillel’s commitment to bringing forward issues of intersectionality. On March 25, Hillel organized a Queer Shabbat that took place in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
“I’m really proud of the queer Shabbat we had last week,” said Bass. One of our seniors organized a beautiful service. She worked with a member of the Q House. It was an amazing atmosphere, and a really beautiful thing to see queer Shabbat.”
Bass notes two of Hillel’s big events right on the horizon, just two days apart: Get Acquainted Day Shabbat, which gives Hillel a chance to showcase the Jewish community at Gettysburg to potential students, and the annual Passover Seder.
Because of COVID, Bass explains, Passover Seder had to be canceled in both 2020 and 2021. He looks forward to bringing the event back, noting that students of all backgrounds on campus are invited and encouraged to attend.
“Passover Seder has always been something that students look forward to,” said Bass. “We hope to have 120 people there, and we’re working with Dining Services on the food. My students and I are putting together a visual Tagada, which will be up on the screen, accessible, and more environmentally friendly that way. It’s a great way for the Jewish students on campus to celebrate Passover together, and for non-Jewish students on campus to learn more about Passover.”
The Passover Seder will take place on April 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Bass notes another upcoming and exciting event. Hillel, in collaboration with the Public Policy department, will be hosting Jewish Congressman Jamie Raskin on April 23 at 4:30 p.m.
“Congressman Jamie Raskin is going to speak about his Jewish values and how they connect to his political work,” said Bass. “To me, Jamie Raskin is inspiring. He speaks about social and racial justice in a way that people can really get inspired by.”
While Bass takes pride in all of the work that Hillel has done, he notes that, above all, the goal of Hillel is to create a warm, welcoming, and inclusive Jewish community at Gettysburg.
Sometimes people have called Hillel ‘home away from home,’” said Bass. “I think that’s part of it. We ask students to consider ‘who are your people on campus? Who are your friends? How do we support and create this inclusive, warm, welcoming Jewish community?’ And I feel that this year we’ve been successful in that, I think people have gotten a lot of both joy and support.”