As someone who grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish community, who spent the year learning and studying in Israel, and who has always felt a deep connection to her faith, many people are surprised to hear that it was only in college that I truly discovered what type of Jew (and person) I wanted to be.
That knowledge was obviously informed by my life experiences, the way my parents raised me and the wonderful Jewish educators I was lucky enough to call teachers and friends. But college was where I was allowed to become a Jewish leader in my own right, where I was allowed to explore and question and discover and teach. The Jewish community at UChicago was a family to me. Hillel was my second home. I learned about pluralism in this community, I learned from the brilliant minds around me and was able to see and experience Judaism in all the ways in which it is possible.
Yes, the Jewish community at UChicago has all the typical trappings you would see in any medium sized campus: Shabbat dinners, weekly programs, a Hillel board, and holiday activities. But there are also the 2:00 a.m. nights of “studying” in Hillel, the conversations about God in the third floor Hillel library, the texts from the Hillel and Chabad staff members just to check in and ensure that you’re doing okay after a particularly rough week of exams. To be a part of the Jewish community at UChicago was to have a grounding force in my life. To have a place where I was allowed to lead and to learn, to challenge myself and feel unconditionally accepted. In short, it gave me a model for how I want to build my life, form relationships, and engage with others. Jewish life at UChicago is a special mix of quirky and warm, and for a good chunk of my college experience it was the only constant in the midst of chaos. I am forever grateful for the people, experiences, and opportunities that helped make UChicago Jewish life one of the most vibrant, creative, and welcoming communities that I have ever been a part of, and I look forward to sharing that experience with prospective Jewish students for many years to come.
This story "How Quirky Jewish UChicago Became My Second Home" was written by Rebecca Abrams.