School may be out for summer, but for the first time the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh is taking steps to make sure those who do stay on campus feel right at home.
Hillel JUC Associate Director Linda Myers said the student organization is restructuring the facility, making whatever program adjustments are necessary.
This year, Hillel JUC plans to enact programs to draw in new members, and provide activities to those members remaining on campus.
Only one third of incoming Jewish freshman register their religion on their application, according to Myers. With such a low response rate it is difficult for Hillel JUC to send their information to perspective new students.
To combat this issue, Hillel will put volunteers at tables outside the student union during “PittStart” week to outreach to students as they come to campus for the first time.
“The idea is to get the word out,” Myers said. “We figure this is a nice way to ease new students into it.”
This is the first summer Hillel JUC will sponsor the Hillel Summer Club, founded by Pitt student Mike Zimmerman, social action chair.
“I started the club to give students something to do over the summer,” Zimmerman said.
The club is a way to keep everyone in contact over the summer, according to Zimmerman. For its first activity, the members held a barbecue, which drew about 15 people. The club also will host a Shabbat dinner this Friday at 7 p.m.
“I believe that this will be the first summer Shabbat dinner this Hillel has ever had,” Myers said.
Zimmerman had the idea to make a “potluck” dinner in which guests can each bring an item to contribute to the meal. In an effort to make sure all members can eat, the dinner will be an all-dairy meal.
Carly Adelmann, assistant director of Jewish life, thinks these summer activities are important.
“There are a lot of people here during the summer,” Adelmann said. “This building isn’t even used.”
She said the club is planning to have a kosher tailgate before a Pirates game sometime this season. It also is planning softball games and other athletic events.
Hillel JUC also is taking time this summer to advertise some of its new programs for the fall. Myers is most excited about the Family Ties, which will connect local Jewish college students with Pittsburgh Jewish families.
Myers said the goal of the program is to create a special family experience for all participants. Each student and family will be matched on an individual basis to ensure that both the student and family are comfortable with the match. She believes that this program will strengthen family relationships in Squirrel Hill.
“We tell families ‘Don’t just invite kids over for holidays,’” Myers said. “It’s kind of like your adopted family in Pittsburgh.”
All of these new programs have members of the Hillel excited.
“We have more activities now then we have ever had [during the summer],” Myers said.
(Brandt Gelman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)