Hillel looks to recruit Jewish freshmen for membership

Hillel held a barbecue as a recruitment strategy for incoming freshmen.
Freshmen Rachel Levin, Belinda Kocen and Andrew Israel socialize at a barbecue hosted by leaders from Hillel on Sunday at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house. The event was designed to raise awareness of Hillel on campus and to recruit new members.

At a school situated on the cusp of the Bible Belt, the problem facing MU's chapter of Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, is both a lack of presence and awareness on campus. But group leaders are trying to boost the numbers of the organization.

On Sunday, Hillel hosted a welcome back barbecue open to the entire campus, but more specifically for the Jewish community at MU. In an effort to raise awareness about both Hillel and the barbecue, Recruitment Director Amanda Rude organized an event called the Dorm Storm. The plan was for upperclassmen involved with Hillel to visit residence halls, going door-to-door in order to find MU's Jewish students and invite them to the barbecue.

However, the Dorm Storm never occurred.

"We couldn't get enough older members to come," Rude said.

The Dorm Storm, the only large-scale recruitment event that has been scheduled so far would have been met with mixed results, students say.

On one hand, it is a direct way to increase students' awareness of Hillel.

"It would have helped a lot," freshman Belinda Kocen said. "It was a little uncomfortable walking here to the barbecue by myself."

But another freshman, Lauren Spiegel said that going door-to-door is not necessary.

"That's something that a lot of Christian groups do, but it doesn't do anything," she said. "If people want to get involved, they will."

There is one thing, however, which the three freshmen and Rude all said: many students at MU just don't know what or where Hillel is.

Spiegel said, "In a group of 10 people, maybe one will know about it."

Rude said that a lot of new students don't know about Hillel and that it is difficult to promote.

Kocen found out about the barbecue at Summer Welcome and said she did not receive any other notifications about the program.

"I picked up a Hillel calendar that had all of their events," she said. "I had to seek out the information myself."

There are a couple of possible reasons for Hillel's lack of presence at MU's campus. Part of the problem is the school's geographic location.

"Most Jews live in the bigger cities," freshman Aaron Karlinsky said. "Maybe Hillel would be bigger if there were more Jews on campus, and if there were a sorority."

There used to be two Jewish sororities on campus, but now there are none. MU does have two Jewish fraternities, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau.

Rude and Hillel president Amanda Kushner said they believe freshman may also have an incorrect view of the organization.

"People identify it as something for losers, like it's not a cool place to be," Rude said. "It has a negative stigma."

The solution, according to Kushner, is for people to meet the group and come in and make new friends.

"We need to get freshmen hooked as soon as possible, so that they can find their element within their first couple weeks here and stay with the program," she said.

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