Mizzou Hillel offers sense of community

“It’s really about connecting the students to each other,” executive director Jeanne Snodgrass said. “We try to take a little bit from everyone and create something that everyone can feel a connection to. It’s kind of like a blended community.”
MU students in beginning Hebrew class celebrate with a Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder ritual at Mizzou Hillel. Mizzou Hillel offers a place where the Jewish community can come together to educate and share experiences. Courtesy of Mizzou Hillel

With Rosh Hashanah passing from Sept. 13-15 and Yom Kippur quickly approaching on Sept. 22, Mizzou Hillel is in the midst of preparation for their biggest holiday season.

Hillel leaders make it their goal to allow students the opportunity to not only expand their knowledge of Judaism, but to also feel comfortable sharing their own religious journeys.

“We really want students to take that initiative, and also to have that experience,” executive director Jeanne Snodgrass said.

Hillel, a non-profit Jewish organization on campus, offers a variety of High Holy Day events, as well as weekly services and Kosher dinners.

For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a guest rabbi from Miami leads the services. The weekly Shabbat services, which take place at 6 p.m. every Friday, are primarily student-led.

Freshman Jordan Green led his first service Sept. 18 and is proud to be part of an organization that is so student-involved.

“Judaism has always been important to me culturally and religiously,” Green said. “It’s been really great meeting members of the Jewish community here at Mizzou.”

An estimated 50-100 students take advantage of the religious opportunities Hillel provides, and about half of the total Jewish population on campus stops in at some point during the academic year, Snodgrass said.

Hillel also provides the opportunity for members to intern in multiple year-long positions. These internships not only provide students with experience in a specific interest field, but also allow further involvement in the Jewish community.

Sophomore Mariah Monks has utilized skills from her journalism major while working in the Hillel office. As a marketing intern, Monks completes special projects, interacts with students at Hillel and prepares the team for Shabbat.

“I like that we have weekly events that are very consistent throughout the whole year,” Monks said.

Before becoming affiliated with the MU campus, Hillel was combined with the Congregation Beth Shalom. Hillel broke off to become more student-oriented.

The synagogue and other Jewish organizations around the university still hold joint events. Hillel will often partner with the Chabad Jewish Student Organization; the two Jewish fraternities, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau; or the Jewish sorority, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, to celebrate religious holidays or to put together community events.

Although the main purpose of Hillel is to provide a place for Jewish students to come together in faith, the organization welcomes anyone that might have an interest in learning about the religion. They would like it to be a resource place for both Jewish and non-Jewish students.

“It’s really about connecting the students to each other,” Snodgrass said. “We try to take a little bit from everyone and create something that everyone can feel a connection to. It’s kind of like a blended community.”

Because the organization doesn’t charge for services and activities they provide and also doesn’t receive money from the university, a majority of their funding comes from the Jewish community. They rely on revenue from parking sales, donations and sponsors such as the St. Louis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

“It’s a great place to meet new people,” Monks said. “We all share the same Judaism connection. It’s a small but strong community here at Mizzou.”

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