With another semester coming to a close, we would like to mark not only the closing of the semester, but also the closing of another calendar year. In just one semester, our students have provided the F&M community with another round of fantastic social and educational programing. Aside from our traditional Shabbat meals, Bagel Brunches, and Holiday Celebrations, our students organized a bake sale to raise money for the Philippines, ran a multi-faith dinner and discussion, as well as many other food and social events.
As January is soon upon us, we look forward to another year in the making. This issue of the Hillel Newsletter focuses on our marking of another exciting year. Specifically, we are thrilled to celebrate the 5th year of the Klehr Center for Jewish Life, which has supported not only Hillel but also the local community. With five successful years under our belts, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the Klehr Center and Hillel. It is with your constant support that we are able to provide a diverse and enriching community here on campus. If you have not yet contributed, we hope you will consider doing so in order to help us continue to provide students with a welcoming and engaging Jewish community on campus for many more years.
We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgivakkah, and Hanukkah Season overall.
Ralph and Rebecca
This November marks the fifth year since the Klehr Center for Jewish Life was officially welcomed onto the Franklin & Marshall Campus. Since then, it has served the campus community, specifically our Hillel F&Mily. Natali Naveh '13 reflects on her time and memories in the Klehr Center.
"Over the past five years, so many F&M students have enjoyed the new Klehr Center. I am a member of the class of ’13, one of the first fortunate years to have the Klehr Center be a constant fixture of our four years at F&M. I remember visiting campus for a prospective students tour, and seeing the old building taped off from the public. By the time I returned for my interview, a brand new, modern, and inviting building had been added to campus. The Klehr Center provides students of the entire community with a place to study between classes, watch a big-screen TV showing of the game, or hang out and play board games to blow off some test stress. To many students, including myself, the Klehr Center has become the F&M ‘home away from home.’
For the Jewish students on campus, the Klehr Center has been a particularly important addition as the home of Hillel. The new building is the host location of many of Hillel events such as Wednesday night cafes, Sunday bagel brunches, and Friday night Shabbat dinners. On Shabbat evenings where the Klehr Center is packed to capacity, full of smiling faces joining together in the Shabbat prayers, the heart and spirit of Judaism flows throughout the building. The Klehr Center is an intimate gathering place where F&M students make some of those memories that last a lifetime, connect to Judaism, and connect to each other.
Though I am now an F&M alumna and am no longer visiting the Klehr Center on a daily basis, I often miss the comfort to which I grew accustomed. One of my favorite memories in the Klehr Center was having a sleep over with Stephanie Lifshutz (’13) and Amy Lakin (’14) and waking up to watch the royal wedding at 5 am on the big screen television. There were many days and nights I set up all my work in the Klehr Center and enjoyed the peace and quiet it lent to my studies. From these personal memories, to the happiness I felt serving as Hillel President for 2 years and hosting many Hillel events with the rest of the board, the Klehr Center was a pivotal part of my F&M career.
When I return to F&M, I know one of the places I look forward to seeing again is the Klehr Center. Happy 5th birthday, Klehr Center! I can’t wait to see what the next five will have in store."
Not only does the Klehr Center for Jewish Life touch the lives of the students and staff on Franklin & Marshall's campus, but it also is able to provide a gathering place for community members. Since it's opening, the Klehr Center has hosted a reading group that is open to Professional Staff, Faculty and Lancaster Community members. Carolyn Kleinman is one such community member who participates yearly in the Klehr Center for Jewish Life Reading Group.
"Reading Group" - there is not much glamor or glitz in the title, but on seven Thursday evenings during the school year, something magical and wonderful happens at the Klehr Center for Jewish Life. The “Reading Group” is composed of people who love to read and discuss books by Jewish authors, and I am very pleased to be one of them. The group has a diverse membership and draws readers from the campus faculty, the nearby community, and the synagogues in Lancaster. For an hour and a half, thoughtful, smart, non-judgmental readers share their ideas, and I really enjoy hearing how others have interpreted the material we read. With a deft and gentle hand, Dr. Kabi Hartman leads our discussions and shares her vast knowledge of literature, and Dr. Ralph Taber insures that we have a comfortable space for our meetings, a hot beverage, and usually something to nibble on too! I am so happy I belong to this group; it is like being enrolled in a fun college class without the pressure of having to write papers or take exams. I have been a member for several years, and I try very hard to attend every meeting.
This year's selections cover a range of genres – there is even an Israeli mystery story! We often have new people drop in when the book we are going to discuss intrigues them. This year we will discuss one of my old favorites, "My Name is Asher Lev", and I will also be pushed out of my comfort zone when we discuss the non-fiction book "Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People". In addition, we were very fortunate this year to read an interesting novel by Joshua Henkin, "The World Without You", and the author came to our meeting and discussed the book with us. Last year, the group read a book by Nathan Englander, and many members went to Harrisburg to hear him talk about it.
The Reading Group is a fun and important part of my life. Nothing could be better than "good books, good people, good talk, and good times!"
For more information regarding the Reading Group, please visit the Klehr Center website
Every November elections are held for our Student Executive Board. This November we welcomed 6 new members, 5 of whom are First Year students! With the addition of the new members, we sadly had to say goodbye to five seniors, all of whom spent many dedicated years involved in the Student Board. Lauren Silverman '14, remembers her past three years on board.
"I always knew I wanted to be involved in Hillel in college. I had grown up in a Jewish home, and my love for Jewish culture, religion and people was a prominent part of my life. Because of this, an active and vibrant Hillel was something that was at the top of my list of things I was looking for in choosing a college. I had visited many colleges, but something about Franklin and Marshall's Hillel made me feel instantly at home. At admitted students day, I went into the building and was immediately greeted by three girls on Hillel Board. They were so welcoming and so easy to connect to, that I not only said- I need to go to F&M, but I then realized how necessary it was going to be for me to become involved with Hillel.
Every week, we ask a student to share a short D'var Torah with the Shabbat community. Josh Finkel '15 gave the following D'var, reflecting on some of the well known Biblical tales and how that relates to our students' lives today. Keeping in mind the idea of starting a new year, his thoughful take is below:
"This week’s Torah portion is Vayera, and it contains some of the better-known stories from the Bible. It begins when G-d reveals himself to Abraham as he is sitting outside his tent. But Abraham sees three strangers passing by, so he excuses himself and immediately invites the strangers into his tent. Although Abraham and Sarah do not know this, these strangers are actually divine messengers sent by G-d. One of them says that Abraham’s wife Sarah will have a child in exactly one year. Now, Sarah was 90 years old and thought she was unable to have any children, so she just laughed at the message. The strangers then leave, and two of them head for the city of Sodom. G-d then tells Abraham of his plan to destroy the sinful city. Abraham tries to convince G-d to save the city, but G-d refuses. The two messengers arrive in Sodom, and tell Abraham’s nephew, Lot, that his family must leave in order to be saved and to avoid the destruction. However, they are given strict instructions not to look back as they are leaving. Lot’s wife breaks this rule and decides to look back at the city, at which point she turns into a pillar of salt.
Abraham and his family move south to Gerar, which today is in southern Israel. G-d remembers his promise to Sarah, and Sarah gives birth to Isaac, or Yitzchak. Ishmael, who is the son of Sarah’s maid, Hagar, mocks Isaac, which makes Sarah angry and jealous. So Abraham consults with G-d and banishes Hagar and Ishmael from his home. They are forced to wander the desert but G-d ensures Abraham that Ishmael will eventually go on to be the patriarch of a great nation.
Many years pass, and G-d puts Abraham to his ultimate test of faith. G-d tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys, binds Isaac, puts him on the altar, and raises the knife. But at the last moment, G-d commands Abraham to stop and provides a ram in a nearby bush as a substitute.
Now, there are many lessons that can be taken away from this story. I think one point we can all relate to is looking back on our past. We all have something in our past that we wish we hadn’t done, or that we had done differently, or something that we would re-do if we had the chance. Whether it’s something major from years past, like family issues, or something less major, like a bad grade on a quiz or a parking ticket because you forgot to move your car for street cleaning, we’ve all got something. And as much as we want to turn around and look back and say man, I wish I had studied more, I wish I read the sign, I wish I had gotten along better with my family, the truth of the matter is, we can’t live our lives with our heads turned around. Are you going to let some bad experience be your pillar of salt, preventing you from moving forwards, or are you going to accept that whatever happened, happened, it’s in the past, and move forward with motivation and a positive outlook? Because not all the time, but sometimes to move forward, we just need to forget about the past. So don’t let that bad grade bring you down, or that parking ticket, or whatever it may be. As we pass through the halfway point of the semester, we have a lot to look back on, and hopefully most of it has been good. But if you did have some experiences so far that haven’t been so great, instead of constantly mulling over how bad they were, maybe it’s time to just put it all behind you and move on with a fresh positive outlook. So as the semester rolls on, let’s look ahead to the good things to come, and try not to look back on any bad things that may have happened. "