Lauren Silverman grew up in Dix Hills, N.Y. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall in 2014 with a degree in American studies and a minor in environmental studies. While at F&M, she was involved with Kappa Delta sorority, interned at the Lancaster Historical Society and, of course, was active in Hillel. Lauren spent two terms on the board as communications chair, and one as vice president. After graduation, she could think of no better place to work than Hillel; she spent three years as the engagement coordinator and program director of the Vanderbilt Hillel in Nashville, Tenn. At Vanderbilt, Lauren led the First Year Students of Hillel (FYSH) program and the social programming board. She also coordinated Birthright Israel trips and alternate spring break trips to Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.
Lauren now has a position with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago as the young adult engagement associate, working with recent college grads and Birthright Israel alumni to foster their Jewish community and experience in Chicago.
What got you involved in F&M Hillel?
When I was looking into colleges, the Hillel and the Jewish life on campus were some of the most important factors in selecting my school. So when I visited F&M for "A Closer Look" and was greeted by the smell of challah in the oven and the pre- Shabbat excitement, I knew F&M was a place where I could see myself. The feeling I felt when I visited Hillel as a prospective student inspired me to become involved with Hillel as an incoming student. I knew I wanted to surround myself with people who were warm and kind and passionate, and I certainly found that.
I participated in the Hillel orientation-week programs and went to Shabbat dinners, but my first real commitment to F&M Hillel was when I signed up to be on the "Mock Jewish Wedding" planning committee the fall of my freshman year. I had so much fun getting to meet new people and feeling like I belonged. I will never forget the day when I was in the resource room making a banner for the wedding, and the Hillel president at the time looked over at what I was working on and said, "You're really good at this! Have you considered running for Hillel communications chair?" The thought had not even crossed my mind. I was a first year who didn't have a lot of background in leadership. But with her encouragement, I ran for communications chair my first year and stayed actively involved from that day on.
What's your favorite memory from F&M Hillel?
There is nothing quite like Shabbat at Hillel. My favorite thing each week was greeting people at the door and getting to see all of the new faces and old faces joining us for dinner. I loved watching people bring their friends for the very first time and seeing them catch up with people they hadn't seen in a while. I loved the fact that preparing for Shabbat was a full-day activity that involved so many different people to make it a success. Everyone felt like they had invested in the evening, whether it was by braiding challah, setting the table or leading a blessing. It was such a communal activity and such a special way to end my week.
How do you feel your time at F&M Hillel influenced your Jewish journey?
I credit F&M Hillel wholeheartedly for inspiring me to be the Jewish leader I am today. First and foremost, I have to thank Dean Taber for being a constant source of wisdom and guidance throughout my time at F&M and my years beyond. He is the rock of F&M Hillel, and has the incredible ability to make everyone feel important. I am so grateful to have Dean Taber as a teacher and a mentor.
F&M Hillel was the place on campus where I felt most at home. I made most of my friends through Hillel, and my other friends found themselves coming to Hillel, because it was a place I was so passionate about. Hillel gave me the opportunity to serve as a leader, to connect with people I might not have connected with otherwise, and to develop my own relationship with Judaism. When it was time for me to think about life after graduation, the answer was easy. I, too, wanted to provide a Jewish environment on campus, because that had given me such a thriving and fulfilling college experience.
I applied to numerous Hillels across the country and found myself moving to Nashville to create a Jewish community on campus at Vanderbilt. There was not a single student with whom I worked who did not know where I went to college, or that I was involved with Hillel in college, because each and every day, I spoke about F&M and Hillel so fondly. Many of my programming ideas came from successes and even failures during my time at F&M. I was so lucky to have had such a strong Jewish communal foundation in college, and I felt more than prepared to grow from student leader to Hillel professional. My career, my passions and my view of the world are largely impacted by my Judaism and my Hillel experience, and I know that will stay with me as I continue in the field of Jewish communal service and beyond.
What advice do you have for current students?
Try new things! College is your time to be the person you've always wanted to be. This is the time and the place to try out for the team you never thought you would make or to run for the position you didn't think you would win. The experiences you have in college really do mold the person you will become, so it is important to take advantage of all opportunities. Step out of your comfort zone, and don't be afraid. There will be people to support you if you fall, and you never know what you will be able to achieve. Also, make a bucket list! College goes by far too quickly, and you definitely want to make sure you do all that you set out to do.
When it was time for me to think about life after graduation, the answer was easy. I, too, wanted to provide a Jewish environment on campus that had given me such a thriving and fulfilling college experience.
From left to right:
Zoe Kress (Springboard Fellow- Innovation Specialist at Vanderbilt Hillel), Max Ryabinin (Israel Fellow to Vanderbilt Hillel), Lauren Silverman '14, and two Vanderbilt Hillel students.