/BY SHIRA ROTHMAN/ //SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//
This past Friday was the last day of my four and a half years at Hillels of Georgia. Coming from a previous role at the Boston Federation, I did not know what to expect as the Georgia Tech Hillel Director.
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GT already had a full time Hillel staff two years before I arrived; yet the program was still exceedingly small.
Over the last 50 years, and in its various manifestations at JSU or Atlanta YAD, Hillel’s events never had more than a small cadre of students attend any given event, and there was not a GT Hillel Program in the truest sense of the word. As I look back now on my last day as the Coles Metro Hillel Director – a position I assumed at the start of last academic year – I can appreciate all the changes that came about over this half decade I was with Hillels of Georgia; and, as much as I hope I have impacted the students’ lives, they have also changed mine.
In my first year, our Shabbat meals were small at GT. We had one room that we first prayed in and then rearranged the room to accommodate our meal. Today, we can see up to 90 students attend Friday night prayers and meals at GT, and of course now have the infrastructure in place that we can book two rooms on campus without the need for any re-arranging.
Along with the program, my Metro students are also exceptional. Students at GT are thoughtful and think critically about Jewish life: students will compare the dreidel’s angular momentum to atoms or discuss the electric circuits that are allowed in lights on Shabbat.
On any given Thursday at Georgia State, you can find 40 students crowded into the Hillel room enjoying lunch and hearing from a dynamic speaker. And KSU students are committed to a variety of exciting projects with the Kennesaw Holocaust Museum.
I am impressed with their dedication to reaching out to new students and I’m lucky to have been a part of helping them create lasting friendships with other Jewish students. I am confident that these students will continue to take pride in their Jewish identity and support Israel on campus.
One thing that I am especially proud of is the Israel programming that I have taken part in or planned for the Metro Campuses. GT’s annual I-Fest, that welcomes over 800 Jews and non-Jews to learn a bit about Israel, has 25 individual stalls, the most in Georgia.
Also, as a Hillel professional, I was able to recruit for and then staff six Birthright trips. And the greatest satisfaction was being able to watch 240 students as they experience Israel for the first time
Over the past few years I have watched nine different groups of student leaders transition into being inspiring and impactful leaders among their peers and triple student attendance at events.
In everything that I’ve done, I’ve watched Hillel students step up, cultivate community, and create a place where it matters to be Jewish and it was well worth the countless number of free meals I transported to campus along the way.
Nonetheless, after five years as Director of our Metro Campus Hillels, I am coming full circle, and am excited to take the next step in my career with Federation as the Director of Young Adult Engagement and Education. I am thrilled that I will continue to be immersed in the Atlanta Jewish Community and I look forward to working with graduating seniors who stay in Atlanta, many of whom I have known already for four years!