Under the Knife: Hillel unites Jewish population in culture, education and religion

Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus, provides a place for those who are Jewish and miss Jewish life to congregate. The Geneseo Hillel is part of a regional division of Hillels in the Rochester area.

Steve Sahr and Megan Zeh, both juniors, are the dynamic student duo that heads Hillel, along with the advisement of Randy Kaplan, a professor in the theater department. Sahr, the president of the group, delegates responsibilities and keeps Hillel running, while Zeh is cultural and religious vice president.

As of now Sahr and Zeh are the only two board members for Hillel due to the fact that many members graduated last year.

Hillel has been around for quite some time and is not the only Jewish organization on campus, although they are exclusive in the collegiate area. Hillel helps to sponsor a trip to Israel as part of the Taglit-birthright-israel program. "It's funded by people around the world," said Zeh. "It's a free 10-day trip to Israel for those between 18 and 26 - it's once in a lifetime. There's a trip every winter break and summer. Both Steve and I went this summer."

The trip provided quite the cultural shock for Zeh. "Israeli soldiers traveled with us the whole time," he said. "Americans take what they have for granted because we don't have to serve our country and they do. We can just go off to college but they have to join the military."

Hillel meets at the Interfaith Center every Friday night at 5:30 p.m. for the Shabbat service, which is for the Jewish Sabbath. After the relaxed service, free dinner is served at 6:15 p.m. This Friday night, ritual is open to anyone - not just those who practice Judaism. The food is kosher, which is nice for students, as there aren't many kosher choices here on campus. "There's kosher food at GUS but it's really expensive," said Zeh.

In the past, Hillel has had a bout of disagreements with CAS for not being able to provide kosher food for on-campus events. "They don't have the kitchen or the services to do it," said Zeh. "They are unknowingly excluding us [from having events on campus], which is hard for publicity. People aren't as aware of us off-campus and it's hard to make people come."

Each Friday, Hillel might attract about 20 members and for holidays about 50 members. Upcoming events include a Hanukkah party in early December and candle lighting in a different dorm on each of the holiday's eight nights.