Hillel in Hoboken: Perfect together – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on September 2, 2022

AHillel chapter that was formed at Stevens Institute of Technology in 2019 has come out strong on the other side of the pandemic.

Despite the schools shift to remote learning during covid, Hillel board president Sabrina Benayoun and vice president Dennis Vink forged ahead to build a Jewish community on the Hoboken campus that is poised for more growth in the fall.

Itll be a refreshing new fall semester with a bunch of students who are excited to be back on campus, Rachel Waldorf, the director of Hillel of Northern New Jersey, said. We are thrilled that so many students are staying connected to Jewish life on campus.

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Last school year, twice monthly Shabbat dinners drew 50 students, which is considered a good turnout at a campus of 4,000 students, Mr. Vink, a 20-year-old quantitative finance major from Fair Lawn, said. At least 5 percent of Stevens students are Jewish, he estimates.

Im looking at this growth spurt now and I know its only the start, Mr. Vink said. I know we can do a lot. Theres a lot of Jewish students here who are nonpracticing. Its just finding them and showing them you dont have to be religious. Its more cultural.

Mr. Vink participated in Jewish activities at Fair Lawn High School, where he was president of the Jewish Student Union. He was heavily involved in the National Council of Synagogue Youth and traveled across the country and to Israel with NCSY. This pushed me to want to make Judaism a part of my life since I see it as a people and we are all connected through that, he said.

Hillel of Northern New Jersey supports Jewish life at four other local campuses: William Paterson University in Wayne, Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, Bergen Community College in Paramus, and Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah.

Hillels vice president, Dennis Vink, and board member Isabella Ziv stand together at a Hillel dinner.

Hillel of Northern New Jersey is a program of Rutgers University Hillel and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

Within a few weeks of arriving on campus as a freshman, Mr. Vink sought out an outlet for Jewish life. Since the first year of the school was mostly online, I was able to join the eboard as the outreach coordinator, he said.

Seeking a formal connection to Judaism at school, Mr. Vink and Ms. Benayoun, who comes from Jericho, on Long Island, met with a group of Federation officials, school administrators, and Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of the United Synagogue of Hoboken to discuss starting an official Hillel chapter at Stevens.

Since then, they got the word out, and now the Stevens chapter is thriving. Its a great STEM-focused school with a really diverse student population, Ms. Waldorf said. Theyre doing great work on campus. We want to be able to support them and help elevate it.

Mr. Vink is indebted to Ms. Waldorf for assistance in organizing events. She helps us build ideas and plan out how we are going to incorporate those ideas, he said.

Ms. Benayoun is going into her fourth year and studying environmental engineering. When I initially joined Hillel, it was a pretty small club, but we were dedicated to growing it, she said.

Ms. Benayouns plan is to have a consistent schedule of events and meetings. It will include Shabbat dinners, discussions on subjects of Jewish interest, and joint events with other religious organizations on campus.

Some events are purely social. Students launched the spring 2022 semester with a get-together to decorate coffee mugs.

I greatly look forward to seeing the growth of this club, Ms. Benayoun said. I aim to create a strong sense of community that considers different perspectives while also having common shared beliefs or interests.

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Hillel in Hoboken: Perfect together - The Jewish Standard

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