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Student Voices

My Jewish Journey

by Jason Benkendorf | May 05, 2014

 

Bethany Berger, AU '14

I grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania -- not exactly a major Jewish population center -- and being Jewish was not a particularly significant part of my life or identity until my sophomore year at American University.  That's when I first connected with AU Hillel.  I was recruited for Hillel's Birthright Israel trip, a ten-day experience that really changed my life.  In the months that followed I went from being totally disconnected from the campus Jewish community to counting it as a home away from home.  I eventually served as a Jewish Student Association board member and Hillel's social justice intern.

This March, I participated in Hillel's alternative spring break service trip to Mississippi.  Our group had the unique opportunity to help the residents of a poor town with no grocery store to set up community gardens.  We also spent time with several of the state's small Jewish communities and learned about the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), an organization that supports small Jewish communities throughout the southern United States.  I was so inspired by what I experienced on the trip that, following my graduation next week, I will be taking a full-time position with the ISJL!

Without AU Hillel, I wouldn't be involved in Jewish life -- much less pursuing a career in Jewish community building.  I am so grateful for all that Hillel has done for me.

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