Every day I am inspired by the Jewish students who I work with at UVa. Their passion and desire to learn, and make the world a better place are insatiable. UVa students are bright, talented individuals who will go on to be leaders in their professions and communities. We want these incredible students to feel a sense of belonging to their Jewish communities, and we want to help them find a meaningful way to engage and give back to this community and the world.
Our mission is to empower Jewish students to take ownership of their Jewish identities. We meet students where they are in their Jewish lives. Each day we build relationships with students in an effort to understand who they are as individuals and how to help them take the next step in furthering their Jewish identity.
This process looks different for each student we encounter. Sometimes we help students take the next step by teaching basic Jewish knowledge like teaching a student to lead a Passover seder in their home for Jewish and non-Jewish friends. Sometimes it is leadership and advocacy training so that students will feel equipped to educate the University population about Israel. And sometimes this even means giving a student their first positive Jewish experience by simply encouraging them to attend a Shabbat dinner for the first time. In each case, we know that when a student takes ownership and initiative of their own accord while in college, that student is exponentially more likely to do so when they are no longer at UVa. We want to see students become active participants and leaders in Jewish life, not just consumers.
Through the work we do, we have the opportunity to inspire these students to make an enduring commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people. Together, with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond’s support, we are doing nothing short of creating a vibrant Jewish future for us all.
Rabbi Jake Rubin is the Director of the Brody Jewish Center - Hillel at UVa.