A sense of togetherness

Bradley students atop Masada. (L-R) Jesse Siegal '15, Shayna Weisberg '14, Abby Baron '13, Zach Dalin '13 and Mara Rosenbaum '12.

By Abby Rhodes
January 19, 2012

Abby Baron could have attended a university with a larger Jewish student population, but found that Bradley’s average-size community of Jews — about 250 students — is more to her liking.

“I’ve always been a community-based person, and the size of this Jewish group meant I could establish real connections with people,” Baron said. “So Bradley’s size appealed to me in both the academic sense and the social sense. I like the ‘big fish, small pond’ feel.”

As a university founded on multicultural ideals, Bradley strives to be a place where students of all faiths and cultural backgrounds may exercise their beliefs while pursing a world-class education. For the Jewish community, that means providing kosher food options and maintaining an active Hillel chapter open to all interested Jewish students. Last semester, the University celebrated the opening of a new house for the Jewish student organization, Hillel.

“At Bradley, we have opportunities to maintain our Jewish identity, while feeling like an integral part of the greater campus community,” said Dalin, who is the president of Bradley’s Hillel chapter. “For example, the kosher kitchens are in a cafeteria alongside the regular dining service, so there’s a sense of togetherness throughout the student body.”

Earlier this month five Bradley students traveled together to Israel through a program that provides full sponsorship for young adults to tour the country alongside Israeli soldiers of the same age group. Baron and Dalin, along with Mara Rosenbaum ’12, Jesse Siegal ’15 and Shayna Weisberg ’14, spent 10 days visiting Israeli points of interest.

They slept in Bedouin tents and floated in the Dead Sea. They rode camels and hiked through ancient ruins. The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bond as members of Bradley’s Jewish community while gaining an insightful education from foreign counterparts.

“The opportunity to share this experience with our Israeli friends, the soldiers, was the greatest aspect of this particular Birthright trip,” Baron said. “We learned so much more through our exposure to them than we would have if we were on our own.”

“It’s really interesting that we’re all pursuing our post-high school education, but in very different ways,” Siegal said. “The Americans in the group are in college, while the Israelis are doing very important jobs already, as part of their military service requirement.”

The soldiers gave the Bradley group an insider’s perspective on the reality behind news headlines about Israel. While the tour group remained isolated from political conflict and potentially dangerous areas, Dalin said there was much discussion about current events throughout the trip.

The group brings its deeper knowledge and broader perspectives back to campus this semester, where Dalin said the local Jewish community will also benefit from his journey.

“We took a lot of culture and ideas with us and I think we’ll be able to implement some really nice programming this semester, related to Israeli culture, Israeli food, politics,” Dalin said.

The students will share their experiences from Israel tomorrow evening during Hillel’s weekly Shabbat dinner, a weekly event open to all students on campus, Jewish or non-Jewish, free of charge.