Hillel supports Jewish students, stands with other minoritized groups

Emma Turner

Video by McKenna Shanholtz

Despite recent anti-Semitic issues, Jewish students can find a home at Colorado State University.

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Alex Amchislavskiy stands in an open living room space at the Hillel Center. Amchislavskiy is the CSU Campus Director for the Hillel Center in which every Saturday night they host “shabbat” which is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated every week with food and other activities. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Hillel of Colorado at CSU is one of the University’s 550 international units that serve as a religious student organization. The student-ran group is known for their weekly Shabbat dinners, commitment to sustainability and involvement in interfaith events. It is one of three regional chapters of Hillel of Colorado. 

“Hillel is sort of the face of Jewish students on campus,” said Nevan Mandel, a third year political science major and board member and financial officer for Hillel. “It provides a way for us not only to make space for Jewish individuals on campus but also to relate to individuals of other religions and other cultures on campus as well.”

Linzy Upton-Spatz, a junior business and journalism major and Hillel’s marketing intern, said the Jewish community on campus organized a walk on Oct. 5 in protest of the recent anti-semitic events that have impacted their members. 

“Hillel is always a resource,” Upton-Spatz said. “It’s just a place to go where students can feel safe. and they don’t have to worry about anti-Semitism or things that unfortunately do happen on campus.”

Hillel of Colorado at CSU uses the model “student-lead, staff-supported” to accomplish tasks and grow the unit, according to Hillel Director Alex Amchislavskiy. Student initiatives fuel Friday night Shabbat dinners and other faith and interfaith celebrations.

“We like to give students the resources so that they can really take something that they are passionate about, see where it intersects with Hillel and just kind of run with it.”

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Board member Nevan Mandel discusses all of the flyers and posters on the wall inside the Hillel Center. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Hillel provides opportunities for students to come together for other celebrations as well. Jewish people around the world celebrated Sukkot from Oct. 5 to Oct. 11. Sukkot is one of the three central pilgrimage festivals of Judaism. It is traditional during this time to erect a Sukkah. One of these huts stood on the front lawn of the Hillel house. A Sukkah is meant to represent the tent-like dwellings of the Israelites during the 40 years of wandering after escaping slavery in Egypt. At least three walls of any material must support a roof of thatch or branches which allow those inside to see the stars.

The group also meets weekly to celebrate Shabbat. Shabbat is a weekly holiday celebrating the Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew). It celebrates the commemoration of the universe and serves as a memorial to the rescuing of the Israelites from Egypt. Shabbat begins just before Sundown on Friday and lasts through sundown on Saturday.

“On campus, it’s really our bread and butter,” Amchislavskiy said. “Every week, we have at least 40 students coming to dinner, and the Shabbat committee of that week might chose a different theme. It’s a great opportunity for people to just show up, make a new friend, hang out and have a good time.”

Another student initiative surfaced in the area of sustainability. Hillel of Colorado at CSU is certified fully sustainable and helped to pioneer the Hazon sustainability seal program. The Hillel House, located across from campus on Laurel Street, includes a garden, composter and chicken coop. Food waste is collected and either fed to chickens or composted. The compost and chicken manure is then spread over the garden to grow new produce to later be consumed. Student initiatives drive the development of these choices, according to Mandel.

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A “sukkah” stands out front of the Hillel Center before walking in. This sukkah is a temporary hut in which Jewish members dwell during the week-long celebration of Sukkot. “Sukkot” is a celebration or holiday in which the Jewish celebrate the gathering of harvest. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Amchislavskiy believes Hillels purpose is integral to Jewish students on campus.

“With all the different (anti-Semitic) incidents on campus, I think it is important that Jewish students and students of other minorities know that we are going to stand up to this stuff,” Amchislavskiy said. “Jew were some of the first suffragettes. They were marching with Martin Luther King. They were there for LGBT pride. Whenever someone is down, we want to help them get up.”

Hillel is always welcoming new students on campus. Those who are interested in joining the community can do so by visiting CSU Hillel’s website, hillelcolorado.org. 

Collegian reporter Emma Turner can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @EmmaTurner1228.