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A First-Year Perspective

From the very start of my time at W&L, Hillel has been a huge part of my experiences.  I started going to the events to get involved in campus Jewish life and to meet new people (the welcome food basket was a pretty good incentive, too), and now Friday nights there are definitely the best part. Even though I have only been going to Hillel for about two and a half months, it’s already become my Shabbat custom.  Just like at home, I go to enjoy Kiddush, candles, and challah, but now it’s with friends rather than my family.
-Emily Danzig

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Hillel — First VIP Dinner

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Hillel hosted its first Very Interesting Professor Dinner of the 2012-2013 school year, on October 18th at the Sheridan Livery. The featured guest was Professor Arthur Goldsmith of the Washington and Lee University Economics Department. After a little candid schmoozing, Professor Goldsmith discussed with the students a piece of research he and Professor Diette are working on. Their research investigates how the psychological impact from traumatic events at different points in an individual’s youth affects one’s likelihood to drop out of school. Due to the clear link between education and success, implications from the research are valuable. As usual, the Livery served delicious food and all are looking forward to the next dinner!

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Passover at Washington and Lee University

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With Passover comes the annual Washington and Lee Hillel Passover seder.  Led by two first year students, Benjamin Brams and Sam Raphael, our Seder was full of energy, fun and laughter. The Seder was well attended, with over 100 people, including students, community members and religious leaders.  Many of the students participated and everyone really got into the Passover spirit.

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Latke-Hamantaschen Debate

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Latke-Hamantaschen Debate

Sponsored by John Zamoiski
On March 8th, dozens of students and community members packed themselves into Hillel’s multipurpose room to hear four of Washington and Lee’s esteemed faculty debate the merits of the Latke and the Hamantash in a very academic yet humorous battle of wits. The debate was moderated by First-Year Ben Brams and Senior and Hillel Co-President Josh Posner, who both gave a lively introduction of the debate’s prestigious history both nationally and at W&L.
This year students chose the Latke as the winner, although in the end the votes were very close. Students, community members, and alumni concluded W&L’s 5th Annual Latke Hamantash Debate with some home made latkes and hamantash.
Max Chapnick ’13

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Celebrating Purim in Roanoke

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Celebrating Purim in Roanoke
The night before our annual Latke-Hamantaschen Debate, a few students and Brett traveled together down to Beth Israel Synagogue in Roanoke. It was the night of Purim, and the entire congregation dressed up, including the Rabbi, who was Captain America. The W&L students organized a group costume as the “Dubyahenells,” a family straight out of a 50s sitcom (See picture below). The students were grateful for the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of hearing the Megillah read and for the hospitality of the synagogue. Afterwards, they enjoyed dinner together and a stop at the local frozen yogurt shop, Sweet Frog. The rabbi of the synagogue and board members are working on planning a few shabbats where students will travel down to Roanoke and join Beth Israel for dinner and services. We hope to continue the tradition of arranging a way for students to hear the megillah every year.

Sammy Rosier ’14
VP Shabbat and High Holidays

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Congressman Goodlatte Visits Hillel

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Washington and Lee University’s Hillel had the pleasure of hosting Congressman Bob Goodlatte and hearing his perspective on relations between Israel and the Middle East. In a very open discussion on what is occurring in these regions, as well as his personal opinions of what he expects their futures to look like, Goodlatte enlightened students, professors, and community members. While enjoying pizza and desserts, audience members had the opportunity to ask specific questions based on their own beliefs and concerns. Goodlatte offered many informative answers that helped spectators understand his standpoints on current issues. Although Goodlatte recently visited Washington and Lee University to speak at Mock Convention, he graciously joined us again to speak in this much more informal session. Hillel thanks Congressman Bob Goodlatte for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak about very important issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East.
Lauren Michnick ’14

 

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Playing for Time: Music in the Holocaust

Hillel House

                On Tuesday, February 28, Dr. Barry Kolman, clarinetist and conductor of the University Wind Ensemble and University-Shenandoah Symphonic Orchestra, gave a lecture on the music of the Holocaust. He began the lecture with a performance of a piece written by Olivier Messiaen during the Holocaust for clarinet, cello, viola, and piano. Much of his lecture was accompanied by pictures and video from concentration camps. Many people do not know about the important part orchestras played in the daily life of concentration camps. The players were chosen at random from the many musicians who came into the camps. They played for all occasions, including speeches from the commander of the camp, welcoming new people to the camp, and while people were marched to the gas chamber. The orchestra also played as the workers went to and from their jobs at the beginning and end of the day, which tried to keep a sense of normalcy in the day-to-day activities of the camp. The performances were also meant to hide the true activities of the concentration camps from the outside world.
                Even though the musicians in the orchestra were considered to be more valuable than some of the other prisoners, their life in the camp was still nearly unbearable. They were able to have better clothes, shoes, and food; however, musicians were forced to play hours on end every day. Because the Nazis appreciated the entertainment from the orchestra, musicians had better assurance that they would survive. This was contingent upon their performance, though. If musicians missed a few too many notes, they could be sent to the gas chamber without question. The musicians were playing for their lives.
Angela Williams `14

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Lunch and Learns — W&L Hillel

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Lunch and Learn

Starting in January, Hillel has been hosting “Lunch and Learn” gatherings every other week in the Hillel House. Students who attend get lunch from the E. Cafe and sit together to discuss a topic affecting modern Jews, especially those relevant to young adults. Each meeting is lead by different members of  the W&L community, with Director Brett Schwartz leading the first one and Prof. Richard Marks lined up for the February lunch.

Thirteen students attended the first Lunch and Learn, which focused on the practice of tattooing in the Jewish religion. Attendees watched interviews of tattooed Jews and read the relevant laws in the Torah the rabbis interpreted as prohibiting tattoos, as well as the different modern movements’ stances on the issue. The topic lead to an interesting discussion of which laws in the Torah modern Jews choose to follow strictly and which they are willing to bend. Students, Jewish and non-Jews alike, are looking forward to the next luncheon titled “Talking Snakes and Splitting Seas: Is Any of That Stuff in the Bible True?”
Sammy Rosier ’14
VP Shabbat and High Holidays

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Birthright Israel Travelogue: Final Edition

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Tuesday was the only day we traveled out of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv- Jaffa area. Our first stop was at Rabin Square. Here, in the center of Tel  Aviv, Prime Minster Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated after giving a pro-two state speech in 1995. A turning point for sure. We then headed to Jaffa and checked out the flea market. Jaffa is the older city of the two, being mostly Arab. Still, the flea market was an experience to bargain. Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was the next stop. We actually sat in the same room where the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Chills ran throughout our bodies. Back to the flea market for one last round of shopping and we then called it a day.
The last day in Israel was the longest so far. We started the day off at a community service project. We went to a center for the elderly, where a barter system is in place. The elderly make artwork of all sorts in exchange for food and busy work. Even though there was a language barrier, the smiles seen on their faces is all we needed to keep going. After the service, we headed to the Israeli National Museum and saw numerous exhibits. What original artwork and recovered artifacts. You must visit if close. A quick stop at a park for a magnificent view of the whole city of Jerusalem turned into an awards ceremony. Funny superlatives to say the least. A big Italian style dinner of traditional shwarma then we headed to the Mega Event. The Mega Event had all trips there, in order to see artists perform and important speakers. Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke eloquently and touched many people’s souls.
I can say for the 6 of us that we will forever cherish this journey of a lifetime. An incredible experience bonding with our homeland gave us a renewed spirit of Judaism. Watch out W&L, us 6 will turn Hillel into a force on campus.
– Washington and Lee Birthright Participants 2011

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Birthright Israel Travelogue Pt. 4: Southern Israel

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Wow! What an amazing couple of days Thursday and Friday were. Let me explain…
Thursday was our departure day from the north, but we were mising one thing. The IDF partners with Birthright to allow soldiers to join the trip. We picked up 8 soldiers and they are a blast! They are 19-21, just like us. After picking them up, we stopped at the water pumping plant. We learned about the water carrier system and their future plans.
A quick 3-hour bus ride and we arrived at a Bedouin tent. This was truly an experience. Right away they had camels and donkeys to ride. I now can say I’ve ridden a camel! We learned about the Bedouin culture, drank some tea and coffee, and had a traditional meal. Of course, we also sat around a fire, sang some songs, and slept in a tent on foam pads.
A 5 AM wake up call on Friday was harsh, but worth it. We drove to Masada and hiked the Roman Ramp (stairs). We watched the sunrise over the Jordan mountains and toured the whole site. It was spectacular. After Masada, a trip to the Dead Sea was in order. One of the neatest things ever is when you float without trying. Finally, we headed to Jerusalem where we celebrated a traditional Shabbat.
-Washington and Lee Hillel Birthright 2011

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