Sophomore Julia Finkle first joined the Jewish Learning Fellowship in the fall and returned this semester as the program’s intern. Her cohort had around 13 students who met every week.
“It's just opened a lot more doors for me, and definitely gotten me more excited about being involved in the Jewish community,” Finkle said. “And made me more proud to be Jewish.”
This semester’s Jewish Learning Fellowship cohort is made up of 15 students and is the biggest group the Elon Hillel program has seen. The fellowship is an eight-week seminar led by Jewish educator Boaz Avraham-Katz.
The group meets one hour a week for dinner and discussion about Jewish identity, community, culture and texts. Finkle said this semester’s larger cohort means more opinions and perspectives get shared during their meetings.
“The fact that it's really gotten bigger really makes me excited for the future of Hillel,” Finkle said. “It just makes me excited that more people are excited to learn about Jewish things.”
Freshman Dani Rudd joined the Jewish Learning Fellowship to be more involved with Hillel and Elon’s Jewish community.
“Being Jewish is very important to me, so being able to express my identity with a group of like-minded individuals is really great,” Rudd said.
Sophomore Eli Orkin also saw the fellowship as an opportunity to connect with other Jewish students and decided to join the program after Avraham-Katz reached out to him.
Orkin said analyzing Jewish texts and values through a modern lens helped him feel more connected with his religion and community.
“It’s a really nice opportunity to sort of connect with my Judaism,” Orkin said.
Both Rudd and Finkle said Elon’s large and inviting Jewish community played a role in their decisions to attend the university. Over 12% of the student population is Jewish and school records show that this year’s freshman class has the largest Jewish population of any freshman class in the university’s history.
Rudd said both the fellowship and Hillel have helped her create a support system and make lasting connections with her peers.
“It's really great to just be able to go there and feel safe and feel understood,” Rudd said.