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A Story of Growth: Hillel at KSU

By Avery Green, KSU '22

The first reading of the Torah is pretty famous - we’re talking about the creation of the world. G-d separates light and dark, the sea from the land, creates living things and eventually humankind. I’d like to draw your attention to two passages from this portion that I think are particularly important for our work at Hillel and the story of how my Hillel at KSU has grown and continues to grow.

The first passage is: “Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.” “And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.” Here, the Torah is speaking about a transition - from nothing to something.

Kennesaw, as a school, has been in a state of transition for a long time. Before my time here, it was seen as a commuter school with very little growth. Now, it's a major research institution with a full college and graduate program. Likewise, the Jewish community at Kennesaw has seen transition from nothing to something. When I was a freshman, I was excited at the prospect of being able to explore my Jewish identity in college. I joined AEPi, I met with the then-Hillel director, and I got to know our Chabad Rabbi very well. Whenever I had a question about Judaism, there was someone to go to. Whenever I needed a home-made meal, someone was there. The thing is, I still never felt a belonging. The community was spread pretty thin and there wasn’t a lot going on with the day to day. But, as I’ve stayed at Kennesaw I’ve seen Hillel go through huge transitions, I’ve seen us grow from a once-a-month gathering to a full scale Jewish experience! Today, we, as a student run organization, have no less than 4 events going on in any given week on campus, and a student involvement level that I never expected. I’ve been able to trust in the fact that, no matter what’s going on on campus, I can always count on Hillel for some community when I need it. And, I, as a student, have the Board to thank for that.

That brings me to my next passage: “And God said, "And God made the expanse and it separated between the water that was below the expanse and the water that was above the expanse, and it was so..” Here, The Torah describes the separation of the heavens and earth and eventually land and water. However, I noticed that the way it’s being described a “separation between water above and below,” implies a symmetry between what is now separate. At Hillel, we have many different levels and structures that help us do the work of bringing Jewish people together. At the top, you have the Board. Below that the staff at Hillels of Georgia, led by Elliot. Then, the students. The thing is we might be separate, but we all work in tandem together. There’s a structure but less of a hierarchy. The student fuels the programs, the staff and Board implement, and together we grow. We’re like the “water above and below,” separate but together, symmetrical. Just the other day, Elliot joined us at Kennesaw for our weekly running group. He showed us that, even the CEO of a major nonprofit felt it just as important to be with the students he is serving as it is to be in meetings. To us, it means the world and demonstrates that we, the Kennesaw students, are a part of a much larger Hillels of Georgia network as much as you all are a part of our Kennesaw community.

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