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Finding Home at Hillel

By Naomi Zipursky, Emory '17


When I first arrived on campus, Hillel wasn’t for me. I felt out of place and disconnected from the community. But on the first Shabbat of my sophomore year, I found myself approaching the Marcus Hillel Center for dinner. Before I even walked into the building, I heard from inside, “Naomi Zipursky! You’re here! We’re so glad to see you!”


How did the director at the time, Rabbi Russ, know me? And why was he so glad to see me if I’d never come before? Well, it didn’t really matter why, because from that moment, I knew I was home.


To me, home is a place where anyone is welcome. Whoever walks into the door will be met with warmth and support. There will never be any judgment about the path it took to get there, only excitement to embrace all who arrive. And that is the core of Emory Hillel. Emory Hillel was the one place on campus I could count on feeling at home; where I could be myself, ask questions, explore my Jewish identity, and grow as a leader. Emory Hillel provided me with the opportunities to travel to Israel and Cuba, learning about the diversity of Jewish peoplehood. It was the place I learned how to bake challah, perfect my shakshuka recipe, and even learn how to make Indian food for our Indian Shabbat. And, as President of Hillel, this was the community who helped me grow and flourish as a leader, through mentorship and networking opportunities, celebrating successes, and embracing failure as a learning opportunity.



Most importantly, Emory Hillel helped me discover my purpose in life. Because of the impact Emory Hillel had on my time in college, I knew I had to pay it forward. I am now in my fourth year working at San Francisco Hillel, where I am the Director of Campuses. Every time I meet with a student for coffee, facilitate a Shabbat, or lead a Birthright-Israel trip, I think about how Emory Hillel made all of this possible.


Emory Hillel is home: this is the whole story; the rest is commentary; go and see it for yourself.

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