This article is dedicated to the boards of the Transfer Undergraduate Students at Hillel, Bruins for Israel and the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus for all of their hard work and dedication. A special thank-you goes out to Hillel at UCLA for giving us students endless opportunities to engage with the greater community and create meaningful Jewish experiences.
If someone were to ask me what my first experience as a Jewish Bruin was, the answer would be Shabbat. When I was a newly admitted transfer student, I was immediately welcomed by the Jewish Bruin community and invited to take part in an annual tradition: Transfer Shabbat, hosted by the Transfer Undergraduate Students at Hillel (TUSH). It was there that I made my greatest friends, memories and raps (anything can happen at an Oneg, believe me). Today, as Secretary of TUSH, I am proud to say that this year, I, along with an exceptional team of hard-working students, hosted a Transfer Shabbat that I sincerely believe no attendee will forget.
This past year, TUSH worked in conjunction with Bruins for Israel (BFI) as well as the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at UCLA (JLIC) to put on a Shabbat experience to accommodate more than 200 people. The crowd included regular attendees, such as currently enrolled students and Hillel student leaders, as well as a multitude of newly-admitted transfer students. For the vast majority of these new transfers, it was their first time setting foot on Hillel territory. For a small group, it was their first time at UCLA. We were elated to integrate these new students into the greater community, and give them a taste of Jewish Bruin life.
In addition to TUSH’s celebration for transfers, BFI also utilized this event to host Israeli Pride Shabbat. Israeli pride was most definitely reflected in the blue and white cloths adorning the tables and the large Israeli flag at the head of the room. Moreover, dining options included Israeli staples such as falafel, schwarma and Krembo (a chocolate-covered marshmallow bottomed with a cookie). Guests had the chance to join together in singing the Israeli national anthem, and also hear from special guest and Israeli LGBT political activist Imri Kalman. New students appeared amazed and impressed by the supportive and pro-Israel community. After getting their Israeli feast on, mingling with others sitting nearby and singing traditional Shabbat tunes to develop a deeper appreciation of the night, we TUSH board members invited all guests to the customary Oneg (Friday night gathering to celebrate Shabbat).
Perhaps one of my greatest memories from my first Oneg was simply the process of getting there. Most of us new students did not even know the difference between North Campus and South Campus at the time of our first Transfer Shabbat. Needless to say, we did not know how to travel from Hillel to the Bayit (the Jewish co-op on campus), where the Oneg was being held. It was the board of TUSH that led the way to our destination and gave an unofficial tour as a special treat.
Now that I’m in a position of leadership, I was responsible for leading more than 30 students to the Bayit. As cheesy as it might sound, leading a group of students to an Oneg was perhaps the first time I really understood what it meant to be a Hillel student leader. It meant taking initiative when no one else could, and it also meant working with other like-minded people to achieve a task.
More than 60 students attended the Oneg, where conversation subjects included course recommendations, most memorable moments at UCLA, tips for surviving the quarter system and even general plans for the rest of the weekend. The house was bustling with students until new transfers started to head home to prepare for Transfer Bruin Day, which was taking place the following morning. As attendees left, they commended us on a job well done. However, what touched me most was their following question: How can I get involved with TUSH when I start UCLA?
This desire to get involved in Jewish Bruin life affected me most because it was the same exact feeling I had when I left my first Transfer Shabbat. The community of students I met that night two years ago made a genuine effort to include new transfers, like myself, in activities and traditions that were meant to define my college experience. To have not just one — but many people tell us that our event spurred their interest in getting involved and making the same impact on future generations means that we surely did something right.
If I could use the opinion of our guests as valid evidence, I would say that this past week’s Shabbat at Hillel was, overall, a great success. It was a night when friendships were established, Jewish pride was in the air, and leaders were born.