Giving Tuesday 11.27.18

It's the most heartfelt philanthropic day of the year: #GivingTuesday November 27, 2018!


Hillel at UCLA's Got Heart and we know you do too! 
Once a year, Hillel supporters wear their heart on their sleeve by donating and sharing their 
Jewish Bruin pride on social media/email!
This Hillel love-fest amplifies each and every donor's impact by inspiring more givers to Hillel. 
So get ready to give, share, and inspire your community to show their Hillel heart.


Bring a Gift and a Smile to Children in Need this Holiday Season
Feel free to drop off Toys and Books at Hillel for Federation's Drive. 
We have a collection box in our lobby!

Supporting Israel & Condemning Hate @ UCLA

“Zionism is ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and death.”
-Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)

This Friday, National Students for Justice in Palestine will teach its members that the only Jewish state should “be destroyed, broken down, and dismantled.”

Their conference at UCLA will feature a logo of our cherished mascot flying a Hamas kite. Their leadership will promote dangerous “disruption” tactics which will continue to try to force a wedge between Jewish students and other campus communities based on the false claims about Jewish power and privilege.

In short, this conference continues to feel much more like an anti-Semitic hate fest than it does a human rights advocacy effort to help Palestinians.

At Hillel, we have approached this conference with a sophisticated, proven strategy: work directly with students. There are no more powerful, eloquent, and effective actors on a college campus than the student leaders themselves.

Hillel actively coordinates with 25+ pro-Israel organizations, serving as the hub for all off-campus partners who want to empower students to expose and combat hate and offer a productive alternative to the whole campus community.

* Exposing and combatting is being done by courageous Bruins for Israel (BFI) and Students Supporting Israel (SSI) student leaders who speak at UC Regent and Student Government meetings, file diversity complaints with UCLA’s administration, write in the DailyBruin, speak with friends and allied communities, and work with elected officials

* Better alternative programming efforts feature actual Palestinians and Israelis who are working towards a better future. We have hosted Israeli-Arab leader Mohamed Darawashe from Givat Haviva, an Imam from Hartman’s Muslim Leadership Initiative, and West Bank peace activists from the Roots project, all of whom represent NGO efforts by people living on the ground who are working towards peace together.

You can make NSJP pay a price for choosing UCLA. Support student-led programming by clicking HERE to provide students the support they need to enact 30+ programs and interventions at UCLA over six months, touching more than 10,000 students, faculty, and administrators.

Click Here to Support Our Students

These programs, in addition to UCLA specific efforts like #WeTheZionists, #ChooseLove, and Bruins for Israel Public Affairs Committee’s dinners with members of Congress, are educating the entire campus community about what Zionism really is, why students love and support Israel, why the US government has a strong strategic relationship with the Jewish homeland, and how the future can be brighter for both Israelis and Palestinians.

That’s why our students won the 2018 AIPAC Campus of the Year Award last year. It’s why 80 campuses nationally are adopting our Fact Finding trip to Israel and the PA. And it’s why students around the country are launching variations of our Israel social media campaigns.

We need your help to raise $100,000 of emergency funding to provide for additional programming and support to our students. Hillel is bearing these costs with full faith in our community that you will help us!

This is our home. That’s why we’re working so hard to keep students safe before, during, and after the conference. SJP choses to spew hate. But ultimately, that’s a losing message on a campus whose motto is about bringing more light and optimism into the world.

Thank you in advance,

Michael Farahnik
Board Chair, Hillel at UCLA

P.S.  In addition to your gift, you can get the word out among your community by sharing the following:

1)  Join the Bruin community on Sunday, November 18 for an Israel celebration on Wilson plaza, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm!

2) Encourage high schoolers to visit, and apply to UCLA and other UC schools. Like every other top university, campus climate issues do flare up from time to time here. Nevertheless, students report feeling very safe overall (ask them!).

UCLA in particular is a great place to be a Jewish student. #1 on the West Coast and #3 in the country.

3) Jewish students are a part of a robust coalition network comprised of 25+ national pro-Israel groups, elected officials, major donors, pro-bono attorneys, and strategists who stand in solidarity with nearly 3,000 pro-Israel Bruins.

4) We worked together with StandWithUs to create this petition. Please sign it!

5) Contact UCLA administrators directly with your concerns. Some talking points:

  • * Explicitly address SJP's role in creating a hostile campus climate for Jewish students and address SJP's conference materials which violate the State Department's "3D's" definition of anti-semitism: demonization of Israel, delegitimization of Israel, and applying double standards to Israel.
  • * Demand monitoring of the conference, specifically for trainings designed to teach SJP members to take illegal actions or violate university policy.
  • * Investigate ways to force SJP to open its registration to non-SJP members.
  • * Thank them for issuing an immediate cease and desist letter related to the appropriation of Joe Bruin by SJP and thank the Chancellor specifically for his OpEd in the LA Times which confirms his opposition to BDS and support for robust University partnership with Israel.

6) While SJP is loud and caustic, that actually works against them. They are viewed by the majority of students with suspicion, and are perceived as angry and directionless. Discourage your pro-Israel friends from acting the same way. It backfires when anger turns into Islamophobia or compels groups to come to campus to yell at people. Let students do their job. They understand the culture and have crafted effective strategies. Let’s lift them up rather than undermine them.

7) Students have organized a 33-point action plan which entails extra programming occurring before, during, and after the conference (September - March). Encourage your friends to give generously to support our work!

Anti-Zionist Conference at UCLA

My name is Darion Ouliguian, and it is my honor to serve as this year’s Bruins for Israel (BFI) President.

I know many of you are concerned about a national anti-Israel conference coming to campus in November, led by a group which espouses the delegitimization of Israel and seeks to dismantle it through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). I am joined by the leaders of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and many other groups here at UCLA in saying that we fundamentally reject this hateful attack on the Jewish homeland.

Over the past several months, we have been working closely with Hillel, UCLA administrators, and a group of 20+ national pro-Israel partners to ensure both the safety and security of students here on campus. We have also already begun to execute a comprehensive action plan which you can support by clicking here.

Our strategy is designed to address the broadest audience possible. Rather than interfering with their right to assemble, we will instead be organizing a series of events before, during and after the conference which will educate and empower students. Our programs will showcase the nature of Israel and her supporters and their desire for peace and co-existence.

Photo by Joyce Chang

We will not be defined by their agenda. Rather, we will continue to engage with thousands of students at UCLA through positive and proactive messaging and programming. We will bring real Israelis and Palestinians to campus who are working together towards peace and co-existence.

Our programming is not intended to “combat” or “debate” the anti-Zionists. They don’t deserve that legitimization. They offer no path forward, no vision for a future that reconciles the reality on the ground. Their efforts are focused solely on demonization and disruption, and we will not dignify their rejectionism.

Our series of events and programs began on Oct 15th and will extend into January. It has already included Israeli Arabs and Muslim students and clerics. Our program appreciates intellectual and cultural diversity, and dovetails with a photography-driven social media campaign, an intercultural Shabbat dinner at Hillel, Zionist art campaigns, and more than six campus-wide events from a wide-range of Israeli and pro-Israel figures.

This is not the first time we have seen their hate, and it will not be the last. But, we have a strong community which outnumbers, out-messages, and outlasts their small-but-loud attempt to garner attention.

Additional details and invites to community-wide programs will be shared as they come to light.

In solidarity,

Darion Ouliguian '20
President, Bruins for Israel

Here are a few additional FAQs for those of you still reading!

When is the conference?

* Friday, November 16th through Sunday, November 18th. It is entirely over the weekend, when students do not actively frequent the conference areas of campus.

Is the conference public?

* No, it’s a private event, which mean that visitibility to the average UCLA students will be minimal to none. There will be no student-sponsored public demonstrations, which would only serve to draw attention to them and their messages.

Why would UCLA allow this event to happen on campus? Does it endorse their message or behavior?

* Due to First Amendment protections, UCLA’s legal advisors have determined that it must allow these students to assemble on campus. This is indeed in spite of the ongoing UCPD investigation regarding their behavior during SSI’s Indigenous Peoples Unite event this past May.

* UCLA Administration has made it clear that it unequivocally rejects their anti-Zionist message, and its behavior. For example, UCLA officially states: “UCLA and the University of California Regents continue to firmly oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel…”

How can I help?

* As I mentioned, we will be carrying out much more programming this year which necessitates additional funding. You can support directly in doing so by clicking here.

* We have worked together with StandWithUs to create this petition, please sign it!

* If you would like to address your own letter to the administration, please feel free to do so.

* We invite you join us on Tuesday, October 23rd, 7-9 PM for an Artist Talk with renowned photographer and peace activist Saskia Keeley who will discuss her exhibit: Roots Non-Violence. This event is free and open to the public.To RSVP or for more information, click here.

* We have also been working closely with Alumni for Campus Fairness, click here to join.

* Share positive information with your friends and family about UCLA. We LOVE being at UCLA. It is an amazing campus with great Jewish life and a strong pro-Israel community!

A Pivotal Moment

TODAY IS THE DAY to join the 24-hour frenzy of giving back to Hillel for #Giving Tuesday.
We are proud to share that 100% of our staff participates in Giving Tuesday.
On that note, here is some inspiration from a Hillel staffer, Gisele Haykin.


In honor of #GivingTuesday I am preaching for Hillel at UCLA. WHY, you ask? Wow, I'm so glad you asked!!
In college, Hillel grew me into the Jewish woman I am today, seeking to create Jewish community. It was a pivotal moment when I got to decide for myself IF/and then HOW I wanted to live a Jewish life.

And now everyday, I get to see firsthand, college students at UCLA making the same decisions as I was..."Should I go to that Hillel event? Well someone nice invited me...and said they'd go with me...and it sounded kind of interesting...and it's yeah, why not!" (That by the way is essentially how Hillel works.)

But guess what? --it's not actually free. It's free to students, and that's where you come in.

You can make Hillel Happen with a gift today. Thank you for your consideration, every gift makes a difference.
- Gisele Haykin, Community and Philanthropic Outreach



Give a gift of any amount and make a difference today! **look below for info to double your gift**


Make contributing easy, schedule it once for monthly giving to make a difference all year round!


Choose a credit or debit card - your purchases will round up to the nearest dollar and your change will support Hillel at UCLA. Control how much you give, it's all up to you!


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Photo courtesy of: Hillel at UCLA Fact Finders group 2016

Hillel at UCLA's Mission: To be a home away from home at UCLA for all Jewish students to build their identities through Jewish life, learning, and Israel.

Our programs are made possibly because of the strength in giving from our community members. Thank you for your help empowering Jewish Bruins through your gift to Hillel at UCLA.

Fall Hillel Events For All!

With the High Holy Days behind us we are looking forward to more events for community and students to enjoy together. Whether it is Shabbat, Visual Art, or Theater, there is something for everyone this fall at Hillel.

During UCLA's Bruin Family Weekend...
Join the Hillel Family for Bruin Family Shabbat!

Friday, October 20, 2017
  Services 6:00 pm, Dinner 7:00 pm
FREE for Students, $18 for Non-Students


Whether you're an alum, parent, sibling, or part of our extended Jewish Bruin Family, we hope you will join us for a memorable Shabbat experience with Hillel at UCLA!

For more information, please contact Gisele Haykin at (310)208-3081 or

Art Opening Fall 2017

Thursday, October 26th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Free and Open to the Public




Suddenly A Knock At The Door - A Staged Reading
Monday, November 20 8pm
Free and Open to the Public
RSVP Required



Sure to be a special event, “Suddenly, a Knock at the Door” is a new play adapted by Robin Goldfin and directed by Jeff Maynard, with live instrumental music by Oren Neiman, based on stories by award winning Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret.  It is a celebration of storytelling and the magic of art—an ensemble piece written for six actors and two musicians playing some thirty different roles.

What Are You Thinking?

What Are You Thinking?
A Preparatory Teaching For The High Holy Days

by Rabbi Aaron Lerner

“The thoughts you think create your feelings and emotions. The thoughts you think are the key factor in what you say and do. The entire quality of your life is totally dependent on the thoughts you choose to focus on.”

- Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Gateway to Happiness

This belief, that we are creators of our own reality, can be found in numerous Jewish sources, in addition to other religions’ texts. Even secular stories and scientific research seem to affirm it:

From Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

To Israeli happiness researcher and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shachar: “Happiness is a product of what we choose to pursue as well as what we choose to perceive.”

Choice. Radical responsibility. These are the most important, and difficult, concepts for the current Jewish season of self-improvement. It’s truly mind-bending, even infuriating, to take responsibility for our lives. But it’s also entirely necessary as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

This is because Judaism is based on the assumption of free will. We believe that “free will is granted to all people. If one desires to turn to the path of good and be righteous, the choice is hers. Should she desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, that’s also a choice.” This statement from Maimonides is followed by his assertion that one “may be wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, miserly or generous, or [acquire] any other character traits. There is no one who compels her.”

There are lot of other people I would like to change. But my ability to do so is almost non-existent. Possibly I can catalyze change with a few well-chosen, humbly delivered words. But unless someone truly wants to change, they generally don’t. Even, and especially, if I yell at them. Which just leaves me. The only person I am entirely capable changing is me.

This week, we will celebrate the Jewish new year. Judaism asks us to come prepared. We make our new year’s resolutions before the holiday. We are expected to arrive having already begun to actively work on ourselves. What can you do in the next 36 hours to prepare?

I hope you will join us as we attempt to support one another in this process as we celebrate together!

Rabbi Aaron Lerner is Executive Director of Hillel at UCLA and will be leading Conservative services for High Holy Days at Hillel

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER to join us for High Holy Days at Hillel

CLICK HERE to read a recently published article by Rabbi Aaron Lerner

CLICK HERE to read student stories on Why Hillel is Their Home for the Holy Days


We are excited to welcome back to our Conservative services, Yael and Ronit Aranoff, highly acclaimed performers who cantored eight seasons of High Holy Days at Hillel at UCLA, following in the tradition of their mother and aunt who also cantored at our Hillel for 25 years. 
Together with special guest Trustee & Alumna, Mayim Bialik, and our Director of Jewish Learning and Leadership, Danielle Natelson, the Aranoff sisters create a gorgeous musical quartet.

CLICK HERE for Behind The Scenes footage of this quartets first rehearsal!


Students Share Home at Hillel Stories


As High Holy Days approach, we set the tone for our New Year, beginning the cycle again, reflecting and renewing. During this time, four hundred students and community members congregate at Hillel and experience professionally-run, engaging services covering Reform, Conservative and Orthodox orientations. We invite you to join us this year!

 What are students saying about High Holy Days at Hillel?

"I love High Holy Days at Hillel because it's the first time our entire community comes together in a meaningful way after summer break. Hillel's services offer me a unique opportunity to dive back into Jewish life at UCLA and to share a meaningful experience with my close friends."

- Amir Kashfi, Class of 2019, Bruin AIPAC Cadre 17-18, Student Leader last 2 years, JLF Alum, BRI Alum, Board 17-18 

"Celebrating the High Holy Days was relatively new to me as I entered college, as my childhood does not reflect a typical Jewish upbringing. At UCLA, I was looking to further explore my Jewish identity and learn about the traditions of others. I felt the services themselves were very interactive, inviting, and communal -- I had the chance to reflect on the year with new friends, with some conversations extending past services and into dinner. The High Holy Days at Hillel made an event that was inherently unfamiliar to me feel more comfortable, thanks to the welcoming community and introspective programming." 

- Nina Chikanov, Class of 2019 - BRI Alum, JLF Alum, SJF Alum, SL Alum, Institute 2016, Chai on Life 



"Prior to coming to UCLA, I had virtually no exposure to any communal or religious elements of my Judaism. Hillel at UCLA found and embraced me despite my apprehension and anxiety. Through Hillel I have been able to develop my Jewish identity, explore my faith, and experience the High Holy Days for the first time in my life. Having the opportunity to see so many members of the Los Angeles Jewish community, from various denominations, in such an intimate environment was both inspiring and relieving for me. The warm environment created by Hillel and the community allowed me to feel comfortable despite my complete lack of familiarity and I now look forward to attending services year after year." 

- Brad Fingard, Class of 2018, 16-17 Hillel Board member, ILF Alum, J Street Board member, Hartman Alum, BRI Alum

"My first time at Hillel was for Erev Yom Kippur services my freshman year, three days after I had moved into my room. I very vividly remember eating my final meal with my roommates, who both happened to be Jewish, before the three of us walked over to services and got lost on our way. It was somewhat sad not being with my family in the synagogue I had grown up in, but everyone was incredibly welcoming, which made me feel right at home. It’s crazy to think that many of the people I sat with and met that night are now close friends."

- Zach Emanuel, Class of 2019, Bruins B'Yachad minyan, Institute 2017, JLF Alum

"Last year was my first year at UCLA as a transfer student, and the High Holy Days services were among my first Hillel experiences. I immediately felt the warmth and powerful connections among students and community members. The spiritually transformative and inspiring services allowed for the kind of soul-searching that is ideal throughout the High Holy Days. The High Holy Day services offered me an introductory glimpse of what Hillel is like year round, and I've been coming back ever since!" 

- Elianna Bernstein, Class of 2018, JLF Alum

"High Holy Days are the time I feel closest to Judaism, and I truly felt more connected to the Jewish Bruin community when I spent these days at Hillel this past year. From excitedly celebrating Rosh Hashanah to struggling through the Yom Kippur fast, I felt supported and enriched each time I stepped into Hillel. Furthermore, Hillel enables Jewish students to engage with High Holy Days to whatever extent they choose, and I appreciated programming options catered to my Jewish identity." 

- Claire Fieldman, Class of 2019, Hillel Board 17-18

"Hillel has become my second home on campus. The moment I stepped onto campus, Hillel welcomed me with open arms, allowed me to grow in innumerable ways, and helped me make many memories, friends, and mentors. From the joyous services to the incredible staff to the welcoming students, Hillel at UCLA is a great place to spend High Holy Days and any time of the year. I cannot wait to celebrate the holidays with the entire community soon!"

 - Aly Besser, Class of 2020, Student Leader, JLF Alum

"I had never spent the high holidays away from my family until I came to UCLA in the fall of my freshman year. It was a vulnerable time in my life, with new classes, a new living situation, and new friends. And it was during this time that Hillel opened its doors up to me. I felt comforted and welcomed by the students and community members present at the services, and the ability to choose between 3 different types of services gave me the opportunity to explore my Judaism in novel ways."

 - Nathali Roizman, Class of 2018, JLF Alum and Intern 17-18, ILF Alum, ASB Alum, BRI Alum, Student Board 2015-2016

"The absence of family was initially a strange feeling for someone who grew up cherishing the High Holiday traditions growing up; but the services and programs organized by Hillel at UCLA made me feel right at home with a new family. Attending High Holidays at Hillel have become an integral part of my identity as a Jewish college student, and I am so thankful for the warm sense of community the guest educators and professional staff are able to cultivate."

 - Nate Glovinsky, Class of 2019, JLF Alum, Student Leader, BRI Alum, Institute 2016, Board 17-18 

CLICK HERE To Register And Make Your Home At Hillel For The Holy Days!

More than 90% of student programming for High Holy Days is sponsored by individual donors just like you.  Please scroll down to make a contribution in order to ensure our Jewish community thrives in the beginning of the year!



Hillel at UCLA's Mission: To be a home away from home at UCLA for all Jewish students to build their identities through Jewish life, learning, and Israel.

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Our programs are made possibly because of the strength in giving from our community members. Thank you for your help empowering Jewish Bruins through your gift to Hillel at UCLA.

Celebrate With The Best In The West

Best In The West! #3 In The Nation!

Hillel at UCLA is kicking off this school year with some terrific news, worth celebration! This week the Forward shared a list of the Best Colleges for Jewish Life and UCLA was listed as #3 in the nation and #1 in the West! Congratulations are due to the amazing team of students, supports, stakeholders, and staff who work together to achieve this goal. We are looking forward to welcoming new Jewish Bruins to UCLA's thriving Jewish community.

CLICK HERE to read this week's article in the Forward. CLICK HERE to read this week's article in the Jewish Journal.

Kick off the new school year with Hillel for the Jewish New Year!

High Holy Days are coming soon, registration is now open! This year, the High Holy Day timing overlaps with students moving in to UCLA! Help us spread the word to incoming first year students by forwarding this email to new Jewish Bruins and families. Hillel at UCLA shines as a space for students and community alike to join together in observance and engagement in respect of pluralistic ritual. For more details on services CLICK HERE. Let us know you are attending by joining our Facebook event pages: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We look forward to sharing this holiday season with you!

A Letter From the Outgoing Student Board President

This time of year means great celebration at Hillel as we say goodbye to the graduating Class of 2017!
As the students say goodbye, we are grateful for all they have done in contributing to this community, we celebrate the strength they bring with them to their new communities and look forward to seeing them again as alumni. Hannah Tudzin, outgoing student President, has spent her four years engaging with Hillel, both being empowered by and empowering many of our programs.
by Hannah Tudzin

This past year, I have had the honor and privilege to serve as the Hillel student board president. Hillel at UCLA places a strong emphasis on students' Jewish journeys and leadership development. I know I would not be the Jewish leader and young woman today if it were not for the programs and staff support that I have had the opportunity to benefit and learn from these past four years at Hillel. As I prepare for my upcoming graduation this weekend, I reflect upon some of the countless experiences I've shared with my peers while at Hillel at UCLA that have truly made me who I am today. (This list is longer than even I expected!)

4 years of Welcome Weeks (including BBQs, holiday celebrations, activities fairs), Meals in the Sukkah, Bearing Witness (2016, 2017), Challah for Hunger challah bakes, Volunteering with ImpactLA, 4 AIPAC Policy Conferences, Birthright summer 2015, Shabbat Friday night services and dinner, Shabbat Saturday lunch, Passover meals, On One Foot, Giving Taco Tuesday Phone-a-thon, Senior Sendoff, Freshman Year Students at Hillel  (FYSH) Ice Blocking, FYSH planning committee, FYSH Hike to the Hollywood sign, Hillel International Engagement Institute in St. Louis, 3 Years of Leadership Development sessions, Mr. Hillel (2016, 2017), Joe Bruin's Bear Mitzvah 2014, Hillel goes to Spring Sing (2015, 2016, 2017), Tabling at Freshmen Orientations over the summer to welcome new Jewish Bruins (summer 2014, 2015, 2016), Jewish Learning Fellowship: Life's Big Questions, Party with Jews (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), Israel Independence Week (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017): including BBQs, discussions, learning from various speakers, and big festivals on campus, Purim celebrations, Yom Hashoah ceremonies, Events chair on Hillel Student Board, Internal Relations Chair on Hillel Student Board, President on Hillel Student Board, Student member of board of directors, ShabbAW, Interfaith Shabbats, All Hillel Photoshoot, Hanging with Hillel at Janss steps, #JewishBrewinLyfe Coffee at Kerckhoff, Student Leadership Retreats (2014, 2015, 2016), Wine and unwind learning with Rabbi Kaplan, Hillel Coffee House, Hanukkah parties (including candle lighting on the Hill and on campus), UCLA v USC Hillel tailgate, Hoops and Havdallah (Havdallah and UCLA basketball game), ReJEWvenate (yoga), Ultimate Hump Day celebration (celebrating the middle of the school year and promoting birthright), Lag B'Omar bonfire at the beach, Hillel Morales at Dance Marathon, Donor dinners
Cup of (Jo)seph: Coffee and Conversation for the Soul

In last week’s Parsha B’haalot’cha, the Israelites are having a hard time with their change from slavery to their lives as free people. Mine is not such a transition as theirs, but I also have never been good with change, which might sound a bit concerning as I approach this next big transition in my life from my undergraduate career to the real world. However, as I approach my own change, I am extremely fortunate to be able to carry with me the lessons, values, growth, and support of friends and mentors I’ve gained from Hillel in order to guide me on this next journey. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of the support you have given in order to create a lasting impact on me and other students here at Hillel. With your continued support, the next generations of Jewish Bruins will be afforded these same life changing, irreplaceable  opportunities.
Hannah Tudzin, Hillel Student Board President 2016-2017

A Shavuot Teaching: Making Time Count


Perhaps one of the most unique features characterizing Shavuot is the extensive ‘Omer’ count that leads up to the holiday. It’s fascinating that the Torah does not even prescribe a specific calendar date for Shavuot but simply positions it as occurring seven weeks after Passover, leaving the counting process to define its calendar location. The experience of counting is one that instinctively invites several emotional reactions. From numbering the weeks in an academic quarter (graduation, anyone?), to following the first 100 days of a presidency to being acutely aware of how many days and weeks have passed in a baby’s life, it is easy to appreciate how counting time invites feelings of expectation and anticipation, along with a charge for identifiable progress.

Historically, the period following the Passover Exodus was one that was punctuated by personal and national transformation. Freed from slavery, the fledgling Jewish nation was charged with shedding their slave mentality, reconstituting their national identity and establishing a new direction, which culminated in the Shavuot experience of unity at Sinai during which we received the Torah.

We are gifted the opportunity to leverage this historical period of transformation annually, by focusing on personal character refinement, communal connections and recommitting to Torah values anew. The counting that ushers in, and defines, the holiday becomes the inspiring force generating an expectation for palpable change and noteworthy progress. Just like Week 2 of the academic quarter is markedly different from Week 8, and a two week old is noticeably more developed than a two month old, we challenge ourselves to embrace the passage of time as we approach Shavuot to invite marked positive transformation in our own personal and communal realities.

Wishing everyone an optimal holiday experience,
Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan, Hillel at UCLA Jewish Learning Initiative Leaders