Welcome to your High Holy Days Prep Course! We have arrived at Week Two of our seven-week countdown to the New Year 5777!
What is this prep course?
In the spirit of focusing our intentions leading into the High Holy Days, Hillel will be sending you weekly messages until Rosh Hashanah to aid in your process and preparedness.
On Week One, Rabbi Aaron Lerner, our Executive Director, recommended reading Chapter 2 of the Laws of Repentance. Written nearly 1,000 years ago by the Rambam, the principles guide us toward several options for repentance and personal change.
When teaching students this text, it is always exciting to bear witness to the ‘aha’ moments when students realize that human behavior hasn’t changed so significantly over the millennia. Technology, medicine, science and culture have advanced exponentially, but the basic emotions and desires driving us are nearly identical to our ancestors’. Thus making 3,000 years of recorded Jewish wisdom every bit as relevant in the 21st Century as it is historically.
Speaking to the subject of fundamentals in human behavior, we suggest you listen to a podcast from Invisibilia called The Personality Myth in Week Two of the High Holy Days Prep Course. You can download it here.
As you listen, consider two guiding questions:
- Which aspects of the Rambam’s teachings can you identify in the poignant stories of personal change shared in the podcast?
- What inspiration can you personally take from the Jewish and secular claim that we are all capable of change?
If you’re joining us for the High Holy Days at Hillel, you can anticipate a sermon by Rabbi Aaron on this topic during the First Day of Rosh Hashanah.
Hillel values shared learning - as you begin to uncover deeper realizations through your participation in our High Holy Days Prep Course, share your thoughts with us by email and on our Facebook group!
Monday was an early celebration for Yom Ha'atzmaut at the UCLA campus! The place was alive with energy of so many students filled with the desire to celebrate Israel and to remember those who have found safety in the state and to remember those who have fallen fighting to keep Israel.
Rabbi Aaron Lerner gave a speech to the passionate crowd, we are grateful to the student who filmed so we might all enjoy. Watch video of his speech below!
"We are brought together today to celebrate our return to the Jewish homeland. It started with Abraham in the Bible, struggling to make a new life where he can worship in freedom. Then famine, slavery and push us out of Israel over the millennia.
And yet, time and again, whether from Egypt, Babylon, North Africa, Iran or Poland or Greece – we return to our roots. In spite of knowing the perils, the long journeys, the loss of our possessions – our DNA compels us to return. For only in Eretz Israel are we fully able to express our Jewish existence. Only in Eretz Israel can we ensure our own protection. Only in Eretz Israel can we realize our true potential.
With modern Zionism, we have found liberation once more. An oppressed and marginalized people, we reclaimed our identity from the ashes of the Holocaust. We revived our ancient language. We joined the small communities of Jews who had maintained a continuous presence in the cities of Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron, and created an autonomous nation.
We found our land decimated by years of war, taxation and neglect. But we revived it. And we thrived. We elected a female Prime Minister in 1969, nearly 48 years before the United States of America even had a potential female nominee for President. We embraced immigrants with different languages, cultures, education, and skin colors. And we never questioned whether gays belong in the military.
Is Israel perfect? No. It never has been and it never will be. Jews are human. Modern Israel has made, and will continue to make, many mistakes. But we can proud of what we’ve accomplished. In less than 100 years, we built an incredible nation on a piece of land smaller than El Salvador or New Jersey. That’s incredible!
Instead of being maligned, Israel should offer hope to other aspiring indigenous peoples. The key to our success was optimism (probably mixed with a few thousand years of desperation for motivation). Optimism allowed Abraham to leave everything. Optimism allowed us to focus on building, never sure if our creation would be stuck by a bomb or taken from us. Optimism compelled teaching our kids to read. And it gave us the courage to stop internal terrorists instead of promoting them.
We invested in hope. We invested in technology. We invested in bettering society. And we thrived.
Israel is not just celebration for Jews. Israel is a celebration for humanity. If Jews can create an optimistic, democratic nation-state which respects and honors the rights of minorities and contributes to the progress of humanity, I know that others can as well.
And so I end with a universal prayer: Dear God – help all nations of this world to live in peace. May those who suffer from today’s dictators and oppressive societies find hope and redemption. As Jews, we take our responsibility to create a more just world seriously. Aid us, as a free people living in the United States and Israel, to offer assistance to the downtrodden and the vulnerable. May we use the power you have granted us responsibility and with humility. In your name, Amen." - Transcript of Aaron Lerner's speech
It is Week One of the Spring Quarter and we’re already awash with optimism:
22 participants in our Fact-Finding Journey to Israel and the Palestinian Authority have returned to campus. These highly influential, non-Jewish student leaders spent nine days over spring break interfacing with the full spectrum of identities and perspectives in the region. They cried, they laughed, and most importantly, they learned. As they join us for Shabbat dinner tonight, they bring to campus on-the-ground experience of one of the most complex conflicts today. They also bring home hope and nuance, and serve as an inspiration to us all.
At the same time, we congratulate the UC Regents for passing a strong statement of principles defending Jewish students and correctly linking anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
We welcome back the largest delegation from any school to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC.
And nearly 250 undergraduate and graduate students will be joining us for a camp-themed Shabbat tonight.
It’s a great start to our final quarter.
I have two requests:
1) Get the word out that UCLA is a great place for Jewish students! If you know seniors who have been admitted to UCLA, please tell them about our incredible Jewish community. There is a lot of misinformation out there. The simple fact is that we have the strongest Jewish community anywhere west of the Mississippi, replete with a daily minyan and kosher food in the dorms. UCLA students proudly wear their kippot, Jewish star necklaces and Hillel-branded shirts.
2) Ensure our ability to continue this essential work! Our student life, our trips, our advocacy - are only made possible through charitable donations from people like you. We receive no funding from UCLA. Private foundations and the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles combine to constitute less than 15% of our budget. For the remaining 85%, we are completely reliant on you. Please take this opportunity to celebrate with us by donating here.
Thank you! Please reach out to continue the conversation!
Rabbi Aaron Lerner
Executive Director, Hillel at UCLA
What an experience! A Day of Learning / A Night for Chaim was a day like no other!
These two events were created in honor of Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller on the occasion of his retirement after 40 years as Executive Director of Hillel at UCLA.
The symposium during the day, held at our building on Hilgard, featured noted speakers including:
- Professor David N. Myers
- Rabbi Elliot Dorff
- Rabbi Art Green
- Vice Chancellor Carole Goldberg
- Professor Moshe Halbertal
- Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
- Rabbi Aaron Lerner
- Professor Todd Presner
- Rabbi Laura Geller
- Professor Suzanne Last Stone
- Rabbi Asher Lopatin
- As well as a touching tribute by Chaim's son, Shaul Seidler-Feller.
Later that evening at the Skirball Cultural Center, we honored Chaim at a once-in-a-lifetime gala in Herscher Hall.
The evening was an immense success with 475 guests in attendance, and featured emcee Mayim Bialik, special video tributes, and surprise guests. The event far surpassed its $500,000 fundraising goal - including $50,000 raised that night - which will help support programs in leadership development, Israel advocacy, tikkun olam, and more, as well as establish the new Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Institute of Jewish Learning at UCLA.
Please visit our website HERE to see photos, videos, and read articles about the day of events.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible day so wonderful!
A Night for Chaim was a night like no other! Filled with touching tributes and funny stories, hundreds of people shared their love and appreciation for Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller on Sunday, January 31st, on the occasion of his retirement after 40 years at Hillel at UCLA.
We will share photos of the event soon, but in the meantime, please enjoy three special tribute videos presented at the event: TEACHER (with a special message from Barbra Streisand!), MENTOR, and LEADER.
BONUS! Chaims' friend, Jeannine Frank, wrote special lyrics for "To Life!" from Fiddler on the Roof in Chaim's honor. See the fun video HERE.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, our recently retired Executive Director of 40 years, was featured in two wonderful articles in the Jewish Journal in relation to our gala, A Night for Chaim, which took place on Sunday, January 31st, at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Click HERE to read an article by Senior Writer Jared Sichel (Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller’s 40-year legacy at an evolving UCLA).
And click HERE to read a lovely tribute by President of the Jewish Journal and Columnist, David Suissa (Chaim Being Chaim).
Huge Congrats to former Hillel student leader Rachel Sumekh, featured on the cover of the Jewish Journal!
While here at UCLA, she founded an organization that allows dorm students to donate their unused points on their campus meal plans to help feed the homeless. Now, just a couple of years later, the organization has expanded under her lead, and she is the Executive Director of her nationally recognized nonprofit, Swipe Out Hunger.
Read more about remarkable Rachel here, in the new Mensch List 2015 in the Jewish Journal!
We are thrilled to announce that Hillel at UCLA received two wonderful honors at this year's Hillel International Global Assembly! The event brings together professional staff from Hillels throughout the country for professional development and networking, culminating with an awards banquet showcasing the best of the best in Jewish life on campus.
This year, we were honored with the Israel Engagement and Education Award in recognition of our Fact-Finding Mission to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders. We're so grateful to all of the people - students, staff, donors, and lay leaders - who worked so hard to make this happen!
Additionally, we congratulate Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan of our Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus for their honor. They received the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award, named in honor of former Hillel President Richard M. Joel, which is presented to individuals who emulate Joel's devotion to professionalism, extraordinary faithfulness to Jewish principles, a profound interest in the welfare of friends and colleagues, and a passion for connecting new generations to the joy of Jewish living. Mazel Tov!
Our students arrive in Israel for our winter Birthright Israel trip! We wish them a fun and transformative experience!
Happy Hanukkah from the Staff of Hillel at UCLA! We're greeting you from our annual Hanukkah lunch and white elephant exchange.
May your light shine brightly all year!