By Bradley Rosenberg
Scores of alumni, students and faculty members attended Northeastern Hillel’s 40th anniversary celebration last Thursday in the Albert S. Frager Hillel House. The night featured speeches, stories from past members and lots of free food. The celebration of the founding of NU Hillel also provided the current generation’s members a chance to speak with their predecessors.
“It’s a good experience to meet the alumni,” said Amy Shebar, a sophomore political science major and vice president of finance for Hillel. “I’m very excited to hear their stories. It’s important for the students of today to know about the Hillel of yesterday, and it’s important for alumni to see how vibrant the current Hillel community is.”
Margarita Rayzberg, a sophomore international business major and Hillel president, also felt the event was important for Northeastern’s Jewish community.
“It reaffirms the Jewish presence on campus,” said Rayzberg. “It gives students and alumni a chance to talk about current issues and how Judaism has evolved. It gives alumni a chance to see why they were involved [with Hillel], and it reminds them why they are involved now.”
Rayzberg, who spoke about student life at Hillel, also echoed a sentiment that many of her fellow speakers expressed: Hillel is central to many of the Jewish students’ on-campus lives.
“Being active in Hillel has not only complimented my experience at Northeastern,” she said. “It has also defined it.”
Jack Levin, Brudnick Distinguished Professor of sociology and the keynote speaker of the evening, described why he feels Hillel is important to Jewish students.
“It’s not just Jewish students, but all students that need a home away from home,” said Levin. “If you’re Jewish and you live in Cincinnati and you go to Northeastern, your friends and relatives are at Hillel.”
During his speech, Levin’s main focus was “Hillel in the aftermath of September 11,” but he also took the time to note the significance of the institution’s 40th anniversary and the group as it is today.
“I think [this event] indicates the growing impact of Hillel on a campus like Northeastern,” he said. “Even 20 years ago there were fewer Jewish students, and most of them came from the Boston area. September 11 hadn’t happened yet. All of the changes in the last few years — more Jewish students, more out of state students, and the attack on America — have served to increase the importance of Hillel in the lives of Northeastern students.”
The importance was always there for some, though, as NU Hillel founder Milton “Mickey” Cail said.
“Young people need to have an association with Judaism,” Cail said. “[The founding of NU Hillel] was something that had to be done and it was wonderful.”
Cail, who graduated from NU in 1945, began forming the idea in 1961 with the help of fellow NU alumni, including Al Freger. With Rabbi Charles Krollof accepting the position of religious adviser and professor Borah Kreimer accepting a position of faculty advisor, they were able to start an organization that is provides a foundation for Northeastern’s Jewish community.
“[Hillel’s] always been the center of Jewish life on campus,” said Hillel Director Beth Meltzer. “We are the Jewish home away from home. It’s a milestone that we’ve gotten to 40 years, and we’re still growing.
Meltzer said that much of the organization’s success was because of the dedication of the organization’s founders, and that the event was also a celebration of the men who started the institution.
“[The founders] have been so significant in the creation of Hillel, and they’ve been huge philanthropists for not only our Hillel, but also the Jewish community in Boston,” she said. “When you get something done, it’s very exciting,” Cail said. “We have wonderful opportunities because [of Hillel].”