Let’s Build Community Together

AJ Peterson / The Triton.

Editor’s Note: Rabbi David Singer of UC San Diego Hillel submitted this piece in response to Tal Marom’s article entitled “UC San Diego Hillel Should Fulfill Its Mission Statement.”

If one characteristic best-defines the Jewish people, it is, without doubt, our tolerance for debate and argument. Our holy books are filled not with answers, but with conversations. Our holidays celebrate the inquisitive and the divergent. Judaism is a tradition about asking questions, and Hillel is a large tent built to realize that approach as we support and build community at UC San Diego.

UC San Diego Hillel is an organization dedicated to embodying the diversity of Jewish students on our campus. We serve more than 1,000 students each year from across the fabric of the university and are proud to collaborate with the diverse members of the Center for Ethics and Spirituality, as well as the Offices of Student Life and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

In the last 15 months, more than 65 students have passed through our Triton Jewish Leaders incubator, receiving mentorship and coaching to help them envision Jewish community in the 21st century and then build it into reality. The tent we construct is purposefully so large as to be able to include students across the religious and political spectrum. Any student interested in partnering with us to build radically inclusive community will have our partnership, and is welcome to apply to join our incubator.

I understand the fear that “Big Brother”, let alone a foreign government, might dictate Hillel’s programming or our principles. But that fear is a straw man, simply unfounded and unreal at this Hillel. In the three years that I have been blessed to direct this organization, not once, never have we turned down a programming idea due to ideology or politics.

Let me be clear: UC San Diego Hillel is unapologetically committed to helping students connect with and learn about the Jewish state. We send more than fifty students to Israel each year, have an Israeli on staff (you can find Dor and his delicious, free homemade hummus every Thursday outside Mandeville) and support a diverse array of Israel-related speakers and programs. But the content of those experiences is never ideologically directed. What opinions students take or derive on specific political issues is their choice alone.

Hillel is made up of secular Jews, religious Jews, and non-Jews, Americans and foreigners, Liberals and Conservatives, students of every skin color imaginable and students with incredibly diverse connections to Zionism. This is the face of the Jewish people today, and UC San Diego Hillel’s strength comes from our position at the forefront of recognizing this trend and reality.

We actively co-create opportunities to grow this evolving community with our students and our friends across the university. Our building, our programs and our Shabbat meals are filled with lively conversation and debate. And while the unfortunate reality of building inclusive community is that sometimes, someone feels like stuck on the outside, we are ever-committed to getting it right. Our door remains open to any student that shares our vision of radically inclusive community.

Stop by any time, or let’s get coffee, it’s on me. Let’s build together.

Rabbi David Singer is the executive director of UC San Diego Hillel.