When David and I first started at Elon University in the fall of 2009, we could have never possibly imagined the impact Hillel would have on our lives.
We'd grown up in southern Delaware, where David was one of two Jewish students in his high school (the other being his brother), and I had grown up in a family where religion wasn't a priority, and what we wanted to believe was a personal choice. We'd been dating since junior year of high school.
In the first few months of school, I tagged along with David to a few events, which he mostly went to because he knew it would make his mother happy...a barbecue here, a Hanukkah party there. Before we knew it, we had found this brilliant group of people, a family of sorts, which was small in number, but mighty in heart.
It was in those first few months of school, under the guidance of former Elon Hillel director Nancy Luberoff, that David realized how important Judaism was to his life, and I realized that Judaism offered me a religious home and a level of comfort that I had never known before. Over the next four years, we participated in everything from small Shabbat services on a Friday night to full High Holy Day services on campus. We watched as Elon's Hillel grew from a few dozen students who met every now and again to an incredibly active organization with hundreds of people and its own house, in addition to huge other changes to Jewish life across campus, including a Jewish Studies program and a fraternity.
Through Hillel and the programs its members and leaders championed, David got to go on a life-changing Birthright trip and became a founding father of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity chapter at Elon, and I gained the courage to study at the International School at the University of Haifa and live in Israel during the spring semester of my junior year.
It was through Hillel that I became determined to formally convert once I'd established a home after college. Hillel showed both David and I what a strong, supportive, vibrant Jewish community can do for a person.
In April of our senior year, David and I got engaged. Just a few days later, there was a gathering of religious leaders at Elon and we attended a lunch at the new Hillel House on campus, where they all blessed our engagement and upcoming marriage. I teared up, sensing this beautiful culmination of our journey through Elon's Hillel.
This October, David and I will be married under a chuppah in Charlotte, NC, where we live now, and as we move forward with our lives together, it is wonderful to know that we always have a home at Elon, and more specifically, with Hillel.
Elon alumni Rachel Southmayd and David Campbell live in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she works as a newspaper reporter and he works at an accounting firm. They will be married in October 2014. Read their engagement story here.