As told to Cori Shalit, writer in the Hillel International Writers Program
“I came to the first Tulane Jewish Leaders (TJL) meeting at Hillel freshman year. I was like ‘This is cool, but I don't know if this is something I'm going to do’… I was pretty involved in my synagogue in high school. Going to services was a weekly practice that was very good for my mental wellbeing, it was a good moral touch point. I knew I wanted to be involved in Jewish life here, but I thought I was going to use Hillel as a way to stay in touch with my Judaism as my own personal practice, to go to services and ‘be religious.’ It’s actually been more of an active outlet for projects, which in a way is even more Jewish.
My first project through TJL at Hillel was Shop for Good, an art market which began as a very small pilot that was attached to another Hillel event where people could buy jewelry or art from two Tulane vendors and the vendors donated some of their profits. We ended up turning it into a bigger art market that had about eight vendors by the end of the first semester of my sophomore year. We tried to put it on again and then Covid happened, but we put the third one on this past semester. Shop for good four, five, and six are definitely in the works.
During the 2020 election season, I wanted to do something voting-related. We did a letter-writing campaign that was really awesome. We made letter writing kits that people could pick up here at Hillel. We ended up bringing 1,000 envelopes with letters to swing voters to the post office. After that, we did a zine-style voter guide for the local parish elections.
I think my Jewish identity intersects a lot with my majors: Political Science and Philosophy, and what I want to do generally with my life. Just organizing people around policies of caring for each other. Shop for Good, for example, is about tzedakah. And my political involvement is an outgrowth of tikkun olam. Politics is a mode of doing that. These are things I thought were my own personal values, but I'm starting to realize now are actually Jewish values that I'm just trying to put into practice.
The place that I've gotten to do a lot of my own personal passion projects in college has been Hillel. It's made me more of an active Jew, to see Judaism more as doing things for other people, with other people, than just an individual practice. It has definitely changed what being Jewish means to me which has been especially empowering because I think when I was growing up in synagogue I felt very insecure about my Judaism because my family wasn't religious and I don't ‘look Jewish.’ But Jewish identity isn't necessarily about how many rituals you observe. It's about the type of person you are and what you put out into the world." — Rachel Bondy, Tulane University