As told to Rachel Bernstein, writer for the Hillel International Writers Program.
“When I started college in 2020, social isolation and Zoom calls were the norm. Finding community seemed impossible. Then, I learned about Koach, an egalitarian, Conservative-style minyan and community for students at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Koach offered in-person, socially-distanced programs. That was just what I needed — an opportunity for connectivity and some sense of normalcy.
“I ended up spending every single Shabbat with the Koach community. The students came from diverse Jewish backgrounds, but shared a passion for egalitarianism and inclusion, values that were important to me. As I became more involved, I really wanted to help create a space where every student felt comfortable, not just those who grew up with Conservative Jewish experiences, like going to USY conventions or Camp Ramah. So, I joined the Koach board as the vice president of engagement last year.
“Together, with the help of my friends, I’ve been able to create a stronger, vibrant Jewish community that engages students from all different backgrounds. Koach helped me find community during a time of social isolation, and as the vice president of engagement, I’ve had the opportunity to pay it forward.” — Sophie Hanin, Columbia University