Rhodes College Hillel

Former Hillel students are pictured enjoying Yiddishe Cup together in-person.

It’s finally time to polish up your putt-putt skills for Hillels of Memphis’ 14th Annual Yiddishe Cup Mini-Golf Tournament! A fixture on the Memphis Jewish calendar for over a decade, the fun, community-wide event for Memphians of all ages returns in-person on Sunday, April 10 at 2 P.M. at Golf & Games.

After the pandemic forced the cancellation of the tournament in 2020 and transitioned Yiddishe Cup into an online trivia contest in 2021, everyone is excited about returning to the in-person mini-golf format. “I originally got involved with Hillels of Memphis because I wanted to be a part of a community that I knew would welcome me, and I also desired close bonds with good people – both of which are hard to come by during a pandemic. Hillel surpassed all my expectations and I try and get involved whenever I can,” said student President of University of Memphis’ Hillel, Aaron Bardos. “Supporting and being in Hillel is awesome! Every event is fun and the food is great. Most importantly, the people and conversations are amazing. I found that the Yiddishe Cup last year was very fun, and I think creating more online activities like that in the future is a great idea, but the in-person Cup is unbeatable. In-person interactions (and mini-golf) are just so important to me, and I am glad to see it returning.”

At Yiddishe Cup, both mini-golf devotees and amateurs will have their turn on the green while competing for the highly coveted first-place finish. Anyone can form a team of four for $36, and sponsorship opportunities begin at $118. Teams will have the opportunity to win special prizes for a hole-in-one and other categories.

“Year after year, Yiddishe Cup has served as the primary fundraiser for Hillels of Memphis,” said Sophie Bloch, the Director of Hillels of Memphis. “Funds raised from Yiddishe Cup directly support vital and impactful programming like Shabbat and holiday celebrations, Israel programming and interfaith events at University of Memphis and Rhodes College. Without this critical funding, many of Hillel’s programs could no longer happen. Last year, we raised $18,000 which is the largest amount to date, and I’m confident that we can meet – if not exceed – that number this year!”

Hillels of Memphis boasts an active and engaged lay advisory council, whose members appreciate the significance of Hillel on college campus. “Hillel is so important because it provides young people with a place to share, learn, and grow as their Jewish identity continues to develop during the formative years of the college experience,” said Hal Fogelman, co-chair of University of Memphis’ Hillel Advisory Council. “The Yiddishe Cup event is a lot of fun, and it’s always great to see young people come together, develop friendships, and participate in various Jewish celebrations and activities.”

For Rhodes and University of Memphis students, Hillels of Memphis serves as a Jewish home away from home. All proceeds from the event benefit students on both campuses through educational programming, social events, Shabbat meals, communal programming, and events throughout the year. While 85% of the budget of Hillels of Memphis is funded through a generous endowment, the remaining 15% comes primarily from funds raised through Yiddishe Cup.

The event will take place rain or shine with indoor activities at the facility, located at 5484 Summer Avenue. Masks will be required should rain necessitate moving indoors. Registration, sponsorships, and detailed information about the event may be found at hillelsofmemphis.org/yiddishecup. You may also contact Hillels of Memphis Director Sophie Bloch at (901)-452-2453 or email sophiebloch@hillelsofmemphis.org.

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Jewish Community Fellow Sophie Enda is pictured on Rhodes College’s campus during her freshman year.

Memphis Jewish Federation is excited to announce that applications are now open for the Rhodes Jewish Community Fellowship for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Once again, Rhodes College is making available five renewable $10,000 fellowships to first year Rhodes students who participated in Jewish life in their home communities. Fellowship awardees are expected to become active in Jewish life at Rhodes, including active involvement with the Rhodes Hillel chapter.

“Being a part of the Rhodes Hillel community has played an integral role during my college experience,” said Sophie Enda, Rhodes College senior and Jewish Community Fellow. “I found Hillel to be a place of comfort for me during stressful times and a source of many lifelong friendships. I knew that I wanted to give back to the Jewish community on campus somehow and I was able to do so as a Jewish Community Fellow and by serving on the Rhodes Hillel Executive Board. I cannot imagine my time at Rhodes without Hillel and the Jewish Community Fellowship, and I know once I graduate, I will have left a mark on Hillel and it on me.”

Eligible students must apply for admission to Rhodes for the Fall of 2022 semester, be offered admission, and choose to enroll at Rhodes. Fellowship applications will be reviewed by Memphis Jewish Federation and Federation will recommend applicants to Rhodes. A complete application includes a resume of current participation in Jewish life, and a 500-word essay. The deadline to apply for the fellowship for Early Decision and Early Action Applicants is December 1, 2021. The deadline for Regular Decision Applicants is February 1, 2022.

For more information and to apply, go to: Jewish Community Fellowship | Rhodes College

“We are thrilled with our ongoing partnership with Rhodes College, including the support given to the Rhodes Hillel chapter led by Hillels of Memphis Director Sophie Bloch and the annual Jewish Community Fellowship,” said Federation Executive Vice President Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein. “The broader Rhodes College community embraces Jewish life on campus and is always seeking ways to strengthen it.”

The first Rhodes Jewish Community Fellow began in 2016 and many more have followed, enjoying the gorgeous campus, wonderful and challenging education, and warm and vibrant Jewish life on campus.  Check out this video featuring Hillel at Rhodes students to learn more about Jewish life on campus.

The Rhodes College chapter of Hillel was launched in 2017, building on the previous work of the Jewish Student Union. Rhodes Hillel is operated by a student board in cooperation with Hillels of Memphis Director, Sophie Bloch and a lay-led Advisory Council chaired by Wendy Rotter. Rhodes Hillel focuses on cultural, religious, educational, and social programming and is open to all students regardless of background. Rhodes Hillel is operated by Memphis Jewish Federation and endowed through the generosity of an anonymous donor.

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Zehava Shneor is a 20-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces; a resident of Shoham, Memphis’s partner city in Israel; an Israel tour guide; and a past participant in a MOMentum journey for Jewish mothers in Israel. She is also— like many Israeli citizens— a bereaved parent. In October 2003, Zehava’s 19-year-old daughter Sarit was killed in a terrorist attack on her army base in Gaza.

Recently, in a program of the Memphis-Shoham Partnership, facilitated by Memphis Jewish Federation, Zehava traveled to Memphis to share her story of personal pain and to make personal connections with the Memphis Jewish community. During her time in Memphis, she explored the city, enjoyed home hospitality from community members, and interacted with a broad swath of demographics— from middle school students to seniors and everyone in between.

Zehava shared with community members her family’s approach to loss. In Sarit’s memory, Zehava and her husband Shimon established the Returning Home race, an annual event in which 12th grade students at Shoham High School compete in a 2-day relay race which begins at Sarit’s army base on the Gazan border and ends in Shoham— a distance of 56 miles. The race symbolizes values of dedication, determination, and love for the land of Israel, and also serves as preparation for students’ upcoming army service.

“I wish to thank you for the privilege I have been given to visit the Memphis community and for all those who attended and listened,” said Zehava from Israel, reflecting on her trip.

“During my visit, I met different and diversified groups from the community: middle school and high school students, young people, retirees, women from MOMentum who traveled to Israel, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform and many more. I went on this exciting journey in order to share my daughter’s story— Sarit, of blessed memory. To tell about the yearly memorial ‘Returning Home’ race which is held and carried out by Shoham high school students and teachers, where Sarit graduated. We talked about the values which are the core of this race that represents Sarit and who she was: determination; perseverance; memory; friendship; helping others; the connection between army and civilian life.”

Jewish Memphians have connected with Zehava’s story even before she came to visit. As a project of the Memphis-Shoham partnership, Memphis Jewish Federation helped produce a short film, available on YouTube with English subtitles, following student participants in the Returning Home race and showing the impact the race has had in establishing Sarit’s legacy. Additionally, in the weeks leading up to Zehava’s visit to Memphis, 90 Memphians participated in a Memphis Jewish Community Center fitness challenge to run, walk, or cycle for a total of 56 miles in Sarit’s memory.

In Memphis, Zehava spent time with Hillel students at Rhodes College; teen participants in Jewish Foundation of Memphis’s B’nai Tzedek program; religious school students at Beth Sholom Synagogue; middle school students at Bornblum Jewish Community School and middle and high school students at Margolin Hebrew Academy; members of Temple Israel Sisterhood and Temple Israel seniors group; participants in Memphis Jewish Federation’s 2018 and 2019 MOMentum journeys to Israel; and Jewish Community Partners’ Board of Directors. She also led a Taste of Memories program for two separate groups, in which participants came together to cook one of Sarit’s favorite dishes and learn about her life. At a closing ceremony for the fitness challenge, participants in the challenge heard Zehava’s story firsthand and viewed the Returning Home film.

“Zehava Shneor’s visit to our Teen Talmud Torah program was deeply meaningful for our students,” said Danny Kraft, Director of Education & Youth Engagement for Beth Sholom Synagogue. “They reflected on the importance of remembrance in their own lives and in Zehava’s, and considered the ways that memory is a part of Israeli, American, and Jewish culture. All the students I spoke to shared that speaking with Zehava was powerful and worthwhile, and enabled them to think more deeply about the legacies of those we remember.”

“It was a pleasure and an honor hosting Zehava on her first visit to America,” said Stuart Lazarov, a member of Memphis Jewish Federation’s Memphis-Shoham Partnership steering committee and one of Zehava’s home hospitality hosts. 

“She brought to life the importance of Sarit’s service to her country and her life as a soldier in the IDF. The race from Gaza to Shoham, ‘Returning Home,’ now in its 16th year, brings the community high school seniors of Shoham together in solidarity. It enables them to know Sarit and her story while preparing them for their service in the IDF. The students learn about commitment and sacrifice as they prepare and train for the 56 mile race.  Zehava was able to engage a broad segment of our community and bring us together, as well, in appreciation of her beautiful family and their story.”

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By Sophie Bloch, Director, Hillels of Memphis

Above: University of Memphis students Niki Schienberg, Gila Karasik, Eli Apel, and Jessica Breining gather for an end of semester Hanukkah lunch at the Morris S. Fogelman Hillel building near the University of Memphis campus.

I often joke that my job as the Director of Hillels of Memphis centers around feeding and caffeinating ravenous college students. On one hand, the work of Hillel does indeed fall back on the incredibly reliable Jewish tradition of coming together as a community around a delicious meal – there are few experiences in life as profoundly gratifying as providing a hot, home cooked meal to a busy student who otherwise survives on whatever the dining hall is serving. On the other hand, the delicate process of building trusted relationships so that Hillel isn’t just another place to eat is where the real magic of the work happens.

Since school started in August at University of Memphis and Rhodes College, Hillel served ninety-six bagels at weekly bagel brunches, thirty-eight Shabbat meals enjoyed with friends from across both campuses, and forty-five cups of coffee shared over relationship-building conversations. Those relationships, though, are the real metrics of success in this line of work.

Relationship-based engagement is engagement with students based on their interests and passions that leads to sustained interaction. When successful, relationship-based engagement enables students to understand the role Judaism plays in their identity, empowers students to integrate Jewish values into their life choices, and teaches students to take action to incorporate Jewish tradition into their lives. Relationship-based engagement also helps results in students engaging with their community of Jewish peers and their connection to Israel. On average, students who participate in Hillel at least one time over the course of their college career exhibit statistically higher outcomes above than Jewish students who have never participated in Hillel. The more frequently a student engages with Hillel, the higher the outcomes they exhibit.

Last semester, over seventy Jewish students across Memphis schools have invested in their relationship with Hillel, and thus Jewish life, by attending a Hillel program or event over the course of the Fall semester. Thirty of those students have committed to Jewish life on campus by taking on a leadership role in Hillel or participating in more than five programs or events over the course of the Fall semester.

Jewish life continues to thrive on college campuses in Memphis, thanks to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Hillels of Memphis program. At Rhodes College, new Hillel Student Board officers were elected as the Fall semester came to a close in December. Pictured here are new officers, from left, Marisa Moore , Sophie Enda, Mira Greenberg, Sarah Ginsberg, and Emma Jane Hopper

In addition to building relationships with students, I have met with countless campus and community partners, further solidifying the role Jewish Life plays on campus as well as the role Hillel plays in the Memphis Jewish Community. I have gotten to know our amazing lay leaders and supporters, hearing your own Hillel stories as we together ponder how to honor the legacy of past Jewish life on Memphis campuses while evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s Jewish college students in today’s Memphis Jewish community. Today’s college students across the country struggle with demanding classes, extreme social pressures amplified by social media, and expectations to take advantage of every opportunity they come across for personal development and resume building while on campus. Many of them struggle with mental health, loneliness, and despair about the world they will be inheriting as they become leaders of tomorrow.

I have the distinct privilege of bearing witness to the journeys of Jewish students at Rhodes College and University of Memphis as they forge their way in the world and recommit to the role Judaism plays in their life. We live in a time when any Jewish life on campus should be seen not as expected, but as miraculous. For students who are surrounded by fast fads, countless trends that come and go, and more causes to fight for than ever before, reconnecting to Jewish values, traditions, and community is a steadfast way for Jewish students at Rhodes and University of Memphis to both remember who they are and also discover who they can be. For some that means stepping into a leadership role to help organize programs and events, or participating in the upcoming Jewish Learning Fellowship class in the Spring. For others, it means bringing their friends by the Morris S. Fogelman Jewish Student Center at University of Memphis to show off the incredible study and lounge space they have come to grow proud of as their own. No matter where the college students of Memphis are on their Jewish Journey, Hillel is here to meet them where they’re at and walk alongside them, coffee cup in hand.

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Memphis was not remotely on Tess Herzog’s radar as she searched for places to attend college.

“I was ready to go North East and get out of Tennessee,” said the Nashville native, Rhodes College freshman, and a recipient of a 2019-2020 Rhodes College Jewish Community Fellowship.

Lucky for Tess, her high school college counselor told her about the Fellowship opportunity and how she’d be a great match for the program. “I knew a few kids from my high school in Nashville that were a couple of years older than me who attended Rhodes and have introduced me to their friends,” said Tess. Another Nashville high school mate lives in her same dorm.

Tess is acclimating to the small campus, and is happy that a fellow classmate was able to bring her car to school so that they could explore Memphis.

“Memphis seems to be a great city with so much to experience,” she said. “I’m looking forward to my years at Rhodes and getting to know the other Fellows and meet the members of Hillel.”

“Tess is an amazing addition to the Rhodes Jewish community,” said Sophie Bloch, Director of Hillels of Memphis. “She is a passionate, driven young woman who offers a friendly face to other new students and engages in Jewish learning with a contagious sense of openness. It’s been a pleasure to get to know Tess over the course of her first semester and I’m eager to see where the rest of her college career takes her.”

Tess qualified for the Jewish Community Fellowship because of her active involvement as a leader in various Jewish and communal activities. She and her family belong to The Temple in Nashville. She was active in BBYO in her freshman and sophomore years. She served as vice president of her class at Harpeth High School, and in her senior year served as secretary of the school’s ambassadors. As an ambassador she led tours for new students and helped train incoming leaders. Tess also played basketball and softball.

“The Fellowship continues to provide a unique opportunity to recruit Jewish students to Rhodes and to introduce those students to the warm and vibrant Jewish community that exists beyond the college walls,” said Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Chief Strategy Officer for Jewish Community Partners.

“I’ve been so busy and have only been here for part of a semester,” exclaimed Tess. “But it feels like I’ve already been here for a long time.”

Tess attended the first monthly Fellows introduction meeting convened by Rhodes Hillel and is looking forward to involvement with Hillel as the semester progresses.

There are five $10,000 merit fellowships available to first-year students who participate in Jewish life in their communities across the United States. Eligible students must apply for admission to Rhodes for the Fall 2020 semester, be offered admission, and choose to enroll at Rhodes. Fellowship applications are reviewed by Memphis Jewish Federation (MJF), which is managed by Jewish Community Partners. MJF will recommend applicants to Rhodes based on their participation in Jewish life and service, and based on the responses to an essay prompt.

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One of the many ways we help the Memphis Jewish community thrive is by creating opportunities for community members to find meaningful involvement in Jewish experiences. In 2016, we helped launch a program designed to help engage college students, the Jewish Community Fellowship at Rhodes College.    

In support of strengthening both Jewish campus life in Memphis and the greater Memphis Jewish community, a prestigious college fellowship opportunity is available for students participating in Jewish life in their communities who elect to attend Rhodes College.

The Jewish Community Fellowship created by Rhodes College has made available five $10,000 merit-based fellowships, each renewable for 3 years for a total of $40,000 per student.

“Students come to Rhodes from all over the world. Some are here for those four years before embarking on their careers or graduate programs elsewhere, while others choose to make Memphis their home. Some have lived in Memphis their whole lives. But whether they are here for a short period or are permanent Memphians, Jewish Rhodes students should feel like they are part of our Memphis Jewish community,” said Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Chief Strategy Officer at Jewish Community Partners (JCP).

“These fellowships are the beginning of the process of connecting Jewish students to the Memphis community,” said Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein. “Once they have been awarded the fellowship, we expect them to become involved in the Rhodes Hillel’s leadership, we invite them to interact with community leaders, and offer other meaningful ways for them to become woven into the fabric of Jewish Memphis.”

Read about past fellowship recipients here, in their own words.

Students must apply to Rhodes College as either Early Decision or Early Action applicants by November 15, or as Regular Decision Applicants by January 15. Students must then be offered admission for the Fall 2020 semester, and choose to enroll at Rhodes. Details on the application process can be found in the Fact Sheet below.

An evaluation committee for the Fellowship, established by JCP, will review all applications and make recommendations to Rhodes. Recommended students will be considered for admission and the fellowship by Rhodes on a competitive basis. Students winning recognition will receive a Jewish Community Fellowship from Rhodes of $10,000, renewable for up to three years.

Rhodes may award competitive students an academic scholarship in a larger amount. In that case, the scholarships may not be combined and the larger scholarship will be awarded. However, students will still receive the other benefits of being named a Rhodes Jewish Community Fellow.

The fellowship application can be found here.

For additional information, contact Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein at 901-767-7100 or bzuckerbrot-finkelstein@jcpmemphis.org.

Rhodes College Jewish Community Fellowship-2020-2021

Fact Sheet

Deadline to apply for admission for Fall 2020 semester
Early Decision: November 1, 2019
Early Action: November 15, 2019
Regular Decision: January 15, 2020

Deadline to apply for Fellowship
For Early Decision and Early Action Applicants: November 15, 2019
For Regular Decision Applicants: January 15, 2020

Scholarship description and requirements

Rhodes College is pleased to make available five $10,000 merit scholarships to students who participate in Jewish life in their communities across the United States. Eligible students must apply for admission to Rhodes by January 15th for the Fall 2020 semester, be offered admission and choose to enroll at Rhodes. Fellowship applications will be reviewed by Memphis Jewish Federation (MJF) and MJF will recommend applicants to Rhodes. A complete application includes a cover letter, a resume of current participation in Jewish life, and a 500-word essay. The essay prompt can be found below.

Fellowship awardees are expected to become active in Jewish life at Rhodes and to fulfill the following requirements:

Attend a minimum of 10 Rhodes Hillel events/programs each school year;

Plan one Rhodes Hillel event/program per year;

Attend monthly leadership meetings with other Fellows and Rhodes Hillel Director;

Write an article about Jewish life at Rhodes for print and electronic distribution;

Make a presentation about Jewish life at Rhodes at a Memphis Jewish Federation board meeting;

Complete an annual Fellowship Recertification Form.

In addition, Fellows are strongly encouraged to consider an elected leadership position on the Rhodes Hillel Student Board.

Essay prompt

We live in an increasingly complicated world. How does your involvement in Jewish life influence the way you foresee accomplishing Rhodes’ vision of “graduating students with a life-long passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world?”

Please apply here: https://admission.rhodes.edu/register/jewishcommunityfellowship

Background on Hillels of Memphis

Hillels of Memphis serves Jewish students throughout the Memphis community, from all Memphis campuses. The Rhodes College chapter was launched in 2017, building on the previous work of the Jewish Student Union. Rhodes Hillel is operated by a student board in cooperation with Hillels of Memphis Director Sophie Bloch and a lay-led Advisory Council. Rhodes Hillel focuses on cultural, religious, educational, and social programming and is open to all students regardless of background. Rhodes Hillel is operated by Memphis Jewish Federation and endowed through the generosity of an anonymous donor.

Background on Memphis Jewish Community

The Memphis Jewish community is a full-service, vibrant community with seven synagogues, a beautiful and first-rate Jewish Community Center, engaging programming for youth and young adults, outstanding Jewish preschools, day schools and religious schools, an active Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation, kosher food options, award-winning residential nursing home and rehabilitation facility and more.  For more information about Jewish life in Memphis, please go to www.jcpmemphis.org

Questions/Additional information

At Rhodes College, please contact Ali Hamilton, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions: 901-843-3706/hamiltona@rhodes.edu

At Rhodes Hillel, please contact Sophie Bloch, Campus Director: 901-452-2453/sophiebloch@hillelsofmemphis.org

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When Jewish students begin classes at University of Memphis and Rhodes College this fall, Sophie Bloch will be at the forefront to help them navigate Jewish life throughout their college journey.

As Jewish Community Partners’ new Director of Hillels of Memphis and Director of Student Life, Sophie brings enthusiasm and personal knowledge. She comes to Memphis ready to share the positive experiences she gained while spending four years as a Hillel professional at the University of California, San Diego. There, her dedication and commitment was recognized as she worked her way up from travel counselor and marketing associate, to director of engagement and ultimately director of student life.

“We are so fortunate to welcome Sophie to the Memphis community,” said Wendy Rotter, Rhodes College advisory council chair and co-chair of the search committee. “As a Jewish professional, she brings the skills and experience of engaging and connecting Jewish college students to their faith, to each other, and to the community. We conducted a national search and had a field of strong candidates. Sophie filled our job description perfectly. I look forward to seeing Jewish life flourish on both campuses!”

Sophie’s introduction to the Hillel movement began with a Birthright Trip to Israel. The trip was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley Hillel, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Performance Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric, and a Master of Arts in Jewish Education.

“That trip to Israel was life changing for me,” she said. “I connected with Jewish life on campus, made new friends, and knew that I wanted to work for Hillel. I was inspired to pass on the mission and values of Hillel and help other students, like myself, explore Judaism in a meaningful and personal way.”

Sophie believes that coming to Hillels of Memphis was beshert (destiny). When her husband, (then fiancé) Aaron Bloch, matched at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Urology Residency program, she began looking for a job in Memphis.

“It was perfect timing that Jewish Community Partners had just posted the opening for Hillels of Memphis,” she said.

“Jewish college students and the entire Memphis Jewish community will benefit from the ‘perfect timing,’” said Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, JCP’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Anyone who meets Sophie will immediately connect with her warm and engaging manner. We all look forward to her taking our two campus Hillel chapters to even greater heights.”

“Everyone has been so impressed by Sophie’s enthusiasm, positive attitude, and her plans for Hillel,” said Hal Fogelman, University of Memphis Hillel advisory council chair and co-chair of the search committee. “Students will really enjoy working with Sophie as they collaborate with her on future activities and events.”

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By Marisa Moore

There are currently five Jewish Community Fellows at Rhodes College. As part of their fellowship, they periodically share their experiences as Jewish college students with the larger community. 

Being Jewish has always been a huge part of my life.

When I was younger, I attended Hebrew school since I was 3 years old. I made some of my favorite memories with my friends such as attending Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, going to the Holocaust museum, and making hamentaschen and challah in our weekly cooking classes. These memories will stay with me forever, and have shaped me into the person I am today.

Going into college, I wanted Judaism to continue to play a role in my life. I am so thankful that I was offered the Jewish Community Fellowship at Rhodes College because it allowed me to continue to be a part of the Jewish community far away from home. It also allowed me the opportunity to attend my dream school where I could further my education, continue my softball career, be a sorority member of Alpha Omicron Pi, and intern at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Leaving California to go to school in Memphis was a big change, but it was also the best decision I have made in my life. Some of my favorite events in Hillel have been bagel brunches, Shabbat dinners, and bowling with the University of Memphis Hillel. As a member of Hillel at Rhodes, I was inspired by other people’s birthright experiences, and I am planning my own birthright experience this coming summer!

The Jewish Community Fellowship has given me so many opportunities here in Memphis that I wouldn’t have had without it. I am thankful for all the friends, memories, and opportunities of a lifetime all thanks to Jewish Community Partners and Rhodes College.

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By Emma Figarsky

There are currently five Jewish Community Fellows at Rhodes College. As part of their fellowship, they periodically share their experiences as Jewish college students with the larger community. More information about the Fellowship can be found on the JCP website.

When I was growing up, change was not a stranger to me –from moving over 1,000 miles, to changing schools and therefore changing ‘friend groups’ frequently. Throughout my life, however, I have had Judaism remain, as this constant, grounding presence. Although my relationship with Judaism has transformed over the years, I have always confidently had the Jewish community by my side.

Ever since I can remember, my favorite aspect of Judaism is that of community, or kehillah. The first song that comes to my mind is Wherever You Go, There’s Always Someone Jewish by Rabbi Larry Milder.

In every Jewish community I have encountered, time and time again I have witnessed this strong sense of community–  and this sense of obligation to take care of one another as if you were family, even if you had just met. From attending religious school and becoming a bat mitzvah, to teaching religious school, going to youth group and spending countless summers at HSJ, I always had Judaism and the numerous lifelong friends I had met along the way.

The idea of parting with the Jewish community that I had grown up with and become so involved with once high school ended unsettled me. So, when I was offered the Jewish Community Fellowship at Rhodes College I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to further my studies and find that community that I value so dearly here in Memphis!

Between balancing Rhodes’ rigorous course load and my extra-curriculars, it has been so comforting to have our tiny, but mighty, Jewish community at Rhodes college, whether we are gathering for a Friday night dinner, a discussion over lunch, or a quick candle-lighting with latkes in the midst of finals.

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Hello Memphis Jewish Community! My name is Yanai Almalem. I am a Jewish student lucky enough to be starting my Junior year at Rhodes  College this year.

In 2016, I was the first student to receive the Jewish Community Fellowship at Rhodes College thanks to Jewish Community Partners (JCP), which makes me the Senior Fellow!

Yanai attended an event to welcome incoming Rhodes College President Dr. Marjorie Hass (right), with Hillels of Memphis Director Rabbi Jeremy Simons and Hillel at Rhodes College Student President Merit Pinker.

Over the course of the past two years, my mind and my identity have been changed and reshaped by the college experience and coursework, as has my Jewish identity. The warm and welcoming Rhodes Hillel has been a huge part of that.

During the semester, my busy college schedule does not allow for too much other than work, but the Hillel is one of the truly peaceful parts of my week. The delicious Shabbat dinners, informational Birthright meetings, and special holiday events are a fun reminder and outlet for expressing my identity as not only Jewish but also as a first-generation Israeli immigrant to the United States.

Thanks to the financial aid offered by the Fellowship, I could attend my number one choice for school, and keep my unique identity in the process. My primary reason for going to Rhodes College was so that I could receive a quality education right here in my hometown, near the synagogues and schools I grew up in and I made the right choice. Keeping my Jewish identity was an important factor in determining what college I went to, for me and for my parents, and Rhodes College was very accommodating.

Although they do not have the largest Jewish population, there is a very close-knit and family-like Jewish population. We all know each other, which is a pretty good representation of the Rhodes College experience in general. JCP and Hillels of Memphis have made my transition into a meaningful and whole college experience not only less stressful, but a pleasure.

I very much look forward to another two years of amazing experiences with my fellow Jewish fellows and students at Rhodes College Hillel.

Read about the recent endowment which will fund Hillels of Memphis for perpetuity. 

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