Executive Director of the Oregon Hillel Foundation. I am from Indiana originally but have called Eugene home since 2012. Oregon Hillel provides services and resources to the Jewish student communities at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University and is also a center for diversity education on our campuses.
There are roughly 1,600 Jewish students that call the University of Oregon home and I am proud to be part of such a vibrant pluralistic community that includes two Jewish fraternities and one Jewish sorority (open to any student but that adhere to the values and principals of the Jewish community). Most of the Jewish student population comes from outside the state of Oregon and is a tight knight family on campus that prides itself on community service (the Jewish value of Tzedek) and student leadership in all areas of campus life.
Through my work here at Hillel, I have seen that the greatest challenge that many of our students face is maintaining their Jewish identity while on campus. The University of Oregon works with Hillel to ensure that students are able to attend religious services that sometimes conflict with the academic calendar, but sometimes this option for students is not always presented clearly by faculty, and there are challenges that our students face with dietary restrictions during other holidays that can create a challenge.
Although I have not personally experienced any challenges directly as a result of my standing in the Jewish community, I have also seen and heard from students about their experiences with anti-Semitism, usually driven by a lack of awareness by their peers or by the fact that some students have never met or interacted with someone who is Jewish. My work at Hillel includes giving support the Jewish student community as well helping to educate the entire student community to both be proactive and responsive to anti-Semitism that occurs on campus.
I would join all of our Hillel community in saying that our greatest opportunity and something we are truly proud of is building relationships and connections between students of different faiths and cultures, like our Muslim/Jewish dialog series that has helped to form friendships and opportunities to learn together and ultimately support each other.