Opinion | Iowa Hillel works hard for their students

Although small, the University of Iowa Hillel puts their all into serving their students.


Jenna Galligan

The Hillel House is seen on May 3, 2020.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

The Jewish community at the University of Iowa is small, but Iowa Hillel is doing all it can to make a welcoming home for its students. The Hillel fosters an inviting community through a variety of services including weekly homemade Shabbat dinners, Israeli cooking classes, educational services, and more.

Iowa Hillel is the foundation for Jewish life for students on campus, supporting all sects of Judaism as well as non-Jewish students. Executive Director Ashley Carol-Fingerhut said she works hard to make sure all students feel welcome and a sense of community.

“We serve to provide a community where students can be unapologetically Jewish,” Carol-Fingerhut said. “I went to Washington College, a small liberal-arts school in Maryland. It was a culture shock being the first Jewish person a lot of students met at my school; I know a lot of students here have similar experiences.”

Every Friday, my roommates and I partake in Shabbat dinners. We have also taken cooking classes through the Iowa Hillel, and got soup delivered when we felt sick. Although I am not Jewish, the Hillel is still a supportive community for my roommates and I and is now like a second home.

Finding a sense of community through Iowa Hillel has been incredibly uplifting for many students. Shayna Ungerleider, a third-year student at the university studying psychology, has been involved in Hillel since her freshman year.

“I grew up without a huge sense of community when it came to my Jewish identity until high school, so when I came here my parents encouraged me to participate in the Hillel. Freshman year my friend and I went to Shabbat dinner,” Ungerleider said. “The more I went the more comfortable I was with the people there sharing our experiences in Judaism, for example, saying something in Yiddish where my friends outside of Hillel wouldn’t understand, my community at Hillel would.”

Running Iowa Hillel has been an incredibly rewarding job for Carol-Fingerhut, especially after her experience as an undergraduate student who built the Hillel at her own college.

“There are so many great parts of my job, from seeing students form friendships to teaching them about Judaism,” Carol-Fingerhut said. “Friday night Shabbat dinners, however, are my favorite time of the week whether they are in person, with students gathering at Hillel for services and dinner, or now during COVID-19, when I get to check in with students as they pick up their Shabbat dinner to go.”

Iowa Hillel is constantly working to provide opportunities for students to further engage with their Jewish identities. There is an array of internship and leadership positions within the organization that students are encouraged to take advantage of.

The UI Hillel is a small but mighty organization filled with the most welcoming and dedicated people. All students from diverse backgrounds are welcome to go to Hillel and pick up a homemade meal to share with other students via Zoom.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult building and upholding relationships. Hillel hosts an assortment of online events, including trivia nights, cooking classes, shabbat services, and more, which can all be found on their website. It deserves more recognition for its dedication to students and the UI community.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.