Frequently Asked Questions
Jewish Life at Washington University: Frequently Asked Questions
Who does St. Louis Hillel serve?
Although the Alvin & Jeanette Goldfarb Hillel building is adjacent to the Washington University campus, Hillel programs reach students at all St. Louis area colleges and universities, including St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Fontbonne University, Webster University, Maryville University, and the St. Louis Community Colleges.
What is the Jewish community like at Washington University?
It is estimated that one-third of the undergraduate population of Washington University is Jewish. Students involved with Jewish life on campus are often representative of the greater Washington University community – self-motivated individuals with diverse interests intent on maximizing their college experiences. St. Louis Hillel offers many opportunities to get involved, as a leader, a participant, and as a Jew. Whether you want a social action network, a religious community, Jewish culture projects, Israel programming, or simply a place to be with other Jews, there are a number of ways to get involved at many different levels of participation. Students are also encouraged to create new types of programming and initiatives.
What kinds of programs and groups does Hillel have?
St. Louis Hillel is committed to enabling the more than 2,000 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students we serve to “do Jewish.” Hillel is not a building, a synagogue, or a youth group. Our programming reflects the interests of students, and consequently evolves as students’ interests change. Hillel advises the Jewish Student Union (JSU), a Student Union recognized group that unifies Jewish programming organizations at Washington University. JSU works to connect the Jewish community, creating a means for all Jewish students to work together on programming initiatives. It is led by an executive board elected for a year-long term. JSU strives to create opportunities targeting the diverse interests and needs of Jewish students. JSU focuses on four areas of programming: Religious Life, Cultural & Educational, Social, and Social Justice. St. Louis Hillel staff advises the executive board of JSU. St. Louis Hillel advises and oversees various other initiatives which are not part of JSU. These include the Peer Network Engagement Initiative, First Year Students of Hillel, Aviva (Greek women’s Jewish leadership initiative), Wash U Students for Israel, Taglit-Birthright Israel, the Takkana Social Justice Fellowship, Alternative Spring Break trips, and the Hillel Women’s Series. Visit the Hillel website for a complete listing of Jewish groups on campus.
I don’t consider myself to be very religious. Will I still feel comfortable participating in Jewish activities on campus if I don’t attend services regularly or don’t know a lot about religious practices?
Hillel and JSU are committed to a pluralistic view of Judaism, where every Jew can celebrate Judaism in his/her own way! Both Hillel and JSU provide opportunities for social action, advocacy, political involvement, arts and cultural programming, and, of course, plenty of time for pure socialization. A majority of Jewish life on campus does not happen in the Hillel building! Observant students will find it easy for their religious needs to be met on campus (kosher food and single-sex living). If you are interested in learning more about Judaism, there are committees for the three largest denominations (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox), holiday-based programs, and discussions on current Jewish topics.
This is my first time away from home for the High Holy Days. What are my options?
Each holiday will be a great experience for you as Hillel provides meals, services, and the opportunity to celebrate with an active community. Student-led Reform and Conservative services are held on campus, and area congregations open their doors to members of the Orthodox community. More than 1,000 students attend High Holy Day services and meals. Furthermore, if you want to host your own Rosh Hashanah meal, Hillel offers a Do Your Own Rosh Hashanah package that allows students to celebrate their own way. Hillel provides enough apples and honey for 10 people for free!
What happens on Shabbat?
Friday Shabbat is a time for students to gather with friends and end a busy week with a relaxing evening. St. Louis Hillel welcomes students each Friday night for Shabbat at the Goldfarb Hillel Building or on the Wash U campus with student-led Reform, Conservative and Orthodox services followed by a communal, festive kosher Shabbat dinner. Shabbat Dinners are free for students and no reservations are required. Students may also choose to host their own Shabbat dinner in their dorm room or apartment. Hillel offers the Shabbat-In-A-Box initiative to help students sanctify Shabbat in their own way. We will provide the challah, grape juice and candles plus some prayer guides to get you started. All you have to do is provide the friends and the food.
Is there a kosher meal plan?
There is no kosher meal plan, however, kosher food is readily available on campus. It is prepared by Bon Appetit, the University’s food service provider, under the Rabbinic supervision of the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis. There is a hot kosher meal served on the South 40 every evening. In addition, kosher food is available all day in nearly every eatery on Washington University’s campus! The Washington University meal plan system works on a declining balance of points. Everything you buy at any campus eatery will cost a certain number of points. Kosher food works on the exact same system!
What is the Jewish community like in St. Louis?
St. Louis, Missouri is a large, friendly Midwestern city with excellent culture, great parks and kosher Ted Drewes frozen custard. St. Louis boasts one of the strongest Jewish communities in the country – comprised of approximately 60,000. The St. Louis Jewish community has over 25 vibrant, diverse congregations and six Jewish Day Schools that reflect the full range of Jewish religious experience. St. Louis has one of the finest Holocaust museums in the U.S. and our Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library has 22,000 titles. Our JCC is one of the largest and most active Jewish community centers – with programs and services for people of all ages, including daycare and camps for children and teens. In 2009, the JCC opened its incredible Staenberg Family Complex, which features state-of-the-art health and work out facilities for people of all ages. For more information, visit www.jewishinstlouis.org.
How can I arrange to stay with a Jewish student when I visit?
There are many Jewish students willing to host prospective students. Simply contact St. Louis Hillel at (314) 935-9040 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to match you up with someone who has some of the same interests, enjoys similar activities, or who closely matches your level of observance.
How do I get to Hillel?
St. Louis Hillel is currently undergoing a renovation project. During this time, our temporary office space is located in the Academy Building on the Washington University Campus. Just a short walk from main campus at the base of the overpass across Forest Park Parkway. For driving directions, use the street address 310 Melville Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130. Our mailing address will remain as 6300 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63105. We are grateful to Washington University for partnering with us to provide space for our programming on campus during this transition.
The St. Louis Hillel building is located at 6300 Forsyth Boulevard. From the Washington University South 40 (the area of campus where the residence halls are located), go to the underpass, and make a right before you actually go under Forsyth. Go up the stairs, and walk down Forsyth until you see St. Louis Hillel on the right. We are located directly across from the architecture school, which is past Brookings.
If we can be of any additional assistance, please contact us at 314-935-9040 or email@example.com.