Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hillel?
Hillel is the foundation for Jewish campus life. In layman’s terms, that means it’s a place where Jewish students can hang out with other Jews. It is a place where Jewish students can participate in social, recreational, and religious activities with other Jews. Another question may be, “What isn’t Hillel?” Hillel isn’t a religious group that makes everyone go to synagogue. Hillel isn’t a bunch of Jewish kids that sit around and eat gefilte fish talking about who’s more kosher. We’re normal students, who just happen to be Jewish.
Who was Hillel? Where does Hillel get its name?
The name “Hillel” comes from a sage who moved from Babylonia to Palestine in the first century. His message was that, in all Jewish endeavors, let us “love and pursue peace, and by loving our fellow creatures, may we bring them to Torah.” The organization started, in part, as an alternative to fraternities and sororities many of which excluded Jews from membership.
I'm Jewish, but I'm not "religious." Is Hillel for me?
Definitely! Would you go to a picnic with other students? Would you go tubing down the New River with other students? Would you hang out at a coffee shop with other students? If you said yes to any of these, Hillel is for you. You don’t need to be “religious” to do any of these things. The benefit of Hillel is that the other students you can hang out with are Jewish and because of that you share a common background (regardless of how bizarre), so you’ll always have something to talk about.
Do I have to attend a synagogue?
Do I look like your mother? Of course you don’t have to go. Hillel does have Friday night services weekly, but they are completely voluntary. If the downtown scene is calling you before 8:00, go for it. We won’t take it personally (we’ll just catch up with you later).
How many members do you have?
There is no official membership in Hillel, so we don’t have an exact number of members. To give you an idea though, we average about 50-100 students at most events and have gotten as many as 200 at some more popular ones. There are over 2000 Jewish students at Virginia Tech, so we are always expanding!
Is there a membership fee?
Nope! In general, most of our events are 100% free to students. The only time that a fee is required is for ski trips, banquet dinners, etc. When this is the case, the student’s cost is always offset as much as possible. We are able to do this through generous donations from parents, Jewish organizations, and alumni.
Is that trip to Israel really free?
It may sound to good to be true, but the Birthright Israel 10-day trip is actually completely free! You need to provide a deposit check of $250 after you are accepted, but you get all of that money back once you finish the trip. Virginia Tech has already sent hundreds of students to Israel on this program. To learn more, click here.
Do you serve kosher food?
Yes! At the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center, we have certified kosher kitchens. All food is prepared at Hillel in these kitchens (one dairy and one meat) to guarantee strict kashrut observance. We provide Jewish students with fully kosher food for a variety of occasions. For more information regarding our kosher certification, e-mail Rabbi Bruce Aft, our Rabbical Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a parent of a Jewish VT student. What can I do to help?
Firstly, you can encourage and support participation in Hillel. We are a student-driven organization that is always expanding. We are open to students of all backgrounds and offer students many unique opportunities.
Secondly, you can keep in touch! We love getting to know the parents of our students and think of you as part of our community, too. Please come by the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center when visiting and also subscribe to our Parent E-newsletter.
Thirdly, as a non-profit organization, Hillel heavily relies on the generosity of parents like you. A gift of any size makes an impact, immediately. To learn more about how you can help, please visit this page.
Can prospective students visit VT Hillel and stay overnight with a Jewish student?
Yes, they can! The best way to gain a sense of Virginia Tech and the Jewish community here is to visit our campus in person. Prospective students interested in overnighting with a Jewish student should contact our main office at (540) 951-5397.
What kinds of activities does Hillel sponsor?
Hillel offers a wide variety of events. A sampling includes: socials and services with food and friends, camping trips, mountain-biking, sporting-events, bonfires, college-age Israeli speakers, a free trip to Israel, Purim masquerade, High Holiday Services, trips to West Virginia, North Carolina, and theaters and museums.