Over 200 UCLA students attended the Welcome Back Event at the Hillel at UCLA building on the first day of school. Hosted by OU-JLIC and in conjunction with Hillel, this event provided students with the chance to make new friends and reconnect with old ones, tour the Hillel building, and enjoy a delicious buffet.

Since the first day of school, September 23rd, fell on the first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkot, students were able to enjoy the buffet under the shade of the sukkah. The lunch featured the signature party menu from Hillel restaurant Our Kosher Table (OKT), complete with chicken & waffles, a mashed potato bar with a mashed cauliflower option, a salad bar, and various toppings including margarine, syrup, marshmallows, and cinnamon.

For many, it was their very first time in the Hillel building, as the last several quarters did not host classes on campus. Their first impression of the building, however, did not disappoint. According to Sharona Kaplan, co-director of OU-JLIC at UCLA, “People were shocked by how big Hillel is. It was wonderful to see from fresh eyes how the Jewish community takes care of its own.” Students were amazed by the size and beauty of the building. In addition to OKT, it features a kosher Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a game room, a synagogue, a beautiful outdoor sitting area, and plenty of space to host Shabbatons, shiurim, and activities.

The festivities did not stop there. One week later, OU-JLIC collaborated with several Jewish organizations across the UCLA campus for the Jewish Activities Fair. This event gave observant and non-observant Jewish people alike an opportunity to “glimpse a full portfolio of Jewish offerings on campus,” says Sharona. Over 200 students attended in the hopes of learning about various clubs and opportunities including Challah for Hunger, Transfer Undergraduate Students of Hillel (TUSH), Chabad, OU-JLIC, Hillel, Olami, and Jewish Learning Fellowship. Attendees were able to visit booths to collect information and free swag. According to Sharona, “This was an open-call event. You don’t have to belong to one program to attend or be a part of the community. It’s a reason for Jewish people to be in the same place together. Everyone is welcome.”

OU-JLIC is an OU program in partnership with Hillel. OU-JLIC provides a Torah framework and critical support network for Orthodox students at secular universities. Toward this end, OU-JLIC places Orthodox rabbinic couples on over twenty-five college campuses in the United States, Israel and Canada to serve as Campus Directors. OU-JLIC West Coast serves the students of UCLA, Santa Monica College, California State University- Northridge, Pierce College, Valley College and Western University of Health Sciences.

Written by Shaily Yashar