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Two BJ Members on Life on Campus Right Now

“Considering what’s happening on other campuses, I’m very grateful to be able to go to Chabad when I just need a break and want to be with my friends and just have Shabbat,” shares Eliza Stulman, a first-year student at Washington University in St. Louis, whose family has been long-time BJ members.

In an academic year marked by challenges for Jewish students, her sentiment of gratitude is perhaps heartening to hear, amidst the headlines and stories of adversity across other campuses.

Growing up on the Upper West Side and deeply involved in BJ her whole life, Eliza initially sought a college experience that would allow her to explore beyond what was so familiar. But the rise in antisemitism following the tragic events of October 7 has reshaped her perspective on the importance of having a supportive Jewish community on campus.

WashU has an active Hillel and Chabad, though she prefers the Chabad as it’s closer to where she lives and elements of being a bit more familial and traditional feel closer to what was familiar at BJ.

Through her work with the student newspaper, Eliza co-wrote an article having discovered a number of students taking advantage of a transfer program at WashU because of antisemitism they were facing at their former college campuses.

“I think it’s all very interesting, especially seeing how happy they are here. And obviously college life is hard. Adapting anywhere is hard,” she said, “They’re happy, they’re going to class, and they’re just so relieved and have just so much gratitude to be able to be here. It made my heart ache for them, but also made it warm and fuzzy inside.

On the other side of the country in a little warmer climate, Eli Weiss, a junior at the University of Miami, finds himself in a similarly supportive environment.

Eli, 21, who recently served as president of the University of Miami Hillel and continues to be involved with the organization, has been buoyed by the support he’s seen for Jewish students on his own campus.

The University of Miami has about 11,000 undergraduate students, with 20-22 percent identifying as Jewish.

After October 7, Hillel held three rallies in two weeks, with over 700 students—both Jewish and non-Jewish—attending the first.

The local Miami community is welcoming, and Hillel has a great relationship with the Miami Police Department and university administration. And the very few instances of antisemitism on campus have been swiftly dealt with by the school’s administration, with the promise of completing a full investigation into each incident.

“We know we’re kind of a poster child,” Eli said. “We’re very lucky to not have [the issues that] all the other universities are having around the world, and we are able to do so much on our campus because we don’t have that.”

Eli’s desire to provide opportunities for his community stems from his deep involvement with BJ. He, too, grew up at BJ, attending Early Childhood and Junior Congregation (now called Kulanu) programming, being in Brotherhood, being active in the Teens program and Teen Board, and even joining the BJ Shabbaton committee while in college.

Eli credits the support he received from BJ’s spiritual leadership and teen leaders for helping him to find his leadership and potential, as well as the “immense amount of opportunities.”

“To be involved in the [Teen] Board really was one of the culminating moments [in making me want] to do more on my college campus,” he said. “When I went to college and was on my own, I had BJ in my pocket at all times.”

His friendships at BJ also continue to thrive; on a recent Shabbat during his winter break from school, a group of former teens attended Kabbalat Shabbat services together and went out for dinner.

“The chain has not been broken,” he said.

During these turbulent times for Jews around the world, Eli focuses on the Jewish teachings of inclusivity and community. For the many programs he plans, he tries to keep Jewish values in his mind and is passionate about making sure there’s always a Jewish lens or Jewish aspect. It’s clear that this approach resonates with his fellow students, especially now—approximately 1,000+ students have taken part in Jewish programming on campus since October 7—and Eli finds the closeness of his community to be powerful.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “Seeing the jewish community come together at this pivotal moment is really moving to me. Every time I enter the Hillel building I have entered my safe space and a safe space for so many of my peers.”

While these two stories of BJ members on college campuses may not be fully universal for everyone, we’re grateful to see the resilience, solidarity, and community support that they have experienced.