Anna Meyers, third-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, is the Rabbinic Educator at Hillel at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. When social distancing went into effect, Anna reached out to her students to see if they would be interested in virtual services and programming. Because everyone has been uprooted from their campus homes, Anna felt that it was important to keep them connected, and the students agreed.
“It's a challenge for college students to be home with their families for the duration of the semester after being so independent on campus,” Anna said. While it's difficult for everyone, she has observed that seniors are being hit the hardest and are struggling the most with this change as they face a much different end to their college experience than they expected.
When the students were on Spring Break, Anna kept in touch with them by streaming Shabbat candle lighting on Instagram Live, and she will continue Shabbat programming through the semester. When classes resume virtually this week, Anna and the Hillel staff will shift programming to be virtual, entertaining, and “grab and go.” Every Monday, they'll share a new music playlist, including one to help students refresh their memory before Seder. Trivia Tuesdays, a popular on-campus event, will continue weekly, starting with a general trivia night, and then a special Passover edition. On Sundays, Miami Hillel's Israel Fellow will host a virtual cooking class.
Usually more than 100 students attend the Hillel Seders, in addition to Jewish families from the local community. With the first Seder on a Wednesday night, most students would have remained on campus. But, since they are unable to be together on campus to observe Passover, Anna is starting a new Passover tradition this year: asking everyone to share their favorite family recipes and traditions. Hillel International is also providing a Zoom Seder for any students who are not able to celebrate at home.
Anna is the only HUC-JIR/Cincinnati student with a Hillel pulpit, and it's the perfect fit for her. When she was an undergraduate, she served as student president of her Hillel at Northeastern University in Boston. “Hillel is very close to my heart,” Anna said. “It is a place of inclusion for students from all backgrounds.” And Anna plans to maintain that close-knit, supportive community as best she can from afar.