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Life Lessons 013: How to Be a Scientist & Make Hillel Your Lab

by Andrea Steinberger

I have often heard students raised as Reform Jews say they could not possibly go to an Orthodox service. "Why?" I ask. "I am giving you permission right now. Be a scientist and make Hillel your laboratory. You are a scientist. This Hillel is your laboratory. Go and experiment. Find out about a Judaism that is different from your own. You'll never have a better chance." I don't worry that students will abandon their Reform Judaism in favor of Orthodox Judaism. Most of the time they return to Reform observance--but they come back better informed and in touch with other Jews.

Hillel is an underappreciated treasure. What a gift: you can walk into your "synagogue" each week and sample another service, then sit down with your friends who are more (or less) observant and ask them why they do what they do and how they decided to do it.

Students: College is your best chance to sample the variety of Jewish options. After your peers leave university life, most will choose a synagogue and rarely ever investigate the diversity of K'lal Yisrael again. So take this time to explore and experiment--and in the process you'll build greater tolerance and synergy among the Jewish people.

--Rabbi Andrea Steinberger, Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison


Union for Reform Judaism.