The semester’s starting again soon, and already started for some. It’s the time of year when campus clubs advertise and try to recruit new members.
Over the past few years, I’ve talked with some OTD people starting at new campuses and being targeted by Hillel or Chabad because they still dress frum, or being asked by Hillel or Chabad if they’re Jewish – it’s always a struggle to decide what to answer, because do you say yes and then inevitably deal with the attempts to draw you in to what you already rejected, or do you say no and deny who you are?
My own college experience was different, because I was still frum and struggling to stay frum. I could have gone to Brooklyn College, a mere 45-minute bus ride from my parents’ home, but I didn’t – too many Jews there, too many frum Jews there, too much vibrant Hillel life. I went to City College in Harlem instead.
City College has a combined Hillel / Chabad club, with no actual club room. But they met every Thursday during club hours, and they had mincha every day (only for men though, because women don’t need a minyan, right). I resisted going for a while, but then I went a few times for the free food… 😉
But why didn’t I go? Thing is, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be preached to, and it wasn’t because I considered myself less frum than they wanted me to be. I considered myself more frum than the club leaders. After all, Chabad is… Chabad, and Hillel is Modern Orthodox. (I don’t know if that’s true, actually. That was just my perception.) And both of those are lesser forms of Judaism, according to Boro Park and Bais Yaakov tradition.
But it was more than that. I didn’t want to engage with people who weren’t struggling with their religiosity the way I was, people who were comfortable in identifying first and foremost as Jews, people who valued the community of others in the room simply because they were all Jewish.
What about you? If you’re in college, do you go to the Chabad / Hillel groups and events as an OTD or OTD-curious person?