Brandeis University is a unique environment for student development and growth. Among its many strengths as a small research university, it offers unparalleled opportunities for the study of Jews and Judaism, Israel and the Middle East, Hebrew language, Jewish education, and professional Jewish leadership. Our students find Jewish meaning in diverse activities: in commitment to social justice and community service, through Jewish learning and prayer, in experiences – like trips to Israel – that link them to other Jews, and in interactions with Jews and with others from different religious traditions. Hillel at Brandeis provides all these opportunities through a rich array of programs designed to broaden opportunities for Jewish exploration and growth.
What makes Brandeis Jewish?
Brandeis is a secular, nonsectarian, non-religious University founded by the American Jewish community. Brandeis was named after Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, whose reputation as a jurist and Jewish leader are strongly connected to core Jewish values, including the importance of each individual’s contribution to society, a commitment to academic and scholarly excellence, and a dedication to the pursuit of justice. Since its inception, these values have been reflected in many of the values and practices of Brandeis University.
How many Jewish students are enrolled at Brandeis?
Although we do not have any official statistics on this, we estimate that about 50% of the undergraduate student body is Jewish. Like most universities in the U.S., Brandeis University does not collect data about the religious identity of its students.
Why do so many Jewish students attend Brandeis?
Since its founding in 1948 as an institution that rejected admissions quotas limiting access to Jews and other historically underrepresented groups in higher education, Brandeis has served as a top rate institution attracting students from around the globe. Brandeis has a reputation for a rich and diverse Jewish campus life, provided by Hillel. Brandeis also has a deep commitment to the field of Jewish studies: the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Brandeis’ many centers, institutes, and programs, are world-renown, providing students with the richest of environments for Jewish exploration and growth.
Is Kosher food available at Brandeis?
Yes! The Sherman Dining Hall on campus provides three Kosher meals a day, seven days a week. Menus are varied and food is plentiful. In addition, sandwiches and salads, prepared in the Sherman Kosher kitchens, are distributed to the eateries in the Usdan Student Center and at the Hoot Market at Einstein’s Bagels in the Shapiro Campus Center.
I am thinking of applying to Brandeis and would like to visit campus. Is it possible to meet with students at Hillel during my visit? Is it possible to arrange a Shabbat overnight stay on campus?
We are happy to help arrange meetings for prospective students during their campus visits. We also assist students who wish to visit over a Shabbat in finding a student host. We ask for two weeks notice to make such arrangements. Please complete the form here indicating the date of your visit and the nature of your plans and someone from Hillel will get back to you.
Why is there no Hillel building at Brandeis?
For Hillel to “house” all of its programs in a central location would require a large facility and would take Hillel’s activities away from the center of the campus. We prefer being integrated into the life of the campus in a manner similar to other religious, cultural, and social groups at Brandeis. On most campuses, a Hillel building provides a safe space for Jewish students to meet, a dedicated space for a Kosher cafeteria, and a central space for the Jewish community to gather. The first two of these three needs have never been an issue at Brandeis, as all spaces at Brandeis are safe spaces for all our students, and the University has always provided for Kosher food as part of its dining options.
Where is Hillel?
Hillel’s programs take place in various locations across the Brandeis campus. Hillel staff and administrative offices are located in the Usdan Student Center, next to the Chaplaincy offices. Hillel’s Student Lounge, the planning center for Hillel’s activities on campus and a gathering place for Hillel’s formal student meetings and informal gatherings, is located on the top floor of the Usdan Student Center, upstairs from the Levin Ballroom.
How many students are in Hillel?
Hillel at Brandeis does not function as a membership organization. More than 1000 students receive our bi-weekly email announcements. Over 100 students serve in core leadership roles on the Hillel Board and in the different clubs and organizations affiliated with Hillel at Brandeis. Close to 400 students participate in our weekly Shabbat activities (including services and our Friday night dinners and Friday night programs). Over 250 students participate either on stage or behind the scenes in our 5 performing arts groups.
What does Hillel do?
Hillel at Brandeis is the headquarters for Jewish life at Brandeis. The activities and opportunities we provide span the range of Jewish expression: from Shabbat and holiday services and meals, to learning about Jewish heritage and culture from ancient texts and modern interpretations; from advocating for Israel from the political left, right, and center, to engaging in meaningful community service; from exploring Jewish identity through theater, music, and dance, to wrestling with the deep complexities of what it means to live in a pluralistic community.
How do I get involved in Hillel?
All students are welcome at Hillel’s activity at Brandeis. Our bi-weekly emails, which over the course of a semester promote over 250 different events and activities, reach over 1000 students. It’s easy to get your name on the distribution list. Additionally, Hillel at Brandeis is the central address for more than 20 clubs and special project groups, which sponsor events across the Brandeis campus.
If I sign up for the Hillel mailing list, will I start receiving notices from other organizations?
No. Hillel does not share its mailing list with other organizations, including on campus offices and departments. We may include information in some of our postings or forward information from other departments, about a non-Hillel activity, but our policy is not to share information on our lists with any organization, on- or off-campus.
I am not Jewish, can I still come to Hillel events?
ALL Brandeis students are welcome at Hillel programs, to join our mailing lists, and be involved in any of our affiliated clubs and organizations. If you’ve never been to a Jewish worship service or Shabbat dinner and would like to join us, please let us know and we can pair you with a student host.
I am interested in going to Israel. Can Hillel help me?
Yes. Hillel at Brandeis participates in the Taglit-Birthright: Israel program. If you are a Jewish student between the ages of 18-26 and have not been on a peer Israel trip, you may be eligible for a free trip. Registration is twice yearly: in early September, for the winter trip during semester break, and in mid-February for the late spring trip. Register here or e-mail Jacob Markey for more information. Jacob can also help you explore additional opportunities for travel or study in Israel if you are not eligible for a Taglit-Birthright: Israel trip.