The group leaders of Hillel are providing an on-campus space for Jewish students to feel a sense of belonging.

Hillel is an internationally recognized Jewish student organization that encourages its members to take pride in their Jewish heritage and connect to other people in the community who share their beliefs. UTSA Hillel Director Samantha Mazuz and intern Natalie Steiner shared their semester goals.

“I’d like to see our membership grow because I know there are more Jewish students here, and it would be nice to build that community,” Steiner said.

“I’d like to see more involvement and the student body to grow,” Mazuz noted. “I’m building a relationship with Hillel International and the professionals out in the field, so it’s really nice to get ideas.”

From weekly tabling on campus to facilitating their first meeting of the semester, the team has been working hard to reach all Jewish students on campus. The group also provides bi-monthly lunches on campus so Jewish students can get to know each other while enjoying a meal.

“We are planning some community-wide events at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) to bring students from all different schools together and working hard to put dates on the calendar,” Mazuz said.

This semester, the leaders at Hillel are planning for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the two holiest days associated with Judaism. The leaders will also be providing rides for students interested in attending service and sharing that time together as a unified group.

“As we grow in future years, I’d like to see more events happen here at school for the holidays,” Mazuz said. “Just to know that we’re here and supportive as a resource is really important.”

Mazuz recently moved to San Antonio from Linwood, N.J., where she and her husband were heavily involved in the Jewish community. Prior to her time in New Jersey, she spent a few years in Israel.

“I had the opportunity to teach at a college as a professor, I traveled with over 80 students to Israel (and) I spoke at the annual Birthright Gala honoring the president of the Birthright Israel Foundation in New York City,” Mazuz said.

Mazuz’s passion for bringing students together and strengthening the Jewish community wherever she goes is apparent. She is ready to engage the San Antonio community.

“The chutzpah (boldness) of a true Israeli shines through when they say, ‘Our doors are always open, and we are family.’ I wish all American Jews felt this way, but they should know that the doors of our community are open, and we want them to feel a sense of home,” Mazuz said encouragingly.

The Hillel team is working hard to reach as many students as possible this semester and revamp the program.

“The new year falls when school starts, so, for me, the new year is like a new chapter,” Mazuz said. “We always say between New Year and Yom Kippur, you’re sealed in the book of life. So this year we are starting a new Hillel and a new page, and it’s exciting.”

To get more involved in the San Antonio Jewish community, like and join the page “REAL Hillel at UTSA” on Facebook, or contact Samantha Mazuz at samantha@sahillel.org.

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