By Mary Roche and Amanda Leiserowitz
Illustrated by Sarah Lynn (IG @sarahkath.art)
At the end of April, we attended a forum organized by Santa Cruz Hillel, in which four UCSC students and one alumni gave feedback about how the pandemic is affecting their lives on campus, and their connections with the Jewish and Hillel communities.
The pandemic was something none of us were prepared for. The sudden move from a traditional on-campus community to an isolated online environment has been difficult for many of us. Raina, a fourth-year student, described the recent changes and move to an exclusively online academic platform as abrupt and isolating. She felt a jarring lack of community and cultural connection to Hillel. Another student also expressed the difficulties of staying connected with religion and the Jewish community while living with her family.
In addition to the disruption to Hillel’s social resources, many students expressed nervousness around their inevitable job search after graduation. There are many questions about what hiring opportunities will exist when June rolls around.
Daniel, a fourth-year RA on campus described the mostly deserted campus as quiet and sleepy, contrasting the emotional distress many students are experiencing. But anxiety over COVID-19 and its impacts didn’t dominate the forum. There was plenty of hope and positivity, such as ideas for an increased presence of Hillel on social media; there was excitement for online B’nai mitzvah classes and a chance to reconnect with other students and discussions of book and movie clubs. Most of all, there were outpourings of love and support.
As the forum opened up for discussion, one member suggested holding Havdalah prayers in lieu of logistically difficult distance Shabbat dinners and lighting Shabbat candles as a community. Another member offered to take kosher meat orders to purchase over the hill, on account of Kosher meats being in short supply here in Santa Cruz.
Finally, the meeting closed with several words of wisdom. One practical and positive tip: “Find something to laugh about every day.”
If you’re interested in joining a Shabbat service, or a Jewish book club, and finding a sense of community despite our physical distance, you can find Hillel at https://www.santacruzhillel.org/.