Special to the Ledger
HARTFORD – In Reform Judaism Magazine’s 2013 Insider’s Guide to College Life Admissions, Trinity College is listed among the “Top 20 Small & Mighty Campuses of Excellence” as chosen by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The roster, which includes both public and private schools, appears in the fall 2013 issue of the magazine.
“It’s fabulous. It’s really nice to be recognized for our work in building a positive and vibrant Jewish community on campus,” said Lisa Kassow, director of the Trinity College Hillel, commenting on the honor.
Although Trinity was founded in 1823 and was affiliated with the Episcopal Church, it has been an independent, nonsectarian college since the late 19th century, and accepts students of all backgrounds, ethnicities and faiths.
In choosing which schools made the Top 20 list, Hillel used the following criteria: innovative Jewish programming; a growing Jewish enrollment; a dedicated professional leader; demonstrated support by the college; and a commitment to serve Jews of all backgrounds. In addition, many of the campuses on the list actively recruit Jewish students.
In addition to the active Hillel organization and the Zachs Hillel House on campus, Trinity also offers an interdisciplinary Jewish studies major and minor through its Jewish Studies Program.
Kassow agreed wholeheartedly with the Reform Magazine’s assessment of Jewish life at Trinity, adding, “we run a boutique Hillel that can offer programs, opportunities and resources that are first-class and of high quality. It’s really a gem of an experience for a motivated student.”
She noted that in addition to the usual activities, such as celebrating the Jewish holidays, Hillel offers creatively themed Shabbat experiences. For example, a Middle Eastern Shabbat was co-sponsored by the House of Peace. There also was an Indian Shabbat, an Iraqi Shabbat and an Alexandria Shabbat at which a kosher meal was based on Egyptian recipes.
Then there is the Pink Shabbat for breast cancer awareness. The idea came about when Trinity alum Molly Goodwin (’09) attended the Hillel Spitzer Social Justice Forum in Washington D.C. as a sophomore, where she met representatives from Sharsheret, an organization that provides Jewish women who are diagnosed with or at risk for breast cancer with resources and support. Goodwin suggested to Kassow that Trinity’s Hillel collaborate with the entire campus, through a Pink Shabbat, in October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Today, eight years later, Pink Shabbat is an annual campus-wide event in which organizations join together to raise awareness and funds while participating in Hillel’s Shabbat traditions.
“The tools I used to make Pink Shabbat a success – leadership, project management, relationship building, and creativity – are just a few of the skills I nurtured and practiced throughout my time at Hillel,” said Goodwin, who currently manages the matching grants program at the Jewish Funders Network in New York.
In 2012, Trinity’s Dining Hall opened the Kassow Hillel Kosher Eatery, marking the first time in the history of the College that students could dine on kosher food. The eatery is named in honor of Kassow and her husband, Samuel D. Kassow (’66), the Charles H. Northam Professor of History.
Kassow has also led two trips in recent years, one to the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda, where students engaged in a community service project by helping to spruce up a school in need of repair, and another where students – as well as College Chaplain Allison Read and Imam Adeel Zeb – participated in a weeklong interfaith service and study trip to the Caribbean island of Trinidad.
Kassow acknowledged that the College’s name can, at first, be off-putting for some Jewish students who are contemplating applying to Trinity but assume that it is affiliated with a Christian denomination.
“Jewish parents often remark that the idea of Jewish life at a place called Trinity College is an oxymoron,” she said. But Kassow noted that many colleges and universities across the country were founded by religious orders and are now nonsectarian.
She added, “I believe that there has never been a better time for a Jewish student at Trinity College. Hillel and Jewish life are deeply integrated into the fabric of campus life.”