Frequently Asked Questions
If you can’t find the question you wanted to ask, don’t hesitate to contact us.
- What is Hillel?
- How do I get to Hillel?
- Is Hillel a specific denomination of Judaism? What vision of Jewish life do you support?
- How many Jewish students attend Washington Univeristy in St. Louis?
- What student organizations are affiliated with Hillel?
- I don’t consider myself to be very religious. Will I still feel comfortable participating in Jewish activities on campus if I don’t attend services regularly or don’t know a lot about religious practices?
- What happens on Shabbat?
- Is there a Kosher meal plan at WashU?
- How can I get involved?
- How can I arrange to stay with a Jewish student when I visit?
- This is my first time away from home for the High Holy Days. What are my options?
- What is the Jewish community like in St. Louis?
- Does Hillel offer free trips to Israel?
What is Hillel?
As the largest Jewish student organization in the world, Hillel builds connections with emerging adults at more than 550 colleges and universities, and inspires them to direct their own path. During their formative college years, students are challenged to explore, experience, and create vibrant Jewish lives. As a campus Hillel, our job is to do just that!
How do I get to Hillel?
The WashU Hillel building is located at 6300 Forsyth Boulevard. We are located directly across from the architecture school, which is past Brookings. From the Washington University South 40 (where underclassman residence halls are located), go to the underpass, and make a right before you actually go under Forsyth. Go up the stairs, and walk down Forsyth until you see WashU Hillel. For more information and directions to Hillel, go to our Building tab in the About Us section.
Is Hillel a specific denomination of Judaism? What vision of Jewish life do you support?
Hillel is the only pluralistic Jewish organization at WashU, meaning we don't identify with or push any one denomination or way to be Jewish. Pluralism recognizes, validates, and embraces a variety of expressions of Jewish life, culture, and observance in community. This includes the flexibility to create unique spaces where different expressions happen (i.e. various denominational Shabbat services) or one space where multiple Jewish expressions and identities can coexist (Shabbat dinner).
Our professional staff and student leaders hold a variety of observance, from very secular to very observant.
How many Jewish students attend Washington Univeristy in St. Louis?
Out of 6,400 undergraduates currently attending Washington University in St. Louis, we estimate that approximately 24% (about 1,700) are Jewish.
What student organizations are affiliated with Hillel?
We advise and work with a variety of different student groups under the Hillel umbrella. Their events range from cultural to social to religious to niche interests! These groups include: Hillel Leadership Council (HLC), First Year Students of Hillel (FYSH), J Street U at WashU, WashU Students for Israel, WashU Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC-trained group), Nice Jewish Queers (NJQ), Challah for Hunger at WashU, and Staam A Capella. You can find more information about our student groups under our "Student Communities" tab.
I don’t consider myself to be very religious. Will I still feel comfortable participating in Jewish activities on campus if I don’t attend services regularly or don’t know a lot about religious practices?
Hillel is committed to a pluralistic view of Judaism, where every student can celebrate Judaism in their own way, no matter what contact with Judaism they've had before arriving at WashU! Both Hillel and Hillel-advised groups provide opportunities for social action, advocacy, political involvement, arts and cultural programming, and, of course, plenty of time for pure socialization. A majority of Jewish life on campus does not happen in the Hillel building! Observant students will find it easy for their religious needs to be met on campus (kosher food and single-gender living). If you are interested in learning more about Judaism, there are committees for the three largest denominations (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox), holiday-based programs, and discussions on current Jewish topics.
What happens on Shabbat?
Shabbat evening is a time for students to gather with friends and end a busy week with a relaxing evening. WashU Hillel welcomes students on a weekly basis for a communal, festive Shabbat dinner and services. Shabbat Dinners are free for students. Additionally, students may also choose to host their own Shabbat dinner in their dorm room or apartment. Students can also apply for a Jew-It-Yourself grant if they would like to host a shabbat dinner with their friends in their dorm/apartment. We will provide the challah, grape juice, candles, and a subsidy for food, plus some prayer guides to get you started.
On Saturday mornings, Hillel hosts student-led services. Shabbat lunch is hosted on a rotation each week at either Hillel or Chabad.
You can read more about Kosher food on campus on our "Kosher Dining at WashU" page by navigating to Student Life > Religious Life, or by clicking the heading above.
There is no kosher meal plan, however, kosher food is readily available on campus. It is prepared by Bon Appetit, the University’s food service provider, under the Rabbinic supervision of the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis. There is a station in the main undergraduate dining hall called L'Chaim which serves hot Kosher meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner most days of the week. In addition, kosher prepackaged food is available all day in nearly every eatery on Washington University’s campus! The Washington University meal plan system works on a declining balance of points. Everything you buy at any campus eatery will cost a certain number of points. Kosher food works on the exact same system! Additionally, meals are provided by Hillel for holidays and there is a Shabbat lunch rotation between Hillel and Chabad.
How can I get involved?
We have a plethora of different opportunities based on what you're interested in! Email Leah Staffin at email@example.com and she can help find the best fit for you.
How can I arrange to stay with a Jewish student when I visit?
There are many Jewish students willing to host prospective students. Simply contact Margaret Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to match you up with someone who has some of the same interests, enjoys similar activities, or who closely matches your level of observance. Please allow at minimum of 3 weeks before your arrival so we can find you a host. We do advise that you still book a hotel in case a student is unable to host.
This is my first time away from home for the High Holy Days. What are my options?
Each holiday will be a great experience for you as Hillel provides meals, services, and the opportunity to celebrate with an active community. More than 1,000 students attend our High Holy Day services, meals, home hospitality, or other holiday programs. For more information about High Holidays with Hillel visit washuhillel.org/highholidays.
What is the Jewish community like in St. Louis?
St. Louis, Missouri is a large, friendly Midwestern city with excellent culture, great parks and kosher Ted Drewes frozen custard. St. Louis boasts one of the strongest Jewish communities in the country – comprised of approximately 60,000. The St. Louis Jewish community has over 25 vibrant, diverse congregations and six Jewish Day Schools that reflect the full range of Jewish religious experience. St. Louis has one of the finest Holocaust museums in the U.S. and our Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library has 22,000 titles. Our JCC is one of the largest and most active Jewish community centers – with programs and services for people of all ages, including daycare and camps for children and teens. In 2009, the JCC opened its incredible Staenberg Family Complex, which features state-of-the-art health and work out facilities for people of all ages. For more information, visit www.jewishinstlouis.org.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! We offer Birthright trips every winter and summer break through Israel Outdoors, Birthright's most popular trip provider! Israel Outdoors is unaffiliated with any particular Jewish movement. This trip is geared for all students, regardless of their Jewish backgrounds! It's actually the only non-denominational, pluralistic Birthright trip offered specifically for WashU and other St. Louis area students. We work with our trip provider to plan our itinerary piece by piece and craft the best experience possible based on our favorite spots from previous trips. Find out more at washubirthright.com or email our IACT Coordinator for Israel Engagement at email@example.com.
Additionally, for WashU students who do not identify as Jewish, we have a specialized Campus Leaders in Israel Experience (CLIE) program. You can find out more by visitng washuhillel.org/clie or emailing Rabbi Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org