Uyen Nguyen/Mitzpeh.
Melissa Robinson at Hillel. Uyen Nguyen/Mitzpeh.

By Uyen Nguyen
For the Mitzpeh

As someone who didn’t grow up “super religious,” senior neurophysiology and psychology major Melissa Robinson contributed three years of her college career to running Hillel on the Shabbos Crew, and one year as Shabbos Crew manager.

Robinson is in charge of planning Hillel’s Shabbat dinners and lunches. She coordinates with people who sponsor the events, oversees setting up the food and the cleaning-up process, but said she never failed to get her hands dirty and get involved in the process.

“It’s a very, very easy job if everything goes right, but it rarely does,” she said of the position, which she she took in October 2015.

Before handing off her position to junior David Malamud after Hillel Family Weekend, Robinson switched off as manager each week with her co-manager and friend, sophomore studio art major, Zev Shields.

“Melissa is a very intense person, and she is constantly doing everything that she can. Working with her reflects that, and it’s an intense experience. However, she does have a sense of humor that I appreciate, which makes it not too difficult,” Shields said.

Robinson said joining Shabbos Crew made her “more religious… it was logical progression,” she said. “Being on Shabbos crew was my introduction to religious Judaism. I didn’t grow up observant, but on Shabbos crew I was surrounded by people who were, and I learned a lot about being observant through them.”

In 2015, the summer before her junior year, Robinson – who is a Spanish minor – studied abroad for four weeks in Mexico as part of a medical Spanish program. She said she had become “so religious” by then that she “brought [her] own cooking stuff,” to make sure it was kosher. Her “host family thought it was extremely weird.”

Robinson’s freshman year roommate and recent graduate Janine Taira said she couldn’t have imagined her first year at this university without Robinson, who she calls “Mel-belle – [she’s] one of the most determined, passionate people I know,” Taira said. “[Robinson is] one of those people who only gets more interesting as time goes on… she ran a marathon in Israel, if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.”

“I went for a run with [Robinson] once and while I was gasping for air, she was casually back pedaling and cheerily carrying a one-way conversation” Taira said.

Robinson is an honors student who will be graduating in December – a semester early. She accredits her ability to handle her workload to her “very understanding staff” and a “planner [that] I’m living out of,” she said.

At her time at this university, “I’ve held like 7,000 jobs,” she said jokingly.

The Long Island, New York native has not only been involved in the Jewish community on campus but in student life and academics as well.

Robinson is currently a resident assistant at Carroll Hall, a responsibility that requires her to have time in her schedule to accommodate her residents.

When she was in charge of the Shabbat lunches and dinner and Hillel ran out of food, “I just look[ed] in the fridge and [made] something out of whatever’s in there,” whether it be a few pieces of lettuce or bread. Working on Shabbos Crew made Robinson “very creative,” she said.

This has helped her organize floor events as an RA, such as “cookies and frosting night,” she said, a concoction that could come from leftover refrigerator food.

She is also on the pre-med track. In her free time, Robinson volunteers at the help center for peer services, because she wants to help people where she can. Robinson said, as a freshman, she chose to major in psychology so that she could “work with eating disorder patients,” a cause she cares a lot about.

“If I’m going to devote my life to something, I should be more interested in it,” she said.

Robinson has experience in helping others academically as well; the honors program ambassador and national residence hall honorary was also a teaching assistant for a genetics class.

“Don’t tell anybody, but Shabbos Crew runs the Hillel. It’s a big conspiratorial secret,” Shields said jokingly. “Melissa has been a big part of that, helping everything run smoothly and more efficiently. “

“I had a great time here, I learned a lot about myself and life… I learned a lot of leadership skills between being [Shabbos Crew manager] and an RA,” Robinson said.

After graduation, Robinson plans on going to Jerusalem for five months for a Jewish studies program and will attend medical school after the program ends.

CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this article mis-stated that Robinson worked for the Health Center rather than the Help Center. The previous version also incorrectly said that Robinson joined Shabbos Crew to become more religious which was corrected to say that Robinson became more religious once she joined Shabbos Crew. 


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