By Mohan Xu
For Mitzpeh

Hillel’s Reshaping Community Togetherness initiative (HRCT), a Jewish organization founded last semester by students Talya Gordon and Jesse Vaknin, held its debut party of the semester last Saturday night in Terrapin Row.

HRCT, which is under the umbrella of Maryland Hillel but also operates independently, “aims to empower all Jewish students at UMD to be creative leaders who use HRCT as a platform to actualize ideas for the betterment of the entire Jewish community,” said Gordon, a senior psychology and biobehavioral health major. 

“HRCT held the debut party to encourage diverse Jewish students to get together and form new relationships,” said Gordon.

More than 50 people attended the debut party, which was bar/bat mitzvah themed.

“We viewed this as a theme that most Jewish students would be able to relate to,” Gordon said. 

Before the party, HRCT asked people to submit pictures of themselves at a bar or bat mitzvah, which were played in a video montage during the party. There was also a photo booth and dancing to “classic bar/bat mitzvah songs,” such as “Cupid Shuffle” and “Cotton-Eyed-Joe.”

Attendees ate snacks featured in the new Hillel cookbook, including graham cracker-crusted pumpkin pie bars, almond and chocolate chip cookies, Oreo mini cheesecakes and chocolate chip coffee cake. The desserts were made by Arianna Prince, Dena Gershkovich, Ayala Stone and Jenn Milhiser.

Party snacks hand-made by students. Photo courtesy of Talya Gordon.

Attendees also had several conversations based on questions that HRCT provided. “We deliberately placed icebreaker questions around the room to facilitate conversations,” Gordon said.

The talking facilitated bonding between new members.

Jared Bennett, a sophomore English major, felt the discussions were really unique. “I made a lot of connections about things I never would have thought of,” he said.

“I met a lot of people that I did not know before, which was cool,” said Tamar Wohlberg, a junior accounting and finance major. Wohlberg is also a board member of HRCT.

Many of HRCT’s board members believed the party was successful.

“I thought the debut party went really well,” Wohlberg said. “I loved seeing Jewish students from all different communities and backgrounds come together to just enjoy a Saturday night.”

“I really enjoyed the party and it was nice to be able to connect with other parts of the community that  I normally don’t have much contact with, especially in a relaxed setting,” Bennett said.

After the party’s success, HRCT plans to have more events in the future.

“We are very open to suggestions for venues that people would enjoy and plan to continue making events that foster a sense of unity amongst all Jews at UMD,” Gordon said.

HRCT is currently working on creating an application for Jewish students to submit ideas they would like to see happen as part of the program, such as the Hillel cookbook. The cookbook includes different Jewish students’ recipes and is one of HRCT’s initiatives.

“HRCT wants to personalize your [students’] Jewish experience at UMD,” Gordon said.


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