Students reflect on Maryland Hillel’s parents weekend last month. Some have mixed feelings.

A student poses with his parents in the Hillel lobby. Photo courtesy of Noah Hill.

By Jessie Tuchman

Staff Writer

The Hillel Parents Weekend is the long-awaited 48 hours, which parents and relatives circle in their calendars months in advance. As a matter of fact – next year’s parents weekend has already been scheduled for October 27-29, 2023. This weekend, which only comes once a year, invites students’ parents and relatives to experience Shabbat in the Jewish community at this university. 

This special weekend took place last month, and many found it to be extremely successful. Students enjoyed reuniting with family members, participating in learning opportunities and programming at Hillel, as well as introducing their family to their friends and the beautiful campus. 

The weekend began with a “Wine Social” for students over the age of 21. Shabbat dinner took place in the Stamp Student Union due to the record-breaking amount of over 650 people present, going down in Hillel Parents Weekend history. 

Shabbat day included learning opportunities with Rabbi Ari Israel, the director of the Hillel, Rabbi Josh and Rikki Lehman, the OU-JLIC couple, as well as the Shabbaton’s scholar-in-residence David Makovsky, the Director of the Washington Institute’s Policy Project on the Middle East Peace Process. 

On Saturday night, the many Jewish acapella groups performed at the Arts Showcase. The weekend wrapped up with a brunch on Sunday morning.  

Various students did not necessarily enjoy the weekend festivities. Students stated that only the parents enjoy the weekend, it’s too chaotic, and it’s purely a method of fundraising for Hillel. While many parents of students involved in the Hillel specifically choose to attend the Hillel parents weekend, it still must compete with the University’s parents weekend. A number of my friends’ parents were conflicted about which they should attend. 

Sophomore Elyana Fine, a human development major, said that the two weekends are very different experiences.

“The atmosphere on the university’s Parents Weekend is very different from the one Hillel tries to create. Hillel’s Parents Weekend is centralized around Shabbat while regular parents weekend feels like it is more centralized around a football game,” Fine said. 

This experience brings up a difficult issue regarding football games. Football is a large part of the culture at big state schools, which may cause some Modern Orthodox Jewish parents to struggle with deciding to which weekend they should make the shlep to College Park. 

Many students enjoy the time with their parents but only for a certain amount of time. College is an exciting time for a lot of students who are finally living away from home. They may not want their parents intruding on their new independence.

Some of the students say it was fun to see their parents, but they were relieved when the stress of the weekend ended. 

“It was fun to see my parents, but I had had enough of it by the time dinner finished on Friday night,” an anonymous freshman finance major said. 

This weekend is an exciting event for many of the adults as well. Not only do they get to see their children, but they also get to have a social event with other adults their age and reconnect with old friends. 

When discussing the weekend with one student’s mother, she stated that “it was a great opportunity to spend time with our child’s new and old friends and their families…[and] tour, experience, and get a taste of campus life.” She said she would “definitely” attend again if Hillel continues this event in future years.

Some students feel that “parents weekend almost exclusively benefits the parents as they tend to enjoy it much more than the students,” said an anonymous sophomore business major.

However, this mentality does not apply to everyone. There are many who miss their families and look forward to this special time with them. 

Freshman Polly Zarzhevsky, an accounting major, had a positive experience at her first Hillel parents weekend. 

Zarzhevsky was “able to see…[her] family and show them what Jewish life on campus is like.” 

She said that parents weekend is “a fun time for the students and their parents to be together at UMD, which rarely happens.” 

An anonymous freshman psychology major, who did not enjoy the event, still believes that Hillel should host the event in the future, because otherwise “the funding isn’t there anymore.” 

While it is not necessarily the main focus of the weekend, it is certainly seen as a benefit. These donations can be used towards the new Hillel building that still won’t be built for another decade.

Though overwhelming and lengthy for some students, many see Hillel’s parents weekend as an important part of the Jewish students’ experience at the University of Maryland.


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