Before Passover of 2015, Sam’s family hadn’t hosted a seder since the passing of her great grandparents. They passed when she was twelve, and it wasn’t until she moved from Long Island to Charlottesville for her first year at UVa that Sam really began cultivating a relationship with her Judaism again.
By her second year at UVa, she’d become a regular at weekly Shabbat dinners and services. She’d gotten involved with Israel-advocacy, and had made a close circle of Jewish friends within the community at Hillel.
“I was the one in my family to really start reviving those traditions,” she said. “I felt like some of my family’s Jewish identity died when my great grandparents did.”
That’s why during Passover of 2015, Sam decided to bring her dad and brother to the Brody Jewish Center’s first night seder. She wanted them to see firsthand the relationship she’d been building with her Judaism and with the Jewish community.
And when thinking back on that seder, Sam remembers watching it click for her dad, and remembers how affected he was by the experience. “During that seder, I think his life really changed,” she said. “After the seder, he said to me ‘I get it, now.’ He understood why I embraced this lifestyle.”
“Hillel brought Judaism back to my dad,” Sam said. “It was possible because of this beautiful, warm community. He felt welcome and comfortable.”
Three years later, Sam says she and her dad light candles when they’re together Friday nights. They’re going together on his first trip to Israel, and she’s celebrating Passover with other Hillel at UVa alum in D.C. She says her dad is on his own path with exploring Judaism now, and is grateful that Hillel at UVa could help build that bridge.
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,800 Jewish students on Grounds.