For CSUN class of 2021 alum Samantha Harouni, Hillel wasn’t something she was necessarily looking for, but rather something that she bumped into along the way. “I remember when I was first at CSUN a couple groups, including Hillel, were trying to get me on Birthright at the same time. I didn’t know where Hillel was or anything about it but, one day, I was at Freudian Sip with my Hebrew textbook out and Rabs and Sondra were right behind me, she noticed my Hebrew book, and the conversation just started going from there. They connected me with the Israel fellow at the time and we just talked about Birthright and convinced me to go.”
Her Birthright experience with Hillel 818 was a memorable one, causing her to draw closer to Hillel as her time in college went on. She told us, “I loved the Birthright trip, I’ll never forget when I met with the Israel fellow the first time I had a cousin who was in the IDF at that time and the Fellow told me they could get my cousin on our trip too as long as I went with Hillel 818. So I signed up with Hillel and she was actually able to get my cousin to be one of the soldiers on our Birthright trip. Afterwards, I started getting involved with Matadors for Israel and I was constantly going to Hillel. I was going there almost every day to study, hang out with others, and any event I could. I definitely enjoyed my Birthright experience and with Matadors for Israel.”
Samantha’s Jewish experience growing up set the foundation for her Jewish experience in college, saying, “I think because I grew up Jewish in LA my entire life I’ve always had such a connection. I grew up with all the Persian traditions and more, so seeing those traditions and being raised around them has helped me enjoy it every step of the way. My favorite part is the sense of community in the Jewish world. Every Friday, we’re always together with family for Shabbat dinners and on holidays. I’ve always felt proud to be Jewish and knowing where we come from.”
Though she is now an alumni, Samantha has still found a way to stay connected to Hillel. She said, “In college, Hillel helped me meet and gain friendships with other Jews on campus. I’m so happy there are now options for alumni and I can’t wait to stay involved.” We are so happy to have her still connected to our Hillel 818 community and cannot wait to host our alumni next semester back in our new building. Hillel 818 plays a critical role in the fabric of Jewish life in the San Fernando Valley, not just for current undergraduate students, but, as evidenced by Samantha, for alumni as well. If you are an alumni and would like to get re-connected to our Hillel 818 alumni community, you can reach out to Aubrey Golding, our alumni coordinator, at email@example.com. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Samantha, and we can’t wait to see you at an alumni event in the future!