A Home Away From Home

By: Kylie Ramos

As a wide-eyed freshman just entering college, getting involved has never sounded more appealing. Many seek to connect with people of diverse backgrounds and interests to learn and explore something new. Other students choose to surround themselves with people of similar backgrounds, giving them a home away from home.

Whatever the case may be, Hillel is the answer for many students across more than 550 universities. Hillel is the largest Jewish student organization in the world. Luckily for Chico State, Hillel has an office just across the street from campus where students, Jewish or not, can socialize with one another and engage in fun activities, said Jenna Ross, student president for Chico State Hillel.

Hillel Courtney Silver, Aaron Peavey, and Kristen Bergson stand outside of the Chico State Hillel office.
Photo by Oscar Aquino.

“Hillel is an on-campus social club for Jewish students looking to meet other Jews—or people of any religion interested in the Jewish culture—have fun, celebrate the holidays together and further their education about their Jewish heritage,” said Ross.

Even though Hillel has been on Chico State’s campus since 1985, executive director Kristen Bergson says few students know about the club.

“We have struggled with being recognized as a diverse group,” Bergson said. “I think Jews in general don’t always get to be a part of the diversity blanket on campuses because we are harder to identify than other groups.”

Bergson and the rest of Hillel’s members believe that being connected within the campus community is the most important aspect of forming relationships and understanding among students, Bergson said.

“We are interested in other groups’ culture and we want to learn, just like everyone else,” said Bergson. “I tell our members to find out what other clubs are doing and go to all their events because we know how important it is.”

In addition to targeting Chico State students, Bergson is making an effort to reach out to faculty and staff. Hillel recently hosted a luncheon where faculty and staff were able to share their expertise so they could connect to students with similar interests and studies.

“Jewish faculty and staff are extremely important to us because they can support our Jewish students,” said Bergson. “For example, if there are bombs going off in Israel, it’s important that our students can go to someone and be mentored through whatever is going on.”

Hillel has student-bonding activities weekly, with events like camping, hiking, dinners, retreats, and games. The club recently went on a retreat where all Chico Hillel student members rented a cabin in Lassen Volcanic National Park to learn and connect with each other on a different level.

“We are always trying to do fun social-cultural things,” said Bergson. “We like to do anything that is recreational--it’s the best form of bonding.”


Bergson’s primary position at Hillel is writing grants to fund Hillel by providing an office and all of the activities members want to do. Bergson also added that Hillel provides paid internship opportunities to four students throughout the year, the position of Hillel president being one of them.

Courtney Silver, a graduate student at Chico State and a member of Hillel for more than seven years, served as a Hillel intern.

“Working for Hillel was my first job in Chico,” she said. “This job set me up to learn how to write grants, how to put on events, and essential life skills I use today.”

Silver said the primary reason people should get involved is for the lifelong friendships, family and a home away from home.

“When a Jew meets another Jew, it’s one of those weird things where you will feel like you are already friends,” Bergson said. “And that’s what Hillel is all about.”

Hillel has meetings 6 p.m. on Thursdays at 101 Salem St., Suite #160 with a free dinner for members and guests. For additional information about Hillel, “like” it on Facebook or email Kristen Bergson at chicohilleldir@gmail.com.