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2019 New Year Reflections: What Do You Dare to Dream?

By October 16, 2019November 13th, 2019No Comments

“If you will it, it is no dream” – Theodore Herzl

A dream not interpreted is like a letter not read – Rav Hisda (Brakhot 55a)

The greatest strides in our personal development, and in the transformation of our world, begin first with a dream. Whether our dreams are humble or audacious, whether they impact our individual lives or the lives of others, the first step to actualizing our dreams is having the courage to vocalize them. As we entered into the 2020 academic year and the 5780 Jewish year, we asked members of our Drexel community to engage the question “What do you dare to dream?”   Below are a selection of the responses we received – we hope that our whole community keeps dreaming throughout the year!

You can also read Rabbi Isabel’s High Holiday sermons on the Dare to Dream theme for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

John Fry
Drexel University President
The dreams of leaders, eloquently expressed, have inspired millions — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of racial equality, President John F. Kennedy’s vow to put an American on the moon. For most of us, our dreams tend to be more down to earth: family, career, a secure future and the hope for a better world. And yet, I believe that shared dreams can be among the most powerful and hold the potential to do the greatest good. So, I invite you to share in a dream for this University.

As a starting point, we are fortunate to already be a community with broad mutual interests — in traditional and experiential learning, in research across every possible discipline, and in a spirit of civic engagement that touches the lives of so many people beyond Drexel’s campus. I have a deep affection for this University community, wholly apart from my role as president. Drexel is a special place. While it was launched during a distant and much different age than ours, it is renewed by each succeeding generation of students, faculty and professional staff in ways that, at times, are surprising, and always inspiring.

My dream, then, and my inspiration for the coming academic year is that Drexel will continue to be the kind of place where everyone can achieve their potential and fulfill their dreams. It will be a community of support and acceptance of many different perspectives, entirely fitting for a moment in our history when it has never been more important, nor challenging to do so. From working to ensure that the campus is a welcoming setting to live and learn, to providing the many resources needed to sustain Drexel, I hope to strive to fulfill my dream to help each member of the Drexel community live out theirs. 


Howard Silverstone, P’20
Member, Drexel Hillel Board of Directors
Growing up in England, antisemitism there was subtle; the occasional comment someone would make that used a stereotype – it was enough to get under my skin but not in a threatening way.  While there were pockets of right-wing organizations around the country, they were not in the forefront and were seldom discussed.

When I moved to America in 1985, living in the Philadelphia area, I came to a country and a region that had grown and thrived on the concept of immigration.  Everyone talked about “the melting pot.” People were more interested in my British accent than they ever were about my religion! I never heard or even felt the same subtle stereotypes that I had when I lived in England.  But that was 1985.

Now, in 2019, the landscape has changed dramatically.  Just 300 miles away in the same state, people lost their lives because they were in a synagogue.  Similarly, 3,000 miles away on the other side of the country. For the first time since I moved to America, I have become self-conscious of my Jewish identity.

I believe many of us share a similar dream with respect to our Jewish identity – that of ridding ourselves of being subjected to the age-old stereotypes.  But now our dream extends to ridding ourselves of the fear for our own security in a country where such a fear previously rarely existed.

Winston Churchill said, “You create your own universe as you go along. The stronger your imagination, the more variegated your universe. When you leave off dreaming, the universe ceases to exist.”

As with most of his words, Churchill’s poignant writing is just as relevant today – while we have to continually act to protect our security and our beliefs, similarly, we cannot stop dreaming.  Sadly, in my almost 60 years, this is still a dream – the dream of peace brought about by the ability to see past each person’s religious and cultural beliefs and differences and allow them just to be.  The dream of ridding ourselves of the stereotypes that have plagued us for generations. The dream of each generation never having to be subjected to the hatred that brought about the Shoah.

In a letter to John Adams in 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”  We probably all feel this way when it comes to how our ancestors were treated, but our dreams of the future cannot be at the cost of allowing anyone to ignore or deny our history.


Sharon Walker
Dean of the Drexel University College of Engineering

I dream with every fiber of my being that
the opportunities afforded to me become commonplace
borders return to being designations on a map
respect of one another is a given
dignity is upheld
Tikkun olam reignites in 5780


Mark Stutman ‘72
President, Drexel Hillel Board of Directors
The best way to predict the future is to create it. So if  I dare to dream, then I have to part of its conversion to reality.

What I can dream about and influence is a function of my life’s experiences and aspirations. I truly believe that a person’s measure is in what he/she gives back and not what they take out of life  Given that perspective I dare to dream that I can positively influence the people and their related organizations that I interact with (meet, support mentor, coach) to be the best version of themselves. That I can play a role that allows them to be successful in their  aspirations and dreams would be the sincerest and best form of giving back.

Leon L. Levy
Drexel Hillel Supporter 
Since an initial approach by Drexel’s development office in early 2013, I was introduced to the concept of “Center for Jewish Life at Drexel.” I’m not a Drexel alumnus; in fact, I am not an alumnus of any college or university, buy have only attended some specialist courses and evening courses at business school.

Because Jewish life at colleges and universities is just a fragment of the schools’ activities, I was asked by Drexel if I could help in some small way since I have always been passionately involved in synagogue and Jewish social work. The challenge was to create a Hillel at Drexel, and the location chosen was 118 N. 34 th Street, Philadelphia, which is ideal because it is at the center of the Drexel Campus. A campaign was created for the future: “Dream It; Do It.” Well, the future is now. I recently received a communication from Hillel at Drexel University, as many of you have, which is 12 pages of current and future activities, a timeframe for services, solicitations for volunteers, and an open invitation to bring family, friends, and neighbors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to their events and services.

This is the way we Jews should be perceived universally, as we are members of the Hebrew tribe, and we should be reaching out to the world with reminders of love, harmony, integrity and fellowship. Those are the messages being given by Hillel’s Rabbi Isabel de Koninck in her regular communications and directions to us. The Hillel building is a permanent foundation. The students, their families and friends are the cement that keeps it together now and into the future for generations to come. Building a Hillel is not just an idea, it is our retirement plan. It gives us a guarantee for today and for future growth.

Speaking of a guarantee, I would like to share an interesting story about the entrance to our beautiful building on 34 th Street. In 2014, when I had met with world renowned architect, Stanley Saitowitz, who came from South Africa to design our building, I asked him a question: “Is it possible that you can design a building that would be recognizable as a Jewish building? He asked me what I meant exactly. I said, if I was walking along the street, is there a design, and not a synagogue type design, where I could just look up at the building and know that it was for the Jewish people? I also said, perhaps the building or a part of the building could resemble a menorah with candles and flames. Sure enough, the building at 134 N. 34th Street was deigned to be G-d’s gift of a Menorah. The entrance is appealing and inviting, where you are immediately
welcomed when walking through the large Menorah entrance.

The Menorah at Hillel at Drexel University’s entrance is also a guarantee to you, students, families, and friends that our traditions will continue and flourish here for us to enjoy and to educate.

Daniel Cooper ‘21
Jewish Student Association (Hillel) Board Member

I have always been someone who has found quantifiable personal growth appealing (as a general idea and for the sake of practical improvement).  I have often made efforts to build on habits and skills and have as often experienced failure in sustaining said habits. Feelings of regret and disappointment often follow this failure.  This can really weigh on me, making it difficult for me be satisfied with myself while I continue to work on myself and my aspirations.

My lovely 93 year-old grandmother recently offered an enlightening solution.  It’s funny that her wisdom applied so well to my life, because I think she was reflecting on her own life more than she was helping me problem solve my internal strife relating to personal growth.  Nevertheless, she explained to me the value in appreciating stasis. Being inactive and allowing progress to stall is okay once in a while. Of course, this is easier said and done for my grandmother who has begun to shelve responsibilities for good.  Naturally this process is harder for an ambitious college student, but I know the significance of this perspective change will be immeasurably high for me.

I have recently found the philosophy of seeking discomfort to be very attractive.  I know that like many of my other aspirations and goals it may be difficult to employ productive discomfort without occasionally falling into periods of lethargy, whether they are weeks or minutes long.  Although these periods can make it difficult to progress, I look forward to treating them as they should be: blissfully stress free. Because what’s the point of being a bum if you can’t fully enjoy it. 

This may all sound like a wordier “stop and smell the roses” and it just might be.  This expression is known as a cliche, but in no way does that subtract from the meaning of the statement.  So do yourself a favor this year and give yourself a chance to truly stop and live in the moment. Shanah Tovah.


Shifra Berg ‘20
President, Orthodox Minyan Group @ Drexel Hillel

When I think about the phenomenon of dreams, something that comes to mind are the different types of dreams. There are the dreams that fill my mind while I sleep, the dreams my mind wanders off to during the day, and the dreams that fill that little place in the back of my head, hoping to be actualized one day. The interesting part is that all three types are somewhat interconnected. Since I was little, I’ve always had very vivid nighttime dreams, which I usually remember in the morning. I always find it fascinating trying to piece together the reason behind a given dream, often finding parallels to what happened the previous day, or to something that’s been circulating in my mind consistently at that time. 

Having recently returned from a nine-month period away from Drexel, studying abroad in London and co-oping in Boston, I have had a lot of time to introspect on my dreams both for myself and the world at large. As I enter the New Year, I dream that I will be able to see the good in less-than-ideal situations. I dream that I will continue to notice the hand of God in events in my life both big and small. I dream that the communities I’m a part of will build me up and make me feel whole. And I dream that in the absolute craziness of what we call this world, people will recognize the shared human connections we can make if we turn to the person next to us every once in a while. 

But dreams are only useful if one acts on them. Now it’s time for me to work on making those dreams into reality.


Karoline Robb ’21
Jewish Student Association (Hillel) Board Treasurer

What Happens to a Dream Deferred?
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved to sing “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” This was partially because Cinderella was my favorite princess. I have even have a wall dedicated to dreams, covered with dream catchers, and of course, a plaque displaying that quote. So, when I first saw this prompt I thought, this will be a piece of cake, but as I sat down to write it, I realized it wasn’t that easy. To start, I had question. What is a dream, or how do you describe a dream?  As I really thought more about it the only thing that could come to mind was a poem I learned in high school. I used to keep this poem in a note on my phone because something about it made me really connect to it. 

 “What happens to a dream deferred? 

Do it Dry up like a raisin the sun? 

or Fester like a sore- and then run? 

Does it stink like rotten meat? 

Or Crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet? 

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load? 

Or does it Explode”- Langston Hughes. 

I have always been an exceptionally ambitious and goal driven person, but none of these seemed like dreams. They were all practical achievements and milestones to strive for optimal success. Throughout my life my dreams have often fallen behind or been something I ignore. Its hard when you have so much riding on your success. My sister was always the dreamer, the singer, the one who followed her dreams. So In turn, I became the practical one and wondered what happened to my dreams deferred?  

I came to realize that I replaced the idea of a dream with my goals. What it would take to get myself a better life, and how I would get there. When I was younger I used to dream of being on-stage, being the world’s most famous singer. As I got older I convinced myself that my passions and goals were my dreams. Stability became my dream. Except that isn’t a bad thing, wanting a better life can be a great dream. As a friend reminded me, a dream is whatever you want it to be. We grow and mature, and our dreams do that as well. I thought that meant I had lost my ability to dream, but instead my dreams developed with me. They became a statement and representation of me at my current point and how I want my life to be. They grew up with me, so I dare to dream for a better life, and see where that road takes me.

Madeleine Fortney ’20
Jewish Student Association (Hillel) Board  President

When I begin to imagine what my life might be like exactly one year from now, I realize that academic milestones I waited for — like “I’ll be a junior” or “I’ll be a senior” — have come and gone, and now my life after graduation sprawls in front of me like a clean canvas. 

I dream that one year from now, I’ll be a rabbinical student studying in Israel. I hope to be exploring the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Jerusalem, while simultaneously exploring new depths of Torah and plunging into the language and history of the Jewish state. One year from now, I hope to be forging deep connections, challenging my preconceptions, and setting the foundation for my future as a Jewish professional. One year from now, I imagine I could be indulging in apples and honey many miles away in the land of milk and honey.

I still have so much I hope to accomplish in the coming months prior to my graduation from Drexel. I anticipate the privilege of helping to usher in the next generation of student leaders at Hillel and encouraging them to perpetuate the inclusivity and pluralism of our organization. I have a long way to go, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, before I will hopefully be selected to pack my bags for Israel. My dream is that rabbinical school will help me develop the characteristics necessary for me to be welcomed into the ranks of those who seek to heal the world through their work. 

When I zoom out and try to examine not just my aspirations for the coming year, but for the broader arc of my life, I aspire to positively impact others and the world even half as much as the amazing mentors and role models in my life have. As we embark on this new year may we all be courageous enough to take steps toward achieving both our most realistic and our grandest dreams.