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2020 New Year Reflections: What are You Called to Become?

By September 18, 2020October 12th, 2020No Comments

Students, faculty, staff and alumni were encouraged to submit video and responses to Hillel’s annual public reflection question. Here are their answers:



Karoline Robb '21

Hear Jewish Student Association President, Karoline Robb, share how John Lennon & Michael Jackson and the power of creating music helped her discern her calling this year.

Miriam Geronimus, 2020-2021 Rabbinic Intern

Hear how Miriam is being called to be a healer.

Madeline Brent '21

Hear senior Maddy Brent reflect on her calling to action and to community.

Katie Zamulinsky, Associate Vice Preisdent and Dean of Student Life

Hear Katie's call to vulnerability in this new academic year

Maurice Cottman, Director of the Student Center for Diversity & Inclusion

Hear Maurice talk about his calling to be the light for everyone walking behind him, and everyone traveling beside him.

Ken Goldman, Drexel Hillel Board of Directors

Hear Ken's call to active citizenship

Kim Ghoulston, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at Drexel University

Hear Kim talk about her calling to use her voice and her power to empower others

Micah Symons '22

Micah shares how he hears his call to action in the wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon and baseball legend Roberto Clemente

Madeleine Fortney '20

Hear Madeleine's call to be a teacher, leader and activist.


Betsy Morgan '18

Written reflections and photography from alumna Betsy Morgan:

This year I am being called to become a better listener.
To listen to the pain of others, so that I may feel along with them
To listen to the needs of others, so that I can give what I can
To listen to the success of others, so that I may celebrate with them
To listen to myself, so I can give myself what I need
To listen to hear God, whether His voice is loud or quiet in the moment
May the sound of the shofar help us all to become better listeners

Shana tova

Cara Scharf, Lindy Center for Civic Engagement

Written reflections and protest photo from Lindy Center staff member, Cara Scharf:

I tend to look at the world through a social justice lens which, to me, means recognizing that our experiences are shaped by systems that intentionally privilege certain identities (white, male, cisgender, owning class, etc.) and harm other identities. For example, anytime I visit my parents in the Philadelphia suburbs, I think about redlining and how it created majority white neighborhoods like the one I grew up in—which in turn shaped the access I had to good schools, good hospitals, grocery stores stocked with healthy foods, etc. It has taken years of unlearning for me to develop this lens and the unlearning will never end.

In our current moment, I feel that a lot of people are having “awakenings” to the white supremacist framework of systems such as government, housing, healthcare, education, and policing. As an educator and someone who has been on this journey for a while now, I’ve felt called to become a sort-of “shepherd”, helping my friends and family dig deeper into the social issues they see amplified right now and find their lane in the fight for justice. I do this by asking reflective questions and directing people to further reading, resources, and ways to take action.

One example: while out on a walk with my partner near our home in Fairmount, we passed the James Talib-Dean camp—a community of unhoused people living on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway while they wait for permanent housing. I knew my partner had volunteered before with an organization that served unhoused people, so I asked him to tell me about his experience volunteering, specifically how it changed his understanding of homelessness and his relationship to the people he met. We had a good chat and then decided to go to a nearby store and buy toiletries and supplies to drop off at the encampment.

While I know that charity is not a solution to systemic issues, I do believe that people with privilege sometimes need to take small steps toward bigger goals such as community organizing. I hope that, by starting with small moments of connection and reflection and progressing to deeper, more systems-oriented actions, my community of family and friends can contribute to the better world I know we want and sustain their work so it continues beyond more visible moments like the one we are in right now.Shana tova

Elizabeth Gartner '14, Hillel Staff

Written reflections from alumna and Hillel Development & Communications Associate, Elizabeth Gartner:

Ah, the good old days…September 2019, ringing in the Jewish New Year of 5780 in beautiful, comfortable, blissful ignorance. 

Last Rosh Hashanah, I certainly believed that I knew what this year would hold. Professionally, I had been working at Drexel Hillel for nearly a full year, and was revelling in how confident I had become in my work position. Even as a 2014 graduate of Drexel University, the Jewish community on campus has changed so much since then, so I still felt an adjustment period, even at work in a familiar environment. I had ideas for improving our large fundraising event planned for the spring of 2020, as well as fantastic alumni events I would host in NYC. Personally, I took for granted my upcoming trips planned to visit St. Louis and Memphis throughout the year, in which I would get to visit my family, including my 89 and 93 year old grandparents in Memphis, and my 84-year-old grandma in St. Louis, along with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As it stands now, none of those trips were able to happen, and I have not been back in my hometown since before Rosh Hashanah of last year. 

This year as we greet 5781, I feel timid. What else is going to happen that I didn’t see coming? Will I go an entire year without seeing my parents? Will the pandemic get worse in the fall and winter? I had always lived believing in the beauty of the Jewish experience: eating the brisket, drinking the l’chaim. But these Jewish traditions feel so few and far between when it isn’t possible to celebrate with those you are accustomed to celebrating with. 

So this year is telling me to get outside of my own head. To appreciate the small things, and the big things- my loved ones’ health. To see outside of my own self, of my own concerns, to consider how other people are holding up. It isn’t right or natural that I have had to go so long without hugging my grandparents or parents, but how fortunate I have been to be able to communicate virtually with them anytime I want. I may not have gotten to go on the vacations planned, but I have gotten to reminisce on old times with newfound gratefulness. Memories that once felt so ordinary, but feel so powerful now.

This moment in time has called for me to find gratitude, and reframe ordinary experiences to become beautiful ones. I now know that any family dinners will be nothing to take for granted. This moment is calling for me to accept the unknown.