It’s not every day that you turn 21. So for this milestone, Towson Hillel will celebrate its 21st with an outdoor family-friendly music festival and fund-raiser on May 5 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Tiger Plaza, 251 University Ave., on the campus.
The event will include family-oriented activities, tables from local organizations, live music from the bands Tall in the Saddle and False Peak, and a beer garden for those over the age of 21.
The gathering will also recognize new Hillel board members and graduating seniors. “Our seniors have an emotional connection to Hillel,” said Lisa Bodziner, executive director of Towson Hillel.
Graduating senior Natasha Baum agreed. “Towson Hillel has given me a place to call my home,” said Baum, who is a student leader in the Towson Hillel Incubator Cohort. “It has been a huge factor in my growth, both personally and Jewishly, through college.”
Towson Hillel offers three to four programs a week, with a continued effort to diversify offerings beyond standard Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations. There are approximately 2,000 Jewish undergraduate students at Towson University, which is roughly 10 percent of the student population.
“Through 21 years, there’s been a tremendous amount of growth in numbers, programs, space, kosher options and staff,” said Bodziner.
The Towson Hillel Incubator Cohort consists of a group of student leaders with a passion to bringing ideas to life. Each participating student receives seed funding for a particular project, networking opportunities, professional coaching and a connection to a diverse cohort of students seeking professional growth.
“Hillel has provided a space for me to go in between classes, attend Shabbat dinners and meet new friends,” said Daniel Elice, a graduating senior, cohort leader and active Hillel member. “Whether it was the programming or interactions with Hillel staff, Hillel has always been there for me since day one of my freshman year. Hillel helped transform me into the Jew and leader I am today.”
The vast majority of Towson alumni relocate locally, said Bodziner, noting that approximately 90 percent stay within an hour radius of Baltimore.
“The investment in our students really impacts who our future leaders are in the community and in the workforce,” said Bodziner. “Investing so much in our students only paves the way for what impact they’ll make in the Baltimore community.”
Students’ involvement at the Towson Hillel doesn’t have to end with graduation. Towson’s Jewish Tigers Alumni Alliance provides graduates with opportunities to network, engage with current students and reconnect with other alumni.
“Even if you didn’t grow up here, if you went to Towson, you become entrenched in the community,” said Austin Nusbaum, Towson alumnus and chair of JTAA. “JTAA is so important for us to ensure that we continue to provide meaningful events for people to be part of vibrant Jewish community in Baltimore.”
Said Natasha Baum: “Being involved with Hillel has allowed me to grow as a leader and as a Jewish young adult, and has proven to me how important having a strong Jewish community around you truly is.”
For information, visit towsonhillel.org.
Anna Lippe is a local freelance writer.