Photo courtesy of Hillel.

The University of Rhode Island’s Hillel Center welcomed their new Jewish Student Life director Michael Schreiber on Nov. 12 right in time to begin planning for holiday celebrations.

This time of year is very busy for the Hillel Center, as the first day of Hanukkah began on Dec. 2. To celebrate Hanukkah, the center provides students with a week full of activities. Events include the annual Hanukkah Party, make your own jelly donut and a concert by rapper Nissim Black. Schreiber explained that it was important that help organize and plan for the week’s events. “It’s just been a whirlwind,” Schreiber said.

Despite his busy schedule of planning, Schreiber is excited to be working at the Hillel Center and with URI students. Having worked previously at two other universities, he knows how rewarding it is to work with students, especially those in college.

“I think this is a really transformative and critical time in life,” Schreiber said. “I think it’s really interesting to engage with those kinds of students.”

His passion for working with students goes hand-in-hand with his passion for working with nonprofits, such as Hillel. He majored in psychology and minored in biology at Virginia Tech in hopes of studying animal behavior, but found himself more interested with actual students and helping them grow positively.

At the core of it, Schreiber said his job was all about “hearing different stories and hearing different perspectives and getting a sense of what values drive people and how do they come to those values; what experiences shape them in their life.”

He also said that he wants students to know that Hillel Center is not just a resource for Jewish students on campus and that there are no religious qualifications to get involved in Jewish student life.

“The Hillel is an open community to anyone,” Schreiber said. “We’re here to make [the students’] college experience hopefully an enriching and meaningful one.”

One goal he has set for himself is to make sure that the entire student body knows the resources that the Hillel Center can provide, whether it’s hot chocolate and lollipops, a nice place to hang out and study or a place to safely practice their Judaism if they are Jewish students. Most importantly, it can provide the opportunity to meet different people and learn about different cultures and backgrounds.

Schreiber hopes to work with other organizations, particularly the many multicultural organizations, religious-affiliated and student leadership groups on campus to help foster the positive growth that he feels is essential to the college experience.

During Hanukkah, the Hillel Center has many exciting events in store for all students, including a nightly lighting of the menorah and the freshman Hanukkah party that was on Dec. 4.