This winter, Jenna Lohre ’12 travelled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial conference, where she had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with President Barack Obama.
“I was lucky enough to be one of the few people to shake President Obama’s hand after his speech,” says Lohre. “I quickly introduced myself and he said to me ‘It’s great to have you here,’ all I could think of to say back was ‘It’s great to have you here!’ It was a very quick moment, but certainly one that I won’t ever forget.”
At the conference, the organization launched its “Campaign for Youth Engagement,” which Lohre was excited to be a part of due to her own role as co-president of HWS Hillel.
“This Campaign focuses on getting the youth involved earlier in Jewish life so that stronger connections to the Jewish community may be fostered, with the ultimate goal of increasing the longevity of the Reform Jewish community in an increasingly secular America,” explains Lohre.
While at the conference, Lohre also had the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops aimed at providing Hillel members with fresh ideas regarding programming, membership and religious and cultural activities, including “Engaging the next generation of Jews: What is Hillel doing?” and “It gets better: Creating safe spaces for LGBT Youth.” Upon her return to campus in late January, Lohre will address HWS Hillel’s executive board about what she learned.
“The workshop on engaging the next generation was beneficial in that I learned ways to improve the longevity of our Hillel club and I had the opportunity to meet up with other Hillel presidents,” explains Lohre. “We were able to swap ideas about leadership techniques and talk about what works and what doesn’t. I learned that many other universities’ Hillel groups do not employ a full-time Hillel or Jewish life director the way that HWS does, so we’re incredibly lucky to have Lorinda Weinstock to help guide our efforts and manage many of our logistical needs.”
Lohre was also struck by the content of the “Creating safe spaces” workshop, which addressed goals similar to those that HWS has to create an inclusive atmosphere on campus for LGBTQ community members. “This workshop showed me how to adopt those principles to the Hillel setting so that, as a cultural club, we are becoming more aware of how we interact with our members, as well as all HWS students, and of course maintaining the Abbe Center as a safe space for LGBTQ students,” says Lohre.
Having previously attended the conference as a senior in high school, Lohre represented her synagogue in her role as youth group president. While in attendance, she met Michael J. Fox, who served as the 2007 keynote speaker.
This year in addition to President Obama, Lohre had the opportunity to hear from other speakers, including Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barack, lawyers Ted Olsen and David Boies, and the National President of Hillel Wayne Firestone.
This opportunity was funded by HWS Hillel and Temple Beth El.
In addition to her Hillel involvement at HWS, Lohre is a religious studies major and a member of the William Smith cross country team. In Fall 2010, she studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea.