At HWS, Laura Clayman Matthews ’04 found a Hillel program that was more than just lighting candles on Friday nights. “I really lucked out that the Hillel at HWS was so strong, and became a home away from home for me, and even eventually for my non-Jewish friends, who loved tagging along,” says Matthews.
Now Hillel Program Coordinator at SUNY Genseso, Matthews draws influence from her Jewish experiences at HWS. “While there are of course differences, I strive for our program to have a similar overall feel. My goal is to treat students as the Jewish leaders of tomorrow,” she says. “That means my students take a lot of ownership over our programs and events, and even our mission and vision.”
At Geneseo, Matthews has organized student –led Shabbat services, followed by a student prepared meal. “Developing a Shabbat service that is familiar yet engaging, and appropriate for students no matter what their religious backgrounds and needs, is something that the student board members have worked hard on,” she says.
Matthews’ Hillel also works closely with clubs and organizations on campus to bridge the divide between student life and academics. For example, the organization collaborated with staff, faculty and administrators to host a series of conversations to address the events that took place in Charlottesville, Va.
“I encourage students to think of what Hillel means to them, what they’re interested in exploring, and my job is to help them realize their vision,” she says. “I also want students to have an understanding of all the wonderful Jewish services at their disposal once they graduate.”
As a student at HWS, Matthews studied abroad in Bath, England and, in addition to Hillel, was a member of the Colleges’ Chorale. She earned a bachelor of arts in English.
Currently, Matthews is a member of the Colleges’ National Regional Network and the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.