A bridge between campus and community
The Hillel JUC launched a new program last year — Family Ties. The goal of the program is to connect Jewish college students with members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community to create a special family experience for all participants. We are the only Hillel in the country that provides this type of opportunity.
Last year, the first year of Family Ties, was a great success, with 55 students matched with 44 families. Many students built wonderful relationships with their Pittsburgh families, joining them for everything from sporting events to shopping excursions; serving as “big brothers and sisters,” tutors and babysitters.
Todd Rosenfeld, who lost his wife, Tamar, to cancer in 2007, called the Hillel JUC asking if we could refer him to a college student who could help organize his daughters’ bedrooms. He was moving and wanted to surprise them by having everything set up and ready to use, but didn’t know where to start. “I needed a woman’s input, and I figured I’d just call Hillel and see if there was a student they could recommend. That’s how we met Lauren.”
“I signed up for Family Ties because I missed my family at home,” said Lauren Frankel, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. “Even though I don’t come from a very religious family, Todd and his girls have enabled me to feel more connected to the Jewish Community of Pittsburgh and help discover who I am as a Jew. Todd and his girls always brighten my day, even if it’s just walking around Walnut Street, doing homework together or watching TV.”
Last summer, Becky Abrams saw a Hillel JUC advertisement asking for families to host a local college student about once a month for a family meal, a holiday gathering or a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
“Why did we submit a Family Ties application?” asked Becky Abrams. “It’s always nice to invite guests to holiday meals, and I thought it would just be a nice thing to do — a model mitzva for Sadie and Ella! My girls love Ashley — there’s a real connection there, and not only with my girls, but with me too!”
“When I first heard about the Family Ties program, I knew immediately that I’d want to be involved,” said Ashley Teitelman, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. “I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to establish that ‘sense of family’ while at school, and to feel more at home on the Jewish holidays. I had no idea that the Abrams would take me in as ‘their daughter.’ ”
Ashley continues, “The Family Ties program gave me so much more than just delicious, home-cooked meals on the holidays. … I now have a great family in the area who I’ll continue spending time with for years to come.”
With over 700 freshman joining Pittsburgh campuses this fall, we will need new families to enter the program. The program is great for all types of families. Whether you have young children or teenagers, or are empty nesters looking to give back, each family will find added fulfillment in different ways.
Interested in participating? Complete an application at hilleljuc.org/familyties by Aug. 15. Once Hillel has your application, they will e-mail you by Aug. 29 to let you know whether you have been matched with a student. Students and families will meet at the kickoff party at the Hillel JUC in the beginning of the fall semester. E-mail email@example.com for more information.