Matt Vogel

994 Hamentaschen

994 Hamentaschen.

In 24 hours, a community of students came together at Hillel to make as much hamentaschen as we could. Nobody knew how many we would create. The amount of fillings were as endless as the varieties of ways to live a Jewish life.

I don’t know what to expect for Jewish holidays since October 7th disrupted our lives. I want to expect the normal amount of people for our biggest Jewish holidays. I want to expect that we will repeat and exceed last year’s Passover celebration of 330+ students. Yet I don’t know what to expect, but I have a glimpse of what could be when I heard we baked 994 hamentaschen for Purim this year.

Normally around this time of year in Vermont we’d have 30 dedicated students who would brave the cold and schlep across campus to the Burack Hillel at 439 College Street. There would typically be a foot of fresh powder on the mountains and students would be immersed in March Madness or Spring Break. This year turned out to be different.

Maybe it was the draw of familiarity. Maybe it was the Instagram stories full of fun and shopping and silliness preparing for a sillyserious holiday. Maybe it was the draw of community. Maybe it was people needing each other as it seems like the world is against them.

Whatever drew 70 people to Hillel tonight for the 994 hamentaschen was something special. The joy and frivolity and costume contest and peace and food and community drew people to be together in the same space as one community. There was Elton John in a dazzling Dodger costume. A group of Minions and Gru. Hockey players, Barbies galore, Harry Potter and so many more. I loved it.

It’s been a while since I worked a Shabbat with our staff. As I’ve grown in my own Hillel career I’ve been fortunate to have a staff that helps me spend Shabbat at home with my family. I needed tonight. To be around the energy of Jewish students finding community for the first time. The sound and clatter of people scrambling to put up one more chair or one more table or one more tablecloth to make sure every single student has a space and feels welcome at Hillel.

That’s why we are here.

When the world is chaos, Hillel provides community. When campus feels unsafe with antisemitism spiking, Hillel provides food and a listening ear. When we remember the historical times when people tried to kill us, they failed, so let’s eat…Hillel is here.

994 hamentaschen. A symbol of someone who hated us and our triumph over hatred. 994 hamentaschen helped students feel community tonight. 994 hamentaschen will help brighten someone’s days as we distribute mishloach manot packages of kindness throughout our UVM community in the coming days.

It’s hard being Jewish these days. Sometimes, it’s not as hard. Tonight was one of those good nights.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Purim Sameach.

About the Author
Matt Vogel is the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Vermont and has spent his career supporting Jewish students on campus.