Reform for Life
By Julia Motis ‘17
I have been involved in Jewish life ever since I can remember. At my synagogue, the year you started religious school and the year you could join the youth group coincided at the age of kindergarten or first grade, and of course I was one of those kids. I went to all kinds of fun events, including trips to farms, bowling, laser tag, you name it. However, it wasn’t until I joined the junior choir and began going to Camp Harlam when I was 9 that I really began to find a personal, meaningful connection to Judaism. I have always been really into music, so both of these communities allowed me to explore that connection to Judaism through music. That is how I truly found my place. At camp especially, I spent summer after summer learning about who I wanted to be not just as a person, but as a Jewish person. To this day camp is my home away from home, and I still work there as a counselor in the hopes that I can guide the next generation of kids toward discovering themselves as well.
As I entered high school, not only did I start taking on leadership roles on the board of my youth group, but through this I joined yet another Jewish community that my sister had previously enjoyed in her high school career: NFTY. I joined the Pennsylvania Area Region (PAR) in May of 8th grade, and I am truly thankful that I did. NFTY, like camp, was a safe community where I could be whoever I wanted to be without judgment as well as a place for me to connect with other Jewish young adults on an even higher level than I had ever experienced before. I even decided here that I wanted to song lead, taught myself guitar, and jumped in leading my first service a month later. Before NFTY, I don’t think I would have had the courage to even stand up in front of people and talk, let alone sing and play on such short notice. I am so grateful for those four years I devoted to this organization.
Now, I continue to be active in Judaism in any possible way that I can. Before even applying to college, I knew having a strong Jewish community was a crucial characteristic for any place that I ended up. I did some research and discovered that Rutgers had the second largest Jewish undergraduate population in the country. When I arrived, not only did I find a thriving Jewish community, I also learned that Rutgers Hillel had a program specifically dedicated to the Reform movement with a Reform Rabbi on staff. I was sold on Rutgers Hillel from the second I walked in the door.
I truly enjoy knowing that I can show up on Friday night and connect with new people that have the commonality of the love of Judaism. I also love that I can continue to song lead here and bring my musical experiences to other people because to me music and Judaism are almost synonymous. The various Jewish communities that I have been a part of throughout my life are the main factors in how I developed into the person I am today, and I owe it to all of the people I encountered for giving me this sense of self-actualization and sense of pride in myself, and my identity. I hope to continue to make connections and to be a part of many more Jewish communities in the future.
Michelle Bivas ’16 and Julia Motis ‘17 in the entryway of Rutgers Hillel (93 College Avenue)
Help other students like Julia enjoy Reform Jewish life at Rutgers Hillel.
(All donations to the Reform Outreach Initiative will be matched dollar for dollar by Arthur and Betty Roswell.)