Being a leader in the Jewish community is not unusual for Hillary Lorsch.
Originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, Hillary was part of both Northern Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and Beth Israel Temple Youth (BITY), which was her synagogue’s youth group, for all four years of her high school. For NFTY, Hillary was a historian. She took pictures at all of the events and put together a yearbook at the end of each year, and made slide shows from previous events to show at upcoming events. In BITY, she was a board member and participant before she became president her senior year.
Hillary knew she wanted to go to CSU when she came to visit the campus. When she visited, she saw the Vietnam Memorial bridge on campus and imagined the bridge during all of the seasons and it clicked for her. “I was like, ‘Oh, I imagine myself here for four seasons,’” said Hillary.
That visit put Colorado State at the top of her list, but she wanted to know more about CSU’s Hillel. “In Arizona, everyone goes to Hillel or Chabad, so it was common sense and an instinct that when you go to college and you’re Jewish, you go to one of those organizations,” she said. She messaged the Hillels at all of the schools that she was interested in and asked them how their programs were. “CSU was one of the better Hillels that I had talked to.”
Hillary immediately joined the leadership team her freshman year. She said that she enjoys programming and being able to give people a home. “I know for a lot of people in high school either struggled with people understanding who they were and being able to take a weekend off and coming to a NFTY event really changed their lives and possibly saved a lot of people’s lives just because they had somewhere to go,” Hillary explained. “I wanted to make sure that in a school as big as CSU, I could give someone a home.”
In her first year, Hillary started a tradition. At a meeting, the leadership team had been talking about hosting a “Thanksgivakkah” dinner, since Thanksgiving and the start of Chanukkah were on the same night that year for the first time since the 1800s. It was Hillary’s idea to turn it into an Interfaith Thanksgiving and invite many different faith organizations on campus. She got the idea from Rabbi Albert Plotkin, a very well-known Rabbi in Arizona, who is an inspiration to her, as well as a “birthday buddy” since they share the same birthday. “Except that he was like 80 years older than me,” Hillary said with a little laugh.
Hillary explained that Rabbi Plotkin was the first Jew to go to the University of Notre Dame and when he moved to Arizona, he started an interfaith movement. She said he became very well known by many people of all faiths. “He was someone who was accepting of all and a beautiful human being. He inspired me to learn before talking to someone and not just assume something about them because of their religion,” said Hillary. “He was like Yoda.”
It was Rabbi Plotkin who inspired Hillary to start Interfaith Thanksgiving, which so far, is one of her favorite memories in Hillel. During the first Interfaith Thanksgiving in 2014, over 100 people crammed into the small Hillel house. “It was incredible. We expected maybe 10 people to come and it was over 100 people all of a sudden,” exclaimed Hillary. “It was snowing and people still showed up.” Interfaith Thanksgiving has now been celebrated for three years.
Now Hillary is “kind of a junior,” as she puts it, since she will be graduating in the fall of 2017. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in business. She is also Hillel’s president.
Hillary wanted to become president because she understood that people can sometimes be leaders, but not want to take responsibility when things go wrong. “I think I can handle when things go wrong,” stated Hillary. “I’m happy to be the person that people need to take their anger out on and be the person that people need to talk to.”
Not only does Hillary want to lead Hillel, she wants to help people succeed in what they want to do. She said, “If they have a passion for sustainability or interfaith, I want to make sure that I can give them the platform to do that and stand behind them when they finally take that leap to do that.”
For Hillel’s future, Hillary said she hopes it will be filled with lots of people. She doesn’t want Hillel to just be a place where people go and eat dinner on Friday nights, but a place people can also hang out. She wants people to say, “Oh my friend likes to go cook there on Monday nights so we go there on Monday nights.” She wants it to be a place where people can go drink hot chocolate and watch a movie with their friends when it’s cold outside.
“People shouldn’t have to think of it only in a religious aspect,” Hillary explained. “They should think about it in a more familiar and open place for them to always be able to go.”