Rabbi Pik-Nathan introduces Hillel to the bi-college community
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Heather Lazusky

While her name may be widely recognized in the bi-college community, many students have yet to meet Rabbi Marsha Pik-Nathan in person. Although Pik-Nathan took on the role of Hillel director last fall, she was away on maternity leave the first half of the semester. As a result, Pik-Nathan was simply a name to many bi-college students. Now a proud parent and back from maternity leave, she expressed her desire to acquaint herself better with students and vice versa.

Pik-Nathan comes to the bi-college community with a varied educational and occupational history. Prior to accepting her current job at the bi-college Hillel, Rabbi Pik-Nathan attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, and she received a Ph.D. in clinical psychiatry from Washington University. She then attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania.

Pik-Nathan held a number of jobs following her graduation from rabbinical school. She worked as a director in adult education with several Jewish congregations. She also had several Hillel internships while still at rabbinical college, but the tri-college Hillel is actually the first full-time position Pik-Nathan has had with the organization.

Rabbi Pik-Nathan, however, appeared to be much more eager to discuss upcoming Hillel activities than her own background. Each year one of the major undertakings for Hillel and the Jewish Student Union (JSU) is Jewish Awareness Week, which will be held this year from April 1 through 9. During this week the Jewish organizations on both campuses attempt to “get people aware of Jewish life” and to celebrate it, she says. This year Jewish Awareness Week will begin with an a capella festival on April 1 and, as always, the yearly latke vs. hamentaschen debate in which two members of the faculty and administration debate the merits of the delicacies. At this time the speakers still have yet to be announced, but in the past Dean Steve Watter, Professor Ken Koltun-Fromm, Professor Aryeh Kosman and Professor Deborah Roberts were among the participants who managed to amuse and entice the audience and engage in “unbiased taste tests.”

Pik-Nathan’s other major goal for the semester concerns Passover. This year the holiday occurs much closer to finals period than it has in the past, so many students who might normally go home for the Passover Seder may be forced to remain on campus to complete their work. Hillel hopes to provide “a good Passover experience” and allow those unable to go home to celebrate the holiday.

Aside from these two major events, Hillel also plans to bring several speakers to the campus this semester, including a Holocaust survivor and a Jewish bioethicist. There will also be a special sneak preview on campus of an exciting new film from the Israeli film festival being held in Philadelphia. As always, Shabbat services are held every Friday (alternating between Haverford and Bryn Mawr campuses), and all are welcome.

Pik-Nathan emphasized that both JSU and Hillel are “very receptive to hearing what people want to do” and in helping them to make Jewish life on campus what they want it to be. Pik-Nathan wants to “help find ways for people to connect to Judaism on their own level.” A lot of students do not wish to be immersed in Judaism; Pik-Nathan stresses that these students do not need to be afraid of participating at the level they want to. The tri-college Hillel has a philosophy that “Jewish life is part of the whole life on campus. Students should not have to separate themselves in order to engage in their Jewish life.” The goal is to help students with what they want to do and what they want their Jewish life to be at college. Many people may have had a negative experience in Hebrew school, Pik-Nathan states, but “this is not your Hebrew school.” She urges all those students to come to talk to her or one of the other members of the Hillel staff about what they want their Jewish life to be. Hillel offers many activities whether a student connects to Judaism on a social, cultural, social-action or religious level. Not all students want to attend Shabbat services, but many other activities are available and open to everyone, Jewish or not.

The Hillel office is located on the second floor of the Whitehead Campus Center, but more often the staff members can be found around campus, meeting with students, engaging in activities or just talking with students and staff. Rabbi Pik-Nathan encourages anyone who wishes to talk to her to call her at (610) 896-4918 or e-mail her at for an appointment. The Hillel office is generally open during the week. Another excellent source is the Jewish Student Union, whose board members can be reached by e-mail at .

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