Marnie Kremer is only a sophomore at the University of Virginia, but she’s already made a significant impact on the Jewish community, both at her school and around the world.
The environmental science major, and a former student at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, has become an active member of the Brody Jewish Center, UVa.’s Hillel.
“I wanted to continue my connection to Judaism and Israel, and I knew Hillel was there to give me that opportunity,” Kremer says. “Originally, it was important to me to keep up the social aspect of having Jewish friends, but as I got involved in the Jewish Religious Life Council, one of the many groups Hillel has to offer, I realized that Hillel is important to many aspects of my life here at UVa.”
The Jewish Religious Life Council organizes holiday events and leads Friday night services. The group is also responsible for finding Torah readers for the High Holidays. Kremer and a few of her fellow former Gesher peers recently took it upon themselves to present readings on the same day. Her parents came down for the occasion.
“This was a really cool experience because it symbolized us growing up, but it also made me proud of how all of us kept up with Judaism since elementary school and were all more than happy to participate in the service at UVa.,” she says. “Gesher provided me with the skills, while it also provided me with friends that I have always been able to count on and make my Jewish experience much greater because I have them.”
Another memorable event Kremer has experienced with Hillel was an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) alternative spring break trip to Ukraine, where she and fellow students helped those in need. Kremer says the trip was part of JDC’s mission to aid Jewish communities around the world, and was an eye-opening experience.
“It was amazing to see how much Hillel and the JDC had changed the lives of many struggling Ukrainian Jews, young and old,” she says. “And while we couldn’t make that huge of a difference in just one week, they were excited to simply meet us and hear about our lives while sharing some of their own personal stories, languages and customs.”
Kremer serves as a co-chair for First Year Connection, where she helps immerse Jewish freshmen into Hillel by coordinating numerous involvement events. Kremer says that helping these students is an honor, as she acts as a resource and a role model for students looking to get involved in their Jewish community.
“It [Hillel] was a very strong experience in the sense of connecting her to other UVa. Jews, and in a bigger sense of global Jewish peoplehood and community,” says Rabbi Jake Rubin, the executive director of Brody Jewish Center, of Kremer’s Hillel experience. “First-time students have the opportunity to make their own decisions. We want to help them explore the different possibilities and continue to grow Jewishly.”
Hillel’s mission, Rubin says, is to offer a vibrant and welcoming Jewish community and to create active Jewish leaders, such as Kremer.
Kremer attended Gesher from kindergarten to sixth grade, but she and her elementary school friends have continued to be involved with their alma mater through events such as alumni dinners and sibling graduations. While Kremer continues to strive as Jewish leader at UVa., she says that she wouldn’t be where she is without her elementary school education.
“My experience at Gesher was not a typical elementary school experience, but the things I learned about Torah, religion and the Hebrew language will stay with me for the rest of my life.”