March 19, 2015

Dear Prospective Jewish Bruins,

Congratulations! By now, you have probably received acceptances from many great institutions across the country. We are writing to you today to explain why you should choose UCLA. We know that you’ve heard a lot about us this year, and not always good things, so we want to set the record straight about the Jewish student experience at UCLA.

For us, the presence of a vibrant Jewish community on campus was essential in our college decision-making process. The strong Jewish community of 3,000 students at UCLA has played a huge role in shaping who we are religiously, culturally, and personally. It provides us with the critical foundations upon which we develop and nurture meaningful Jewish Bruin lives.

Strolling down Bruin Walk, we pass ten people we know — eight who we’ve met through Jewish experiences. They are our friends, our support system, our Jewish Bruin family. These are the friends who make a large, world-renowned research university like UCLA feel like a small, tight-knit community. We are proud to wear our kippot on our heads and our Jewish stars around our necks. We have Israel stickers on our computer cases and never shy away from an opportunity to talk about our Jewish heritage. We take Hebrew, Jewish Studies, and Israel Studies classes, regardless of our intended majors. We are Jewish and we are proud.

Students at UCLA engage in Jewish life and strengthen their connections to Judaism in a variety of ways. Jewish learning is a staple in every Jewish Bruin’s experience thanks to Chabad, the Jewish Awareness Movement, Hillel, and the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. Kosher food is available at Hillel's Coffee Bean and Shack Lunch Cafe, and many locations on campus also offer Kosher options for purchase. Ha’Am, UCLA’s student-run Jewish news magazine, publishes articles regularly both online and in print. Tamid at UCLA connects UCLA students with the Israeli economy through consulting, investing and educating. Students attend Bruins for Israel and J-Street U meetings weekly, and many are members of the Jewish fraternity, AEPi, and the Jewish sorority, Sigma AEPi.

Shabbat is an integral part of the Jewish Bruin experience. On a given Friday night, Chabad hosts dinner at AEPi; JAM invites students to dinner with Jewish comedians; Hillel welcomes 200 students to a pluralistic environment that supports liberal and traditional Jewish expression and a festive meal; and the Bayit, UCLA’s Jewish cooperative living house, sponsors a more laid-back evening.

Jewish Bruins are leaders in many different student organizations across campus. UCLA’s current Student Body President, Avinoam Baral, and UC Student Regent Designate, Avi Oved, are active leaders of the Jewish Bruin Community. We are also leaders in a capella groups, campus tours, community service organizations, Greek life, and outdoor adventures, just to name a few.

The pro-Israel community at UCLA is stronger now than ever. Though we face challenges, like any other campus across the country, it has given us the opportunity to think critically about our Jewish identities and strengthen our passion for the Jewish state. This year, UCLA sent the largest campus delegation (65 students!) to the AIPAC Policy Conference and is sending another 15 students to the J Street National Conference next week. Each year, dozens of students travel to Israel to study abroad, and our Masa Campus Interns expose students to opportunities to travel, learn and intern in Israel. This summer, we are sending 40 students on Bruin Birthright to partake in our annual tradition of an eight-clap atop Masada. Every week on campus, students engage in conversations with their peers and faculty regarding cultural, religious and political life in Israel.

The Jewish community is an integral part of our UCLA experience, and we remain dedicated Jewish students. We are proud of the unanimous passage of “A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” by our student government last week. It was inspiring to witness such strength and unity in our community and we look forward to maintaining this passion for Jewish life in the coming year. We are excited to welcome you to our Jewish Bruin family this fall and hope that you will join the thriving Jewish community at UCLA.

Go Bruins!

--Natalie Charney, Student President of Hillel at UCLA
--Emmanuelle Hodara, Student President of Chabad at UCLA
--Michael Basin, Student President of Jewish Awareness Movement at UCLA
--Naomi Esserman & Josh Sadik, Co-Chairs of the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus
--Josh Zarouri, President of Alpha Epsilon Pi
--Rachel Frenklak, President of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi

PS. If you have questions, reach out to us!