It’s Official: The URJ is Back on Campus!

Inside Leadership

It’s Official: The URJ is Back on Campus!

Students walking down a halfway with their backs and backpacks to the camera

It’s hard to believe that only six years ago, I was beginning my college journey at the University of Kansas.

Looking back on it now, it’s incredible to think that I started school so anxious, knowing only a handful of people – but by the time I graduated, I’d had some of the most special experiences in my life, especially in the Jewish community. Through my leadership positions at Kansas Hillel, serving on staff at the URJ Kutz Camp, and traveling to Israel twice, my connection to Reform Judaism grew exponentially over the course of those four years.

I’m so grateful for all of these experiences, yet I know that I am one of the lucky ones. At the time, many of my friends didn’t have access to the inspiring community and opportunities that I enjoyed. Too many Reform students still struggle to find themselves Jewishly connected while in college.

In his major address at the URJ Biennial this past December, Rabbi Rick Jacobs made a clear and urgent call for our Movement:

“We must let Reform students know that the largest and most diverse network in Jewish life has their backs. We can reach out with support and services that reflect the Judaism we love and lead, and give them the resources to grow Jewishly – not just on holidays, but every day. Whether they’re alumni of our camps and NFTY, or grew up in our congregations, our students deserve a sustained connection to our movement.”

So many challenges exist in Jewish college student engagement, including connecting Reform students to Jewish life, wrestling with Israel, and striving for social justice on campus – which is why I’m excited to be serving as the associate director for college engagement, the first time the URJ has had a full-time staff person working on college engagement in years. It’s a tremendous opportunity to ensure that every Reform student on campus has the resources, support, and opportunities to connect to Jewish life.

The URJ’s college engagement strategy will focus on three areas:

  1. Providing immersive experiences to our students, including staffing URJ Camps and NFTY events, interning through the RAC’s Machon Kaplan Summer Program, and creating new experiences in the future.  
  2. Ensuring students have the resources to build strong Reform communities, including partnering with Hillel and other campus organizations, online resources from ReformJudaism.org, and MRJ Reform on Campus Grants.
  3. Building the leadership capacity of our students to lead our community for years to come, including the HUC-JIR Founders Fellows and leading on the RAC’s Civic Engagement Campaign.

If you’re interested in learning more and being part of the conversation, check out the College Engagement group in The Tent or request more information. I’m incredibly excited for this school year and the many ways that we, as a Reform Movement, support and engage our college students in meaningful connecting with and building Jewish life.

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Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, OK, currently serves as the associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Previously, he spent two years as the inaugural URJ Presidential Fellow for Millennial Engagement, creating new initiatives in college and young adult engagement. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where he studied political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. Evan is an alum of the URJ Greene Family Camp, NFTY in Israel, the URJ Kutz Camp, and he served as the 2012-2013 North American President of NFTY. Previously, he was an engagement intern for KU Hillel, a trustee on the URJ Board, a student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors, and a co-founder of the Hillel International Student Cabinet.

Evan Traylor

Published: 8/27/2018

Categories: Youth

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