That Time I Joined NHBT

I come from a Modern Orthodox Jewish community in New York City. Throughout my entire upbringing, though I was always surrounded by the distractions of city life I somehow found myself consistently gravitating to my Jewish bubble. I spent most of my time surrounded by kids who shared similar values, perspectives, and even summer camps. It was easy and comfortable. As high school came to an end, I would look to my college experience as the place where I would finally branch out, explore different ideas, make new connections, and work to leave my comfort zone. So in my freshman year I did just that: I joined a sorority in the hopes of diversifying my friendships and meeting people outside my usual social circle. I also tried out for the school’s volleyball club team in an attempt to engage with students who shared an interest in the same sport as me. Overall, I kept an eye out for any opportunity that forced me to completely branch out. However, as the year came to an end, I noticed that while I felt proud of accomplishing my goal, I still felt like something was missing. I was lacking a real connection to these groups.

When I first became involved with the National Hillel Basketball Tournament, a part of me felt like I was taking a step back. I believed I should be moving away from all that I knew and those who I normally associated with in order to broaden my horizons. Yet, my experience thus far has led me to an entirely new way of thinking. Had I misjudged the whole point simply because the organization was associated with Hillel? Perhaps I had. Becoming involved in NHBT helped me realize that “branching out” didn’t have to mean totally leaving my past behind and starting completely fresh. I now recognize that creating valuable experiences actually demands a strong rooting in one’s past. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to explore new and exciting ventures within a Jewish context as a member of the NHBT board.

The NHBT board is made up of twenty-four Jewish students, ranging from completely different backgrounds, upbringings, and denominations. We work together in bringing as many diverse Jewish students as possible from different universities across the country through the game of basketball. And after spending just a few short months working for this unique organization, I have already met so many amazing people: fellow board members, potential funders, publishers, student athletes, etc. From the outside, it may seem like this tournament just magically comes together. In reality, however, it takes collaboration amongst many networks of people and I have the opportunity to be in the middle of all of it.

The point is that even for someone who has such a small connection to basketball in her past (and very few skills to show for it) NHBT still offers an awesome opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences. Because it is grounded in Jewish values and practices, it allows me to comfortably pursue new goals. I hope that Jewish students from around the country will recognize how special of an opportunity it is to participate in this tournament. I am looking forward to seeing you all in College Park on March 30!

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