Humans of the Bronfman Center: Isabella Brodie

Read the full transcript Isabella’s conversation with interviewer Sarah Fried:

Sarah Fried (SF): “Tell me about your relationship to the Bronfman Center.”

Isabella Brodie (IB): “So my freshman year, my first experience with the Bronfman Center was JLF. I had never really been to the Bronfman Center before that and JLF really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the Bronfman Center. So then I applied to be a Bronfman Center Engagement Intern, which I did my sophomore year, and because of that I became really involved in the Indie Minyan, which I became the President of, and renamed it Kehila, which is a Conservative Minyan. And beyond that I’m now President of Hillel. So it’s been a nice journey throughout all the stages and opportunities at Bronfman.”

SF: “Can you talk a bit more about your story with Kehila?”

IB: “I was introduced to Candice Braude who was president of Indie Minyan at the time when I was a sophomore. And I really liked Conservative Services when I went Welcome Week of Sophomore year, and she said that I should get more involved. So I started helping her plan services she was stepping down as her term was ending, so I filled her role. And I kind of wanted to rebrand it to make it more clear what the Indie Minyan was. There wasn’t really a clear Conservative Minyan, whereas the Reform and Orthodox communities were pretty clear cut. I chose a Hebrew name to make it fit the general trend among the communities, so now it’s Shalhevet, Kehila, and Kesher. And Kehila means community, so since we are a traditional Egalitarian community, it made sense to have that neutral name.”

SF: “How has the Bronfman Center changed your relationship and view of what a Jewish community is?”

IB: “Since I’m from New York, I didn’t expect myself, when I came to NYU, to get very involved with the Jewish community. I grew up on the Upper East Side and went home for every holiday and knew I had that home base. But then when I started coming to Bronfman I realized that I had never done Shabbat at home. I never had Shabbat dinner, never went to Shabbat services, so services downtown have been a valuable part of my year and each week. I’m always upset when we don’t have services because it’s just a really nice way to clear your mind after a busy week; a nice commitment to have that doesn’t feel like a commitment. So I guess because I don’t observe Shabbat with my family uptown, doing it downtown with friends has been really life-changing in a very unforeseen way.

And it was eye-opening because different students have different takes on Jewish life and Jewish culture. So it was nice to be involved in a community of people my age, rather than just families uptown. Even though both of my communities are in Manhattan, they’re very different; I have different values with each community.”

SF: “What are you most looking forward to at Kehila this year?”

IB: “Well I just stepped down as President of Kehila because I’m now President of Hillel, but I’m still looking forward to going to services every week. I guess my role in the community will just change since I won’t be standing up there talking. But it’s gonna be nice to be able to go to services and not be nervous about if everyone’s prepared; I can just go and enjoy my time. But as President of Hillel I will be working with Kehila and all the different student clubs to organize co-sponsored events, which will lead to a more pluralistic community. So I’ll still have my foot in the door with each but work to combine them as a whole.”

SF: “How has your relationship to Hillel been since I came to NYU?”

IB: “I guess we’re also changing the meaning of Hillel also. I’m working with Zach Wolff, my co-president, to make it clearer where Hillel stands. Now we’re ‘Hillel, the Jewish Student Union’, vs Bronfman Center, cuz I think people aren’t really clear on what the difference is, if there is a difference at all.”

SF: “What would you say the difference is?”

IB: “Hillel is not sponsored, they don’t receive funds from Hillel International or the Bronfman Center, purely from NYU. It’s a student-run club that has no affiliation with either of the two. So changing that title to mean something more to the students; that it’s for the students, run by the students. I feel like people associate Hillel with a building, so when you think Hillel you think Bronfman Center, because on a lot of other campuses Hillel is just the building that you go for Shabbat. But at NYU we’re so lucky to have so many different clubs and opportunities. And Bronfman is such an amazing building with an amazing staff, so we’re gonna work with them rather than not clearly be part of them.”

SF: “Does Hillel meet at Bronfman, or Kimmel, etc. ?”

IB: “Yes, though we only meet as a board, but we’re trying to sponsor events. We’re trying not to be a programming board; more working with existing student clubs, developing new initiatives, but also hosting events from time to time to bring everyone together. But we do have our weekly board meetings at the Bronfman Center because we do treasure it as a Jewish home on campus, but we will not solely be working at the Bronfman Center.”

SF: “What are you most looking forward to at Hillel this coming year, and now that we’re a month into school?”

IB: “I think it’ll be an exciting opportunity for all students. Rather than just going to events, they’ll have the opportunity to request funding, develop new ideas, work with emerging student leaders. Before there wasn’t a clear person to reach out to if you had a new idea and wanted to start a new initiative. Now we’re hoping to be that hub on campus to start an emerging market for Jewish student leaders, and in the downtown area as well. It should be interesting to see what people come up with, and how people reach out and what they’re willing to commit.”

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