Newsletter   /   June 2023
Embracing Growth and Impact: My Journey as a JoCI Fellow at Hofstra Hillel

A fellowship program can be a transformative experience that allows you to grow professionally and personally. As a Jews of Color Initiative Fellow at Hofstra Hillel, I immersed myself in a dynamic environment and collaborated with passionate individuals to contribute to projects that engaged students. Through my journey, I encountered challenges, learned valuable lessons, and formed lifelong connections. This article reflects on my experience working as a Fellow and how it has shaped me.

I knew I would be on a meaningful journey when I entered the fellowship, where I contributed to projects and initiatives related to sports and environmental sustainability. Helping organize sports events in partnership with the Hofstra Athletic Department was particularly rewarding. At our Hofstra Jewish Heritage basketball night, approximately 2,500 students and community members came out to celebrate Jewish heritage and show their support for the Hofstra Athletics Department. The atmosphere was one of celebration and unity, and I was proud to be part of this special event.

These projects had a tangible impact on students. The Hofstra Jewish Heritage basketball night, for example, enabled the students to see the diverse Jewish community sharing in the fun of the game and celebrating the diversity in Jewish heritage. Aligning my passion with meaningful work gave me purpose and empowerment. I was reminded of individuals’ capacity to make a difference through this experience, demonstrating how powerful it is when individuals come together to celebrate and uplift their collective heritage and values.

Through the Fellowship, I gained a deeper understanding of my Ethiopian Jewish heritage and honed my ability to navigate unforeseen challenges in a professional space. Working as a Fellow required adaptability and resilience, and I gained confidence in overcoming obstacles and adapting to rapidly changing environments. As a result of this experience, I received vital support from leaders in the fields of Jewish engagement and education who shared wisdom and helped guide my work through the Fellowship’s workshops and seminars. I will undoubtedly use these new skills I learned in program design, collaboration, and community engagement in all future endeavors.

As I move forward in my career, my Fellowship network will serve as an invaluable resource. Our cohort was filled with a multiracial mix of people from different Jewish backgrounds–and we shared our different perspectives, ideas, and expertise on Jewish engagement. Already, we’ve formed strong bonds and lasting friendships. Through dialogue, storytelling, and shared experiences, we reflected the real diversity of the Jewish community and celebrated its diversity. 

Beyond the professional realm, my Fellowship experience profoundly impacted my personal growth. The Fellowship provided a safe space to explore new ideas, question conventional wisdom, and challenge myself. I was encouraged to step outside my comfort zone, confront my limitations, and push my boundaries. In addition, I discovered strengths I did not know I had, such as being able to plan, organize and execute big projects like the Hofstra Jewish Heritage Basketball night. For example, I was able to use my writing and communication skills to reach out to donors for sponsorship funds and supplies, as well as recruit volunteers to help run the event.

The Fellowship experience has provided valuable skills, expanded my network, and enhanced my understanding of the professional world. I am grateful for my opportunities and the individuals who have guided me. It has been a remarkable journey of self-discovery, learning, and growth. Furthermore, I have learned the value of diversity, empathy, adaptability, collaboration, personal growth, and making a lasting impact. These lessons will continue to guide my future endeavors, allowing me to navigate challenges, embrace opportunities, and make meaningful contributions to our world. I am confident that my fellowship experience has equipped me with the tools to be an active participant in creating a more inclusive and equitable global community.

Date Posted

June 2023


Bereket Watts