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Virtual FreshFest gives warm welcome to incoming Jewish students

Zoom video call screenshotSyracuse Hillel has hosted FreshFest, Syracuse University’s largest pre-orientation program, for almost two decades. Thousands of students have passed through the program, meeting lifelong friends and in some cases even meeting their future spouses. FreshFest has become a staple of the Jewish welcome to Syracuse University. The program is uniquely designed to provide students with opportunities to get acclimated to campus life, build relationships with incoming and returning students, and deepen their Jewish identity.

Typically, FreshFest participants are paired with one of our returning student mentors who welcome them personally to campus and provide guidance and mentorship throughout the program and beyond. Students also typically move-in early to campus and participate in two days of activities that help them get acclimated to campus. Past activities have included field trips to the New York State Fair and Dave & Busters, Greek Life panel, study abroad panel, ultimate frisbee, and a welcome breakfast in the Dome for participants and their families.

In July, Syracuse Hillel made the difficult decision that FreshFest had to be held virtually this year to safeguard the health of students. From that moment on, the FreshFest Leadership team, FreshFest mentors, and Hillel staff were hard at work planning a warm welcome for the Class of 2024. Virtual FreshFest was extended to take place over the course of two weeks, instead of two days to accommodate travel and quarantine schedules. Students were still paired with their returning student mentor, a component of the program that became increasingly crucial as students were met with more stress and uncertainty with the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. The student leaders planned programs over Zoom such as a Greek life panel, a study abroad panel, yoga, Netflix watch parties, and virtual residence hall hangouts. Through virtual FreshFest, Hillel reached 146 students.

Special thanks to FreshFest co-chairs Ronni Isenberg ‘21 and Maya Alperin ‘21, the entire FreshFest leadership team Jason Resnick ‘21, Adia Santos ‘23, Olivia Galel ‘23, and Eljiah Morrison ‘22, and all the FreshFest mentors for their hard work, dedication, and passion as we welcome the class of 2024 to Syracuse University and the Syracuse Hillel family!