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WP1 Revision (A Collaborative Santa Barbara Hillel)

Due to the pressure and anxiety that arise with acclimating to a new environment, who

would not want to engage with a tight-knit, benevolent community to ease their college transition

and make them feel at home? At the University of California, Santa Barbara, incoming Jewish

freshmen, along with others interested, are encouraged to get involved and ultimately take great

pride in a non-academic community called the Santa Barbara Hillel. According to Swales’s “The

Concept of Discourse Community,” there are six major components involved in what is known

as a ‘discourse community’ (15). These components include common goals, different methods of

communication, participation, genres, a special language, and a member base consisting of

individuals who understand the community’s way of life (15). However, in contrast to Swales’s

perception of discourse communities, the Santa Barbara Hillel is extremely welcoming and

accessible to people of other religions who may not be knowledgeable about typical Jewish

lifestyles. This acceptance of others, though, does not hinder the group’s loyalty to Judaism.

Further, even though there is no unique language uniting the Hillel community–besides their use

of Hebrew for prayer–its members communicate through various genres, formulate and maintain

their goals, and endeavor to participate in as many community activities as possible. Santa

Barbara’s Hillel group may not wholly comply with Swales’s six-piece description, but due to its

exemplification of most of the qualities and specific use of the genre of Facebook, it is a

veritable discourse community.

As someone who values and feels connected to Judaism, I decided it would be a great

idea to affiliate with the Santa Barbara Hillel. This discourse community holds many events

throughout UCSB’s Week of Welcome, as well as the rest of the year, to familiarize themselves

with the students and display their goals for the year. The Santa Barbara Hillel’s main mission is
“to enrich student lives so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world” and their main

vision is to accumulate “a world in which every student has the opportunity to make an enduring

commitment to Jewish life, learning, and making the world a better place” (2). Firmly believing

in Hillel’s principal mission as well as their vision, I chose to express my support for this

community by attending one or two events every couple of weeks, and in doing so, have met

many new people. These individuals have guided me throughout my transition and continuously

educate me about important aspects of this community. Since I have only been enrolled at UCSB

for a short time, I have not yet had the opportunity to further my commitment to Hillel by

volunteering there or finding a part-time position. Contrarily, after speaking with representatives

and my friend, Shaina, who volunteers for their Greek life booth, I have expanded my knowledge

about genres–one of Swales’ most crucial criteria–within this community.

Genres are quite significant in the Hillel community. To illustrate, the main website,

blog, Facebook group page, word of mouth, and different booths both on and off campus are all

vital components of the organization. Since I am not as involved in this community as those

working and volunteering at the facility, I touched base with Shaina to ask her about other genres

she knew of. She revealed that there are groups made through the mobile application, GroupMe,

in order to communicate and transfer ideas, event details, suggestions, and more (1). Because

Shaina, like me, is not associated with the member board employed by Hillel, I decided to go

online to Facebook and message the Engagement Associate of the community, Hannah Phelps,

regarding weekly meetings. She confirmed that meetings are certainly held every week,

especially to discuss future plans and any concerns or issues present within the community (5).

Though the Santa Barbara Hillel contains many genres, this discourse community

primarily relies on the social media platform, Facebook, to launch important information.
Facebook is not only well-known and easily accessible to most, but it allows individuals to feel

more organized. Through the genre of Facebook, members of this Jewish “home away from

home” present detailed posts, either weekly or daily, that serve as introductions or reminders for

upcoming events and opportunities. Posts are organized by date in descending order and the

Hillel group page is structured just as any other Facebook group page. Broken down, these

messages tend to possess an entertaining or appreciated introduction, date, time, and location;

there generally aren’t any surprisingly exceptional or official closings. To top off the

descriptions, each Facebook post also includes an attachment of a fun, flyer-like image that

contain a concise message and captures people’s attention with its background visuals. The

images released with each Facebook post promote a sense of liveliness and enjoyment to all who

belong to the group.

The Hillel Facebook group is composed of the student body, faculty, alumni, and

administrators–all of whom contribute to the survival of the page. The administrators, who are

the members among the board of the community, are those who specialize in formulating and

distributing the prominent messages, while the students are the ones viewing and replying to the

messages. Students also have the ability to like, comment, or share any posts within the group

page, but some students–though there are usually only a few who do react to posts–choose to

simply like posts rather than proceed with the latter options. When new events are created,

students may just show up to the event or they can give the administrators a heads up by hitting

‘interested’, ‘going’, or ‘ignore’.

Every forthcoming event is introduced with a new post that typically attempts at having

some relation to Judaism, as one of this discourse community’s interests is to bring Jews together

to remain connected to their Jewish identities as well as meet others who want to do the same.
For example, one post involved an administrator “wishing everyone a Shana Tova, a Happy New

[Jewish] Year” (7). Another post encouraged the group members to “join [the community] at

Hillel tonight for [their] Welcome Home Shabbat,” also known as a formal Friday night dinner

that embraces Judaism through praying and eating a delicious, distinct, and seemingly home-

cooked meal (12).

Other posts reveal that on less formal occasions, which occur Monday through Thursday

and are not always held at the Hillel location, various foods will be provided and sometimes,

games will be played as well. During UCSB’s 2018 spring quarter, Hannah Phelps, who is not

only the Engagement Associate but also an administrator of the Facebook page, invited students

to “come for the food [and] stay for the open mic” during a kosher cookout, and in the beginning

of the 2018 fall quarter, invited students to “stop by Annex Lawn [and] grab a bagel” (3 & 4).

Another Facebook administrator, Jen Stone, presented Tailgate Tuesday with her idea of coming

to Hillel to “meet new faces, feast, and play some backyard games” (10). By disclosing that there

will be free food and games that could possibly relieve some stress, most college students are

more inclined to attend such events.

Along with informal occasions being led by this community, there is much flexibility

within the Facebook group page as the way this discourse community converses within it is more

casual than proper. This denotes that the members of Santa Barbara Hillel believe in feeling

comfortable with one another. One post began with “Woah Woah Woah…,” while another began

with “Chocolate, Marshmallows, Graham Crackers, and Jews!” (13 & 8). Further, there is no

standard format or length for each Facebook post. The strictness in regards to writing the posts is

kept to a minimum because just as most other social media platforms, simplicity is one of the

main conventions.
Though most people who join Hillel do have some form of Jewish background, which

means they are likely aware of Jewish holidays, concepts, and phenomena, anyone who wants to

be included in the Facebook group page may be as long as they have a sincere interest in it.

People are also welcome to explore the organization in person–through guidance of a friend,

roommate, family member, etc.–prior to joining the Facebook page. This discourse community

prioritizes inclusion, positivity, and on another note, well-being, which can all be recognized

through Facebook posts as well: “bring a friend,” “finals got you down? Beat out that stress at

our quarterly challah bake,” and “it’s the Monday of Finals week…swing by Hillel tonight at 10

PM for pancakes and eggs” (12, 9, & 11). Every administrator ensures that their message is

upbeat and friendly in order to appeal to their audiences’ emotions. They also release posts with

an enthusiastic attitude: “we can’t wait to see you tonight!” (6). In doing so, students are

undoubtedly forced to see the staff’s bright and pleasurable nature.

The Santa Barbara Hillel continues to expand its population every single year and

authentically illustrates a discourse community. This group is not exclusive towards others

uneducated about the community and does not function with a special language, but it does keep

particular goals amongst its members, encourages participation, and communicates through

different genres–especially Facebook. For those who wish to join this community and participate

in the weekly events and extraordinary opportunities, vital information is predominantly sent via

Facebook, and feedback, remarks, or reactions can, too, be presented to the administrative

members through this remarkable source of communication.


Works Cited
1
Michalowicz, Shaina. “Hillel.” Received by Elad Cohen, 06 October 2018.
2
Our Mission. Santa Barbara Hillel. 08 December, 2014.

http://santabarbara.hillel.org/home/aboutus/our-mission. Accessed 07 October, 2018.


3
Phelps, Hannah. “Come for the food, stay for the open mic. Calling all talented…” Facebook,

15 May 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel. Accessed 09

October 2018.
4
Phelps, Hannah. “Happy first day of classes UCSB! Stop by Annex Lawn…” Facebook, 27

September 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel. Accessed 09

October 2018.
5
Phelps, Hannah. “Hillel Weekly Meetings.” Received by Elad Cohen, 08 October 2018.
6
Phelps, Hannah. “Shabbat Sha-Pasta! Join us for a very special CATERED Shabbat meal...”

Facebook. 01 June 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.


7
Phelps, Hannah. “Wishing everyone a Shana Tova, a Happy New Year…” Facebook, 07

September 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel. Accessed 09

October 2018.
8
Stone, Jen. “Chocolate, Marshmallows, Graham Crackers, and Jews! What could be better?!...”

Facebook, 26 September 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.


9
Stone, Jen. “Finals got you down? Beat out that stress at our quarterly challah bake…”

Facebook, 05 June 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.


10
Stone, Jen. “It’s always sunny in Isla Vista! Cruise by SB Hillel for a BBQ in our…”

Facebook, 25 September 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.

Stone, Jen. “It's the Monday of Finals week and that can only mean one thing....JHOP!!...”
11

Facebook, 11 June 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.

Stone, Jen. “Join us at Hillel tonight for our Welcome Home Shabbat!...” Facebook, 28
12

September 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel. Accessed 09

October 2018.

Stone, Jen. “Woah Woah Woah.... There's only ONE WEEK until Birthright Registration…”
13

Facebook, 30 August 2018. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SantaBarbaraHillel.

Accessed 09 October 2018.


14
Swales, M. John. The concept of discourse community. The University of Michigan, Ann

Arbor, 1990