Religion clubs at Cal State Fullerton have had to adjust to the new reality of COVID-19. At the end of March, the university closed its campus, forcing school clubs and organizations to stop meeting in-person.
When CSUF announced another virtual semester for the fall, many religious clubs had to scramble to adapt to the changes.
Hillel, a Jewish group at CSUF, were quick to move online when the campus shut down in March. Daniel Levine is the campus rabbi for all the Hillel communities in Orange County, and oversees the major campuses such as UC Irvine, Chapman University, CSUF and a couple of the local community colleges.
In his position, Levine oversees education throughout the group, helps coordinate events and helps organize trips for Jewish students to places like Israel and Washington, D.C. While many Hillel events were successful, there was still the problem of organizing events and meetings on Zoom.
“I know that for a lot of students, they just don't want to be spending that extra hour on Zoom after seven hours of class on Zoom all day,” Levine said. “I think really just having the place for people to come if they need us, I think is really our-or at least my mission for this time in COVID.”
Every summer, Hillel organizes trips to Israel, where they normally take 40 to 80 students. During these trips, students can learn more about their Jewish identity, the history of their faith or even learn about current topics such as the Palestinian conflict. But because of COVID-19, the trips were canceled, allowing for more time to plan the upcoming year.
Unlike other clubs that work virtually, Hillel hones in on specific interests that their members would enjoy rather than creating events that they believe many students wouldn’t attend.
“We've started doing specific cohorts of students that are interested in specific things,” Levine said. “So if people are interested in, let's say, gathering every Friday to do a short pre-Sabbath service and conversation, and then eat some dinner on a Zoom call, we'll have a cohort who does that.”
Another religious club that has adjusted to COVID-19 is Titan Catholic, a Catholic club at CSUF. Caroline Leyba is the outreach coordinator and is in charge of planning and creating events, reaching out to the community and inviting people to events.
Although COVID-19 negatively impacted many clubs, Leyba said she saw this as an opportunity to grow friendships with people who were looking for a community.
“I feel like it's easier to invite more people into these events because our campus and our students are thirsting for that kind of friendship and intimacy with someone,” Leyba said. “I think we have more opportunities in inviting more people to things and we can have more small events, like little Zoom calls, game night, movie night, things like that.”
Every month, Titan Catholic hosts large events called Fully Alive, where they have praise and worship, fellowship and confession. But similar to Hillel’s Israel trip, those events were canceled.
Leyba said it was a very enriching and powerful event for the members and brought about a big challenge, trying to provide powerful and intimate events online.
To adapt to the online conditions, Cru, a Christian club at CSUF, created personable ways to engage on social media such as posting a “meet the leaders” post and even creating a survey for newcomers and people who are interested in joining.
As the president of Cru, senior Daniela Carmona learned many lessons from being online. The main two were being intentional about reaching out to newcomers as well as making sure to rest, especially during the hectic circumstances.
“We have all been thrown into a position where we’ve had so many things have been stripped away from us and we’ve had to adapt very quickly and so that has forced us to kind of rush and look inward,” Carmona said.