Our mission is to be the home away from home for Jewish undergraduate and graduate students of all levels of observance. We are afraid that many Jewish prospective students choose other universities over Caltech because of a mistaken impression that Pasadena offers few or no opportunities for Jewish observance. Fortunately, this is not the case. Caltech Hillel is small, but this gives individual students the opportunity to become very involved in planning and organizing events. Additionally, the generally non-rigid environment which pervades the small Caltech community and the fact that all tests are take-home make necessary exemptions for yom tovim fair and easy, so long as they are handled responsibly.
We are a small Hillel, reflecting the small size of Caltech in general - an undergraduate population under 1000. We run events for all the major holidays and have a growing Shabbat dinners program, where Jewish faculty invite students to eat Friday night dinners at their homes. This past year, we placed students at local homes for Passover seders, and started a new Hillel Collection in the Caltech Library. Caltech's small size allows for a large degree of flexibility for any student who is willing to show initiative and gives us a chance to make close ties to Jewish faculty members.
Although Caltech does not maintain a Kosher kitchen, Kosher style meals are easily available upon request, and packaged Hechsher meals (currently from Got Kosher) are also available. Los Angeles also contains the largest Jewish center outside of New York, and the Pico-Robertson area an hour drive from campus contains a vast array of Kosher restaurants, synagogues, and the like.
While there are a multitude of shuls, synogogues and temples in the Los Angeles area, a few are also located near campus in Pasadena. The closest is the Chabad of Pasadena, which is in walking distance from Caltech. There are also a few Conservative Synogogues and Reform Temples in the area, the closest being the Conservative Pasadena Jewish Temple Center (PJTC). This past year, we organized rides to PJTC and walks to Chabad for the high holidays.
We are a student-led organization run out of student rooms and the various houses. Our current Co-Presidents are Eric Pelz (Ruddock '15) and Sidney Buchbinder (Lloyd '15), Treasurer is Katie Fisher (Ruddock '15), Past-President is Eli Alster (Lloyd '14), and Faculty Advisor is Professor Diana Buchwald. Feel free to contact us at hillelcaltech.edu with any questions -- we are happy to assist in any way we can. Additionally, please send us an email to join our email list.