Elie knew he wanted a change of scenery. Growing up in the small Illinois town of Peoria, he and his sister were the only Jewish students in their high school. It is estimated that less than one percent of Peoria’s population is Jewish. Nevertheless, Elie was raised in an observant Jewish home, attended synagogue weekly and kept kosher.
When it came time for his college search, Elie wanted a campus with an active Jewish community. The University of Kansas was almost a no-brainer. With big college sports, an excellent engineering program, and a top-rated Hillel, KU was a natural fit.
In the Fall of 2017 when he started at KU, Katz found himself active in the University marching band. He is a talented trumpet player. His busy band schedule left little time for other extracurricular activities, and he had less time to attend Hillel events than he would have liked.
Now in his Sophomore year, Elie plans to incorporate more Hillel time into his college experience.
“I always like meeting new people. It’s nice to be active and involved,” Katz said.
Elie began attending KU Hillel’s weekly Beren NextGen Leadership Class in early March of 2018. In addition to the Hillel Class, Elie takes some challenging engineering courses. He said of his current thermodynamics class, “you have to fail to succeed…that’s the tone of engineering. The more time you put in, the better the product turns out.”
Despite the heavy workload, Elie is committed to his mechanical engineering major and the future that will provide. Interested in pursuing a career in biomechanics, he is specifically passionate about developing prosthetics.
“I was really interested in robotics growing up,” mentioned Katz. “[Prosthetics] are an up and coming job market…people are living longer and needing new knees and hips,’ he explained.
With the fact that biomechanics is a growing field, especially in the startup city of Tel Aviv, Elie hopes to spend some time in Israel, starting with a winter Birthright Trip. He discussed the Israeli invention, ReWalk, a battery powered exoskeleton that allows individuals who are paraplegic to walk upright. Of the invention he said, “That is something I would be so game to work on. Making everyone’s lives easier…that is a big part of engineering.”
The amount of goodness and healing that engineering contributes to the world is related to Judaism in Katz’s eyes. “[Engineering] allows me to do tzedakah,” he says.
Tzedakah is the Hebrew word meaning ‘justice’ and is often translated to mean ‘charity’. One of his goals is to make prosthetics more financially accessible.
Katz explains, “[Full limb prosthetics] are expensive, so in the future I’d like to create a way in which those could be affordable to people. With how much I have been given, it’s important to turn it back around.”
Elie reminds us that science and Judaism go hand-in-hand in creating a better world, and that it’s never too late for a student to walk into their first Hillel event or Beren Class.
KU Hillel is thrilled to have Ellie as part of our community. He has a lot to offer, and one day he might even make our bubbies’ hip replacements.