First Frosh at Stanford Hillel service

Not only did Chelsea Clinton attend Stanford Hillel's Rosh Hashanah services earlier this month — the president's daughter nearly accepted an aliyah.

Although students and campus staff are trying to be nonchalant about Clinton's arrival this fall, Hillel workers acknowledged their excitement about her presence at one of their events.

"This is a first," Julia Caplan, Stanford Hillel's outreach and program director, said this week.

Hillel staff didn't know Clinton was coming to the Oct. 2 morning service, so no special security was arranged. It would have been unnecessary anyway; Clinton has her own security contingent with her at nearly all times.

Her visit was so unexpected that Stephanie Shernicoff, Hillel's administrative manager, didn't recognize the first daughter when she walked into Stanford's Memorial Auditorium with another young woman.

Shernicoff said she didn't identify Clinton because her wavy mane of hair was pulled back into a bun.

"I accidentally offered her an aliyah," Shernicoff said.

At first, Clinton accepted. But her friend let her know the Torah blessings would be in Hebrew. Clinton then declined, and her friend accepted the honor instead.

Shernicoff's brush with the famous freshman didn't hit her until about 15 minutes later when she was standing at the back of the auditorium and saw a Secret Service agent next to her.

"I did one of those good, old-fashioned `duhs,'" Shernicoff said.

The liberal service for nearly 1,000 students and community members was led by Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Stanford's associate dean of religious life.

Shernicoff later saw Clinton sitting among friends in the front center section, which is set aside for students.

She did not see the freshman sitting with her "fabled Jewish boyfriend." This young man, a fellow Stanford student who has attended Hillel's Shabbat dinners in the past, is reportedly the son of a former U.S. Congressmember.

Shernicoff doesn't believe Clinton's attendance caused much of a stir because it was difficult to pick out anyone amid the packed rows of worshippers.

"People didn't expect to see her there. No one was staring at her," Shernicoff said.

Even if individuals did recognize Clinton, Caplan said, they might have pretended otherwise to respect her privacy. "People are really conscious of trying not to make a big deal around her."

Clinton left with her friends just before the service ended. She apparently did not return for Yom Kippur.

This isn't the first time Clinton has attended High Holy Days services. Last year, she showed up at a Hillel service on Yom Kippur at George Washington University in the nation's capital.

Asked whether Clinton's attendance could potentially boost student interest in Stanford Hillel, Shernicoff laughed.

"I don't think we're going to plug this as: `Come to Hillel, you just might see Chelsea.'"