Hillel Professionals (e)Gathering

Yesterday, I attended my first professional development event as a Hillel leader.

The event was centered around an online talk by National Hillel President Wayne Firestone about Hillel – present and future.  Hillel leaders were encouraged to gather regionally to watch the broadcast, share a meal, and have a discussion about our work.  I wasn’t that inspired by the talk but it was really nice to be amongst colleagues from other Ohio universities including Miami University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University (our host), and the University of Cincinnati.  I was amazed by the differences and similarities of our day-to-day work and challenges.

One thing I learned is that whether the estimated Jewish population at an institution is 40 or 4,000, you will never connect with everyone.  Some students never seek out Jewish Life on campus because they weren’t raised in religious homes, others intentionally avoid it because they were overwhelmed with religious obligations as kids and want to take a break.  Hillel developed a peer-to-peer program to reach out to these students to let them know what’s happening on their campus, and find out how they can get involved at a level that feels comfortable and appealing to them.  The Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative recruits affable students with broad social networks who identify openly as Jews, to talk about being Jewish with other students.  Each entrepreneur is expected to recruit a set number of students for involvement in Jewish Life activities each year, and they are paid for their time.  CEI introduced 800 new students to the Hillel at Ohio State last year.  Clearly that number does not compute at OWU, but I think the idea might be one we can build on.

OWU Hillel has a buzz right now.  The question is, how long can we maintain it on my part-time contract and the backs of a few student leaders.  We need more students to get involved, first to show up at events, but also, to get involved in imagining and planning those events.  The Ohio State Hillel is looking into a way to share their experiences with CEI with us and other smaller campuses in Ohio.  I hope some of you will join me to meet with student entrepreneurs and their leaders in Columbus once that event is planned.  I know some of you are very eager to grow the number of affiliated OWUJews, and I think this would be a great way to do that.

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