Students’ interactions with their campus Hillels correlate to a significant increase in the students’ positive connections with Jewish life. This is the key finding of a survey conducted by Hillel International over the past two years as part of an ongoing effort by the organization to use hard data to improve student experiences.
Hillel’s 2016 survey of more than 10,000 Jewish college students from across North America and the former Soviet Union found that students’ connection to Jewish life grows with each interaction. At least six interactions with Hillel programs and staff per year had the strongest result.
The research factored out any prior Jewish experiences students may have had before college, in order to calculate the unique “Hillel effect” on students. In every area of desired Jewish growth, Hillel was found to have a medium to high effect. The results of this survey highlight the impact engaging with Hillel has on students and suggests that participation with Hillel programming can inspire many Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.
“Our survey shows that with each engagement with a local Hillel on campus, our students feel more connected to their heritage and more interested in engaging in Jewish life. That is why Hillel’s engagement programs are so important,” said Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International.
Key findings of the survey include:
- 38 percent of students surveyed reported that they participate in six or more Hillel activities per year, with 18 percent saying they engaged with Hillel four or five times.
- Six interactions with Hillel correlated with significantly more engagement in Jewish life, in a way that is comparable to a single Birthright Israel trip or other high-impact experience.
- The survey found engagement with Hillel can significantly grow a student’s Jewish knowledge and connection to Jewish life, while increasing their Jewish social network.
- Interactions with Hillel raised students’ appreciation for Judaism’s centrality in their lives as well as their connection to Israel.
This research was conducted as part of Hillel’s Drive to Excellence, a data-driven effort to improve the organization’s reach and engagement with students on campus. The goal is to develop quantitative and qualitative strategies to measure excellence on every campus, with the goal of 50 Hillels reaching excellence across all metrics by 2020 and the other 85 percent improving annually. The measurement program began with 18 campus Hillels in 2014 and has expanded to include 82 campuses across Hillel’s global network.
As organizations become more data-oriented, Hillel International is leading the way in using quantitative analysis to better meet the needs of every Jewish student on campus. In addition to this regular survey of Jewish students, Hillels participating in measurement submit annual data on the numbers of students engaged, the types and frequency of student interactions, as well as data on finances, staffing and other key measures to understand what best correlates with achieving greatest student impact. Analyzing these results will help Hillel pursue its goal of ensuring that every Jewish student feels welcome in the Jewish campus community and personally connected to their heritage.
“Hillel’s measurement program equips our campus professionals with the data necessary to develop the programs and initiatives that can engage students on every campus Hillel,” Fingerhut said. “This research allows us to better use Hillel’s sophisticated peer-to-peer engagement programs to reach beyond our walls and develop stronger Jewish communities on campus.”
Hillel’s most recent survey of Jewish college students was conducted in February 2016 at 48 Hillels, representing 73 campuses. The study was led by Rosov Consulting.