“Thanks to the path that our educator Dan helped me find, I’ve created many relationships and found a community in which I see myself as an integral, lifelong member. I wouldn’t be in the place I am, Jewishly, without his care and patience. My life has been enriched, and I use the skills I’ve learned to share Judaism with others.”
Over the past five years, on ten pilot campuses, Hillel Senior Jewish Educators have engaged thousands of Jewish students. Senior Jewish Educators are authentic Jewish teachers, relationship builders, and community organizers, and they create measurable differences in the students they meet.
- When Hillel interns trained by Jewish Educators cultivate relationships with their networks of formerly unengaged fellow students, their peers are spurred towards broader and deeper engagement in Jewish life. -Monitor Institute case study
- Following engagement with an Educator, students with minimal backgrounds in Judaism exhibit high levels of Jewish growth.
- Students who were already involved in Jewish life became leaders after working with Educators.
- Educators dramatically impact the Jewish growth of returning Taglit-Birthright Israel participants.
- Adding Educators to local Hillel professional teams deepens the overall Hillel program and ability to deliver high quality Jewish programs.
Hillel Educators have a deep knowledge of Judaism and considerable educational skills. They recognize that for students, grappling with and exploring different points of view while solidifying their identities is an essential part of the college experience. Working personally with 200 students each year, Educators build relationships and introduce students to Jewish opportunities and compelling Jewish ideas. They become a rich resource for staff and student leaders, guide Taglit-Birthright Israel and other immersion trips, and facilitate post-trip discussions.
THE CALLING AND WORK OF SENIOR JEWISH EDUCATORS
Hillel Senior Jewish Educators help engage college students in meaningful Jewish experiences.
Building Jewish self-confidence.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Rabbi Josh Bolton facilitates a project called the Kavanah Initiative. He directs this effort towards students who feel alienated from God or prayer. Many of these students have a minimal background in Judaism including less-than-meaningful or inaccessible Hebrew school experiences. The initiative allows students to explore liturgy, discuss their own ideas, and voice any challenges with God. It also leads students to attend a variety of Shabbat services in Philadelphia, culminating with each student writing and sharing his or her own personal prayer.
Connecting to Jewish peoplehood and community.
At Tufts University, Rabbi Kerrith Rosenbaum developed an alternative option to the traditional Passover seder, as a way to engage students who would not normally attend one on the second night of Passover. The “Choose your Own Adventure Seder,” offered students the opportunity to sign up for a themed table of their choice, from options including: Women’s Table, Queer Community, Interfaith Experience, and Environmental Issues. Student facilitators led each table from a haggadah with themed components, including alternative sets of four questions, four children, and ten plagues, along with a new version of the song dayeinu and a written piece about an addition to the seder plate. Students have already expressed interest in facilitating or adding a particular table in the future.
Broadening Jewish knowledge.
At the University of Maryland, Rabbi Jessica Shimberg serves and accommodates different students in order to facilitate one larger Jewish community on campus. This ranges from discussing how to celebrate Purim as a united group, to how to handle a campus response to bombings in Israel. She meets with students in order to understand how they wish to celebrate a holiday or deal with a situation, and manages to incorporate all wants and needs. Bridging these gaps and promoting a pluralistic environment allows students to comfortably approach something different from what they have known, but also continue to build their Jewish self-confidence.
Creating positive Jewish memories.
At Ohio State University, Rabbi Ben Berger worked with students to create a unique haggadah for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), modeled after the traditional Passover seder, with special rituals and foods. He then coached student leaders and engagement interns to host their own seders for groups of their friends. More than 15 seders engaged 300 students during the week of Yom HaShoah.
An independent study (PDF File) has found that Hillel’s “educators and interns make a measurable difference on the students they meet.”
Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educators initiative is funded in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation.