Megan was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Masa-Hillel Fellows. The fourteen fellows came together for a six-month professional development seminar during their time in Israel through a partnership between Hillel and Masa. Learn more about the cohort here.
During my time volunteering in Israel last year as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, I attended a Leadership Seminar hosted by Masa. We listened to passionate Jewish leaders from all over the world speak about the importance and intricacies of Jewish peoplehood and we attended workshops building our personal leadership traits and styles. After the seminar was complete, I was left with one major question: Will I be a leader who is Jewish or will I be a Jewish leader?
I felt conflicted. On one hand, I grew up in small-town West Virginia where my involvement in Jewish life rested solely upon my willingness to seek it out. With little resources, I was not exposed to the many Jewish organizations or educational systems my Jewish peers knew. On the other hand, because I sought out a Jewish education and community, I developed an immense ownership and love for my Jewish identity.
After the Leadership Seminar, I recognized my newly developed leadership traits, felt a spark in my passion for Judaism, and pursued the first ever Masa-Hillel Fellowship to further explore my trying question. Through the Masa-Hillel Fellowship, we had the joy of working with Hillel International Staff, Israeli professionals, and Jewish leaders who would share with us their direct experiences in working with Hillel and Jewish youth.
It was while delving into the vitality of relationship-based engagement with Esther Abramowitz, Hillel Director of Israel Experiences, exploring the different roles within the Hillel world with Jamie Schiffman, Hillel Director of Professional Development, and studying Torah with Yaffa Epstein, Pardes Director of Strategic Partnerships and some of the best teachers in Israel, I realized Hillel aligned perfectly with the type of work I wanted to be doing.
Fast-forward four months to the follow-up Masa event which was also our last meeting for the Masa-Hillel Fellowship. We were asked to introduce ourselves to the other Masa participants and share our passion in life (which is much harder to answer than your typical fun fact or favorite ice cream flavor). When it was my turn, I said what came most natural, "My name is Megan and I am passionate about the Jewish journey - yours, mine, anyone's path I find so interesting." My friend Debbie, now the Assistant Director at the Brody Jewish Center at UVA, quickly whispered, "How Hillel of you!"
When my experiences in Israel came to an end, I landed in the arms of Indiana University Hillel. I am living and breathing the work of Hillel, and I am grateful it aligns with exactly what I envisioned myself doing in all those Masa-Hillel workshops a little under a year ago. I am so excited my job allows me to do things like connect coffee to Chanukah, empower student leadership in a Jewish setting, and engage students within the opportunistic world of Hillel.
Megan Garrett is the Engagement Associate at Indiana University Hillel. She spent this past year volunteering in Israel as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow and is a graduate of Marshall University.