The 2021-22 Hillel International Student Cabinet came together in Washington D.C. earlier this month for the first time in two years as part of our annual summit. Made up of 20 student leaders with unique backgrounds and Jewish upbringings from all across the globe, we came together for a week of relationship building, professional development, and goal setting to inspire their work this academic year. Here are 5 takeaways we'd like to share from this exciting and meaningful experience.
1. This gathering was needed now more than ever
This was mentioned so many times throughout the weekend that it bears repeating even more: the truth is that, prior to this weekend, many of us were doubtful about their involvement this year. Another year remotely via Zoom? Barely meeting anyone in person? Why would we be excited about this opportunity? By the time the first day's programming ended, we saw just how impactful this experience would be. We laughed, cried, became inspired, and most importantly, reignited our passions for Hillel and Jewish life that felt dormant for so long.
2. This year’s Student Cabinet is passionate about combatting anti-Zionism and antisemitism
All throughout the summit, students shared their personal pain of what happened on campus from the violence back in May: friendships lost, Hillel being isolated on campus, hate speech and graffiti, and so much more, as we discussed the role that Hillel International can play in addressing these issues on campus. Our student cabinet this year is passionate about creating safe and secure environments for Jewish students on campus and we see our role on the student cabinet as furthering that cause. Together, we want to help students understand what resources exist at Hillel International when it comes to reporting incidents, educating administration, and even resources for activism on campus.
3. Mental Health Will Continue to Be a Priority
Several members of the student cabinet discussed areas in which Hillel can be doing more to address mental health issues on campus. While we are deeply appreciative of the work already being done, we realize that Hillel will need to continue to step up in ways that universities simply will not. We will continue this conversation throughout the academic year.
4. A Space For Young Alumni at Hillel International
Hillel International President and CEO Adam Lehman offered this idea to us, which we immediately fell in love with: "What if there was an advisory board of young alumni at Hillel International? What about a network of alumni across the country who mentor and connect with current college students?" For students who have been personally touched by Hillel, the desire to enhance Jewish life doesn’t end when they leave campus.
5. Never underestimate the power of the Student Voice
If this week has taught us anything, it’s that we - and all Hillel students - are not going to let any challenges on campus stop us from creating lasting change. We are energized and ready for what lies ahead, and know that we can count on each other to accomplish anything in our way.