"I'm finding my sea legs, and I was hoping to get some structure – what my role is and how best to fulfill it," said Steven Rothstein, the new president of the Hillel at Miami University of Ohio Board of Directors. "I found the conference very valuable, but it's like a bowl of ice cream – I want more."
Rothstein's sentiment rang true for the many Hillel board presidents who joined forces for the first time last week at the inaugural Presidents Institute at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center in Washington, D.C. The 35 board presidents and chairs shared ideas about running an effective board, learned about the resources available at the Schusterman International Center and networked with one another and members of the Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Board of Directors.
"Without excellence, we are not going to achieve what we set out to do," Hillel President Avraham Infeld said. "And we would not be who we are without all of you."
The daylong program allowed participants time to consult with Schusterman International Center professionals and board colleagues in a variety of areas, including development, human resources, federation relations, student life and campus advancement. Lee M. Hendler, a vice chair of the Hillel Board of Directors and a Jewish educator, led a lively discussion about the partnership between lay and professional leaders and the challenges they face. Hillel Board of Directors Chair-Designate Julian Sandler, who has been guiding the board's Strategic Planning Committee during the past year, shared the latest findings from the planning process and ideas for the future of the organization.
Thanks to the hard work of Hillel Board of Directors Secretary Jane Scher, who also chairs the board's lay leadership committee, and other members of the board's executive committee, the institute was a resounding success.
"I really didn't know what to expect ahead of time," said Sue Klapper, the president of North Carolina Hillel's Board of Directors. "But when you talk to other people and find out the challenges they have, they're not that different from us. I got a few good ideas that I think we may be able to do something with."
"I knew I would get something out of it because every time I shut up and listen, I learn something," said Bill Sitzer, the board president at St. Louis Hillel.
Though the institute lasted for only one day, it was more than enough to energize the participants about the coming year and give them valuable information to bring back to their Hillels.
"It is inspiring to be with people so committed to the Jewish future, and they do it because they think it's important for the Jewish people," Klapper said.