New York's business leaders convened recently to discuss the futures market, but they weren't referring to stocks and bonds. Rather, it was the future of Jewish life at Baruch College on the agenda when the new Baruch College Hillel Board of Directors had its inaugural meeting. Executives from the world's top financial firms, Baruch College administrators and Hillel professionals met as a group for the first time and set the framework for the upcoming year.
"I think everybody was extremely excited. I think we have a very high-powered and generous board," said Andy Sternlieb, the new board chair.
Baruch College, a member of the City University of New York system, once served a student body that was 80 percent Jewish in the 1960s, but that figure decreased sharply in the two decades that followed. When the Jewish population began to grow once again in the 1990s, Hillel did as well. One Hillel served the students at both Baruch and Hunter Colleges, but now Hillel can better cater to the specific needs of the students at each college by establishing separate centers.
For Baruch College students, the majority of whom study business at the top-ranked school, that means programs and services with a strong business flavor. Seminars with local business leaders, mentorship and internship programs and an executive-in-residence initiative are all possibilities the board is exploring. And since the Jewish students at Baruch come from a wide variety of backgrounds – Russian, Sephardic and Israeli, among others – the activities should speak to their cultural interests as well.
"This is going to be a success for hundreds of students who are studying there, hundreds of students from very different backgrounds. It is not only a college of immigrants, but a college that mixes immigrants with the world of business. That uniqueness is something that so many of our colleges will be able to learn from – your experiences and your successes," Hillel President Avraham Infeld said via video.
Among the first items on the board's agenda is finding a new Hillel executive director by the end of the year, according to Sternlieb. Members also plan on expanding the board, albeit slowly, and recruiting female business executives to join.
"Our goal is to keep the board very small, but we want gender and professional diversity," Sternlieb said.
The reinvigorated Hillel will also benefit from the strong support of UJA-Federation of New York and Baruch College administrators. Ben Corpus, the college's vice president for student development, and Dave Gallagher, the senior vice president for institutional advancement, both attended the meeting and have played active roles in creating the new vision for Hillel on their campus.
"They left the meeting impressed and pleased with our efforts to strengthen Hillel and Jewish life on campus," said Rob Goldberg, Hillel's vice president for campus advancement.