"On the first day of August, on a hill in LA,
The professionals gathered to learn and to play…"
The Los Angeles campus of the University of Judaism became Dr. Seuss' famous "WHO-ville" for three days as more than 60 Hillel professionals from across the West gathered for the Western Hillel Organization (WHO) Staff Conference. The event included workshops on such topics as evangelicals and Israel, running b'nai mitzvah classes, working with the children of intermarried, and Israel on campus.
One of the highlights of the event for many participants was a presentation by Hillel Director of Strategic Resource Management Graham Hoffman on how Hillel professionals can best respond to the needs of the current generation of Jewish college students.
"I felt inspired, invigorated and proud to work for an organization that has dependably reinvented itself every time there was a necessity to change," said Josh Miller, director of the Jconnect program at University of Washington Hillel. "It is this kind of dynamism that keeps me in Hillel."
Joshua A. Kashinsky, acting executive director of Santa Barbara Hillel, valued "the opportunity to discuss, in depth, some of the core challenges facing Hillel and to think about the best way for us, on a local level, to be sticking to our ultimate vision."
WHO professionals discussed Hillel's new mission statement at length and grappled with the issue of providing Jewish students with "meaningful Jewish experiences."
"I found our discussion about 'meaningful Jewish experiences' to be meaningful in and of itself," said University of Arizona Hillel Foundation Executive Director Michelle Blumenberg. "Those particular conversations were meaningful — we discussed tachlis issues about our work and the impact that we have on our students/communities. They were Jewish — we were with our Jewish colleagues. They were real experiences — sitting in both a bar and at the UJ having deep conversations in a great communal context."
WHO professionals appreciated the opportunity to meet colleagues old and new at the event.
"The WHO conference is a great way to get in gear for the new academic year," said San Diego State University Hillel Director Jackie Tolley. "For the most part, I find that my West Coast colleagues best understand the arena in which I work, with our students and communities fitting a similar profile. It's also a welcome chance to interact with the staff who come from the Schusterman International Center. I want to get to know them better and I also want them to understand the West."
The 2006 WHO Conference will take place July 31-Aug. 2 and will be chaired by Arlene Miller, program director at UCLA Hillel, and Mychal Copeland, rabbi at Stanford Hillel.
"They debated the mission, they planned for the fall
They sought out new answers and finally found
A student's a student, no matter how small."