By University of Arizona Hillel Executive Director Michelle Blumenberg and San Diego State University Hillel Director Jackie Tolley
The Brandeis-Bardin Campus.
Fifty Hillel professionals from California, Arizona, Oregon and Nevada came together in July to educate themselves, to network and to be inspired in preparation for the new academic year at the annual Western Hillel Organization (WHO) Conference, held at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University.
With the challenges Hillel professionals are facing -- including the economy, world situation, Israel, and more -- co-deans Michelle Blumenberg, executive director of Hillel at the University of Arizona, and Jackie Tolley, director of Hillel at San Diego State University, chose the theme “Looking Through a New Prism” to remind staff of the need to look at things with new eyes as we move toward reaching our goals this year.
Among the highlights:
- Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, started everyone thinking by speaking about “A Decade at Bernie’s: The Ethical Crisis in Contemporary Jewish Life.”
- Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, executive director of San Diego Hillel, led an interactive session that prompted staff to grapple with how to integrate Jewish stories into their daily work.
- Cal State Northridge Hillel professionals Renee Cohen Goodwin, executive director, and Adam Siegel, program director, convened a panel that focused on “No More Business as Usual: Tackling Challenges from a New Direction” with speakers reflecting on three issues chosen by staff: Arlene Miller, associate director of Jewish Student Life of Hillel at UCLA, spoke about new ways to think about student leadership; Alex Kojfman, director of community outreach and leadership at University of Southern Califormia, shared thoughts on using new technology; and Adam Naftalin-Kelman, executive director of Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley, shared ideas for creative budgeting.
The conference included several Jewish learning sessions, meetings with cohort groups of like-campuses and of job types, and two great evening programs. Filmmakers from New Love Films presented their film “Praying in Her Own Voice,” a documentary about the Women of the Wall movement followed by a question and answer session. The next night, a representative from Royal Wine Distributors (which sells over 400 kosher wines) conducted a fun and informative kosher wine-tasting which was followed by musical entertainment.
Throughout the conference, special attention was paid to welcoming new professionals into the Hillel family and a new tradition began: celebrating the accomplishments of colleagues over the past year at a wine and cheese reception.
A very special part of this year’s conference was the participation of Hillel Executive Vice President Scott Brown, Vice President for External Affairs Rob Goldberg and Hillel Board of Directors Chair Beatrice S. Mandel. It was great to spend time with them and everyone had the opportunity to get to know one another better. They all led sessions that shared a sense of moving forward: the current direction of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center, “Building Boards that Lead” and “Navigating Your Career Path.” It was the first time the Board of Directors chair participated in a WHO conference and the staff was particularly impressed with Bea Mandel’s thorough understanding of Hillel, her openness in answering questions and her passion for the work of Hillel.
WHO has conducted an annual conference for many years and staff look forward to sharing and learning from one another in a beautiful, informal setting and to enjoying the company of terrific colleagues. Informative, thought-provoking and fun, it was a great way to kick-off a new academic year.