More than 480 people packed the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in Westchester County for the one-time, sold-out event: a performance of the hit Off-Broadway show, DAI. A benefit for Hillels of Westchester (HOW), which serves students at Manhattanville and Sarah Lawrence Colleges, as well as Purchase, the performance of the acclaimed one-woman show marks HOW’s goal of increasing its visibility within the county.
Westchester County is home to a Jewish population of 150,000, many of whom are not familiar with HOW and its work at area colleges. Stuart Kolbert, president of HOW, intends to change that. “HOW showed that the right community-wide event will engage the community and serve as a forum for getting the word out about the organization,” he said. “The original hope [with this event] was to raise enough money to pay for our overhead, but we did better than that. We are very pleased and we that we have gotten our name out to the community.”
Much of that credit goes to the Hillel students who participated in the event. The students presented photo collages depicting Hillel's on-campus activities and wore t-shirts that said "Ask Me What Hillels of Westchester has done for me."
"Those students were an essential element of why the evening was so meaningful," said event co-chair and HOW Board member Varda Amdur. "People spoke with students about discovering the meaning of Shabbat and finding connections to their Jewish roots."
The Purchase College performance followed closely on the heels of another event that was well attended by students and the community: An Evening with Tovah Feldshuh.
Jettisoning the traditional “speech with a too-brief question and answer” format, the entire program was thrown open to Q & A, prompting an intelligent, funny and insightful look into Ms. Feldshuh’s life as a Jewish performer.
“Tovah had a great connection with the audience,” says Rachel Marie McKay, a Sarah Lawrence senior who is majoring in acting. “She inspired me to further pursue creating my own dramatic material and fashioning my own career."
Currently, HOW is staffed by an executive director, Leebie Mallin, and program Directors, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum (Rabbi Mike) and Ruth Kleinman, who are expanding HOW’s on-campus presence through the formation of the Hillel at Pace University-Pleasantville as an official student club on campus. With the support of its lay board, HOW is in the midst of planning exciting programs for all of its Jewish students, including a once-a-week training program for students interested in becoming Hebrew School teachers and youth group staff, alternative spring breaks in The Gulf Coast, Shabbat dinner with Manhattanville College’s President Richard Berman, as well as a Model Seder and a pre-Passover Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Mike.
For more news like this and up-to-date briefs about Jewish campus life, subscribe to our free eNewsletter Hillel Campus Report.