They've been told their entire lives that they're special. They have an intense drive to succeed. And their ability to multitask puts corporate executives to shame. These and other characteristics of today's college students – dubbed the "Millennial" generation – present new challenges for Hillel as it sets out on an ambitious mission.
"We've created what we call a BHAG – a big, hairy, audacious goal – to double the number of students who have meaningful Jewish experiences," Hillel President Avraham Infeld said. "We want to ensure all Jewish students, from those with a traditional upbringing to those without a strong Jewish background, that there is a warm, welcoming Jewish community for them on campus."
The BHAG is a result of Hillel's recent Strategic Planning Process, which started more than a year ago to help the organization gain a better insight into the lives of Millennials and begin mapping a new strategy to reach out to them effectively. Through a series of surveys and focus groups with students, Hillel professionals, lay leaders, and Jewish community leaders – more than 1,000 stakeholders – Hillel completed a landmark study on the Millennial generation, which will be unveiled at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities in Toronto this week.
The survey of more than 600 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students revealed a lot about the Millennial generation, including greater likelihoods that:
• They are a part of an interfaith family;
• They have a non-Jewish boyfriend or girlfriend;
• They identify as ethnically Jewish rather than religiously Jewish; and
• They feel they have a responsibility to serve not only the Jewish people, but the global community.
This data has helped Hillel focus its mission – "to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world" – and define its core organizational values. With an emphasis on pluralism, social justice, Jewish learning and Israel, Hillel hopes to inspire every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life.
"We have a mission that's broader and more far-reaching than it was before," said Julian Sandler, chairman of Hillel's Strategic Planning Committee, which worked with management consultant Amy Morgenstern and research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland to complete the study.
With the new mission in place and a lofty goal to fulfill, the next step – implementation – has begun. Hillel's Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center and campus professionals are now working on tactics and strategies in the areas of student engagement, leadership development, human resources, financial resources, campus relations and organizational effectiveness that will be presented to the Board of Directors in February.