Eleven years after its inception, the Berman Fellowship at the University of Michigan Hillel is undergoing some major changes. Previously only open to recent college graduates, Berman Fellow candidates will now be talented young professionals with several years of work and life experience behind them.
"A person with demonstrated skills and aspirations who is further along in terms of his or her personal and professional maturity will be able to better contextualize and internalize the unique learning experience this Fellowship provides," explains Scott Brown, Hillel vice president of human resources. "In turn, the individual will be more prepared to take the next leadership step of becoming a Hillel senior professional following their experience at Michigan."
Philanthropist and Jewish educator Mandel "Bill" Berman, for whom the Fellowship is named, selected the University of Michigan Hillel and Executive Director Michael Brooks because of the campus' outstanding reputation for engaging Jewish students. Brooks, considered among
Hillel professionals to be a master teacher, was well-equipped to provide expert training on student engagement, programming, counseling, marketing, fundraising, community relations and organizational management.
"UM's Hillel is among the strongest in terms of student population and engagement level," says Brown. "Michael Brooks has invested the last 30 years to make it the success that it is. It is a true privilege for an aspiring Hillel professional to receive training at the University of
Likewise, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life benefits from the Fellowship by recruiting and helping to develop highly qualified and dynamic talent. The Berman Fellowship is an opportunity for Hillel to invest in future leaders as they grow their skills through hands-on experience at the University of Michigan.
"During the past several years the Berman Fellowship has attracted some remarkable young professionals, many of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to the Jewish community on campus and beyond," says Michael Brooks. "It is now poised to become a more focused training program for someone who is seriously committed to a career as a campus Jewish professional."
Brooks likens the new Berman Fellowship to a hospital residency for a new MD, calling it "a paradigm that may soon be replicated at other schools that also have much quality teaching and training to provide for potential Hillel professionals."
Since 1997, Berman Fellows have gone on to work for Hillel in various capacities. Megan Nesbitt, a Berman Fellow during the 2000-1 school year, worked at Brown Hillel for two years before moving to Israel. Upon her return to the United States, she assumed the role of interim director/assistant director at Brown Hillel.
Ben Berger, a 2002-3 Berman Fellow, remained with Hillel as a program director before entering rabbinical school at Yeshivat Chovavei Torah.
The Schusterman International Center is now accepting applications for the 2008-9 Berman Fellowship program. Please contact Jamie Schiffman for more information.