Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educators program places innovative teacher-mentors steeped in Jewish learning on campuses to develop meaningful relationships with at least 180 Jewish students each and to infuse Jewish content throughout the Hillel enterprise. Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, with additional support from the David and Inez Myers Foundation, the program grew from five to ten campuses from 2008 to 2009.
Senior Jewish Educators work closely with fellow Hillel professionals and participants in the Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative (CEI) to provide depth for students who are exploring their Jewish identity. Their techniques vary from campus to campus, student to student. For example, at New York University, Rabbi Dan Smokler conducted discussions on Judaism and daily life; and, at the University of California, Los Angeles, Rabbi Brett Krichiver gave guest lectures at the university’s School of Theatre, Film and Television; at the University of California, Berkeley, Rabbi David Kasher accompanied a group of students to a political convention and shared with them Jewish perspectives on social justice.
In May 2009, University of Texas Senior Jewish Educator Devora Brustin accompanied a group of students on an Alternative Break to the Jewish Farm School at the Pearlstone Retreat Center’s Kayam Farm in Reistertown, Maryland. Columbia University student Rivkah Blutstein was so moved by Devora Brustin’s teaching that she created a video.
SJEs are located at the UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Texas, NYU, University of Kansas, University of Delaware, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, The Ohio State University, and Tufts University. Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educators have completed graduate-level training at some of the world’s greatest institutions of higher learning, including the American Jewish University, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Hebrew College Rabbinical School, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Hebrew Union College.
The Parent of a Student at New York University wrote: “Please thank your Senior Jewish Educator for bringing our daughter into the Hillel Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative (CEI). She just returned from the CEI training session. Wow! Whatever you’re doing there, it’s fabulous! We haven’t heard her this excited about Jewish life in a long time, if ever. What you are doing with this Hillel program should be bottled and dispensed to the greater Jewish community. Thank you!”