By Ammi Field
January 27, 2003 -- Serving commuter students in Chicago has always been a priority for The Hillels of Illinois, but in the fall of 1999 things changed. As a recipient of a priority grant from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, The Hillels of Illinois increased its staff from one professional working part-time with commuter campuses, to two full-time professionals, including a director and a Jewish Campus Service Corps (JCSC) Fellow. This was an exciting endeavor and the division of commuter campus services quickly became Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center (HAC).
Under the lay leadership of Dan Wander and Wendy Berger Shapiro, HAC soared to new heights in an incredibly short period of time. HAC currently serves eight campuses in and throughout Chicago including DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University, Oakton Community College, Roosevelt University, Illinois Institute of Technology, The School of the Art Institute, National-Louis University and Columbia College. With over 2,000 Jewish students on these campuses combined, HAC has identified over 850 Jewish students and provides quality programming for students.
"The lifestyle of a commuter student is different than those on a residential campus, but the Jewish needs are the same, " said Ammi Field, director of Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center. "As HAC has evolved, both programmatically and developmentally, we recognize that there is a great responsibility to make sure that we are providing a variety of entry points for students, so that they can connect in the ways that are most meaningful to them".
Through the hard work of senior JCSC fellow Kerry Bayowitz, students have daily opportunities to connect Jewishly. On any given day Kerry may be on campus tabling, organizing a women's Rosh Chodesh program, hosting a "Dishing with the JCSC" at a kosher restaurant to discuss current issues, or planning an open mike night. Just as important as the programs are the one-on-one relationships fostered with commuter students. Their lives are so busy between work, school, commuting time and family commitments, so the one-on-one is essential to the success of HAC. "I make sure that I am calling students on a regular basis, meeting them for coffee or staying after a program to talk with them. It is exciting to see students discover that Judaism is relevant to their lives," noted Kerry.
According to Dan Wander, HAC co-chair, "After two years of serving commuter students through HAC, it became evident that we were providing the same quality of programming as other Hillel foundations locally and nationally and it was a natural progression to take HAC to the next step."
"To our surprise, HAC had really become its own entity, but it was lacking formal recognition for the services it provides to the students," added Wendy Berger Shapiro, HAC co-chair.
A motion was made and passed by The Hillels of Illinois Governing Commission last spring to submit a request to the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Board (FJCL) board this October for HAC to be recognized as a Hillel foundation. "Hillel began in Illinois at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1923. There are currently four Hillel foundations in Illinois and the last foundation was set in the 1960s at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Hillels Around Chicago is the first new foundation in Illinois in over 35 years, and that is very exciting," said Robert W. Matanky, chair for The Hillels of Illinois Governing Commission, who was at the FJCL meeting Oct. 27 when the motion was passed to make HAC a recognized Hillel foundation.
"A commitment like this is twofold," added Ammi. "At Hillel we are making a commitment to the community that the Jewish needs of commuter students will be met, and with this recognition, the community is making a commitment to us, that they will help us to meet those needs."
"We at The Hillels of Illinois want HAC to grow and flourish, and getting this recognition is an accomplishment to the board and staff and raises HAC to a new level," commented Matanky.
For more information about Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center contact Ammi Field, director at (312) 357-4703 or firstname.lastname@example.org.