Posted by: Jeff Rubin, Associate Vice President on 7/31/2007 4:41:00 PM
After the tragedy of last semester, the summer quiet on the Virginia Tech campus is a welcome respite for Hillel Executive Director Sue Kurtz: a time to reflect and heal. But don’t confuse quiet for inactivity. Sue is using the time to plan an expanded agenda for the coming year.
Hillel has been at Virginia Tech for decades but it was not Sue’s arrival five years ago that the momentum truly picked up. Sue was recognized for her work in December 2006 when she was given an international Hillel award for campus partnership.
With support from the university, and the school’s growing popularity among Jewish students, Jewish life has really taken off. Under Sue’s direction, the school has hosted Elie Wiesel, Dr. Ruth Westheimer (yes, that Dr. Ruth) and Matisyahu. Thanks to Sue, it somehow doesn’t seem strange that these modern Jewish icons would travel all the way to remote Blacksburg, Virginia. Such high-profile programming will continue in the next three years with a grant from the Berrie Foundation for a scholar-in-residence each April in memory of Liviu Librescu, the Jewish engineering professor who lost his life while preventing the gunman from entering his classroom.
Through Sue’s efforts, VTech Hillel’s staff expanded. When tragedy struck in April, and Sue was locked down in a campus building, the Steinhardt JCSC Fellow Talya Mazor was able to work with students barricaded in another facility. Now the staff will expand again as the campus welcomes Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow Tamar Cohen.
The Jewish community has been generous to VTech in the wake of the spring shootings. The United Jewish communities provided $10,000 for emergency programming that enabled Hillel to bring the community together, and the UJC sent a specially-trained rabbi to the campus in the spring to help students process their grief and fear one on one. The UJC will continue to send a rabbi to the Blacksburg campus and community twice a month next semester.
Hillel at Virginia Tech now finds itself in the position of many growing Hillels: ready to take the leap to home ownership. Sue has secured several major capital contributions for a building but the campus Hillel is still far from its development goal.
We are fortunate that Sue Kurtz has created a community that embraces Jews of all beliefs, backgrounds and orientations. Her longstanding experience on campus enabled her to respond quickly to the needs of students and faculty when disaster struck on April 16. She made the Hillel world proud.
At this critical moment in Hokie history, community support continues to be needed to help faculty members and students come to terms with the school’s recent past and to chart a brighter future.
RE: Fall Forward at Virginia Tech
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