Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone (left) and Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein.
At a General Assembly in which Hillel students, lay leaders and professionals played leading roles, some moments were extraordinary.
Carnegie Mellon sophomore Lilli Passero, a leader at the Ed and Rose Berman Center for Jewish Student Life in Pittsburgh, sang the national anthems to begin the conference.
Northwestern University senior Marisa Johnson, a former Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative intern, addressed the opening plenary session of the conference.
Jewish Federations of North America CEO Jerry Silverman took time from his busy schedule to speak to Hillel participants. Silverman, the recently appointed head of the organization, pledged to expand cooperative programs with Hillel and expressed his hope that 1,000 students would attend the 2010 GA in Orlando. Silverman is also a member of the University of Maryland Hillel Board of Directors.
Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky said that Hillel plays a critical role on campus in fostering Jewish identity and in speaking out for Israel. He expressed his desire to expand the JAFI-Hillel Israel Fellow Program from 21 to 100 campuses.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein met with Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone more than 20 years after Firestone, then an undergraduate, wrote and staged a play about Edelstein who was imprisoned by the Soviet state for his Jewish activism. Edelstein thanked students such as Firestone and other Western advocates for his release. He called on students to continue to speak out against injustice.
In other Hillel GA news:
Kathy Manning, the wife of Hillel International Board of Governors Chairman Randall Kaplan, became the chair of the UJC Board of Trustees, succeeding Hillel International Board of Governors member Joseph Kanfer. Hillel International Board of Governors member Michael Gelman became the chair-elect of the Executive Committee.
Board of Governors Chairman Randall Kaplan addressed a GA panel on "Peoplehood and Second Generation Philanthropy" as well as a pre-GA program at the Israeli Embassy honoring Taglit-Birthright Israel and MASA: Israel Journey.
Hillel president and CEO Wayne L. Firestone presented on the panel "Renaissance in a Time of Rationing."
Adam Bronfman, member of Hillel's International Board of Governors, addressed the forum "The Jewish Innovation Ecosystem: How Social Entrepreneurship Can Transform Communities."
Sandy Cahn, Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Board of Directors Executive Committee member spoke on the panel "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Comingâ€¦Wait, They're Here!"
Avraham Infeld, Hillel's former president, participated on the panel "Peoplehood: Indicators of Hope."
Charles Bronfman, member of Hillel's International Board of Governors, spoke about his book "The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets the Business Plan."
Hillel activists from across the United States presented on the panel, "Strengthening Identity through Jewish Service Learning." The students were Ben Gittleson (Tufts University), Seth Finkelstein (University of Maryland), Alisa Malki (UCLA), Angie Yucht (Cornell University), Jenna Mitzner (Central Florida Hillel).
Beth Cousens, director, Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience, Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, participated on the panel, "Growing Jewish Education in Challenging Times."
Bruce Sholk, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life assistant treasurer, participated on the panel "Our Mission is Not in Recession: Fundraising in Hard Times."
University of Maryland Hillel's Kol Sasson a cappella group performed at the Jewish Community Event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Carol Smokler, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life vice chair, moderated the panel "Strengthening Israel from Within."
Andrea Hoffman, Hillel's director of immersion experience, spoke at the forum "Taglit-Birthright Israel: Party or Paradigm? Implications for your Community."