Minsk Hillel students restore a local synagogue.
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life announced the winners this week of its annual Vision and Values Awards. The five awards were given to Hillels on campuses across the globe: Penn State Hillel
, the Hillel Foundation at Orange County
, the Hillel Society at Lehigh University
, the University of Pennsylvania Hillel
, and Minsk Hillel
Each year, Hillel presents its Vision and Values Awards and the Joseph Meyeroff Award for Meaningful Jewish Experience to recognize Hillels for innovative, dynamic, and engaging work in pursuit of Hillel's mission.Presentation of Awards from eGathering February 3rd, 2010
The awards for work environment and for development were awarded to Penn State Hillel
and the Hillel Foundation of Orange County
. University President Graham Spanier complimented Hillel at Penn State saying, "Without question, this organization is vital for keeping alive the pride and presence of Jewish religious and cultural life in the Penn State community." In Orange County,
Hillel has diversified and expanded its funding by engaging its board members so that they not only give but inspire others to give as well. They have also engaged a prominent lay leader to create a new Advisory Board, and externally, the Hillel has continued to nurture relationships with other agencies to diversify funding, including tripling its Federation allocation.
Two awards were given out to Hillels who are "Indispensible Campus Partners." The Hillel Society at Lehigh University
spearheaded the Senior Greek Spirituality and Religion Initiative aimed at engaging senior Greek students in conversations as they transition out of college. The Director of Lehigh Fraternity and Sorority Affairs comments on the initiative and on Director Seth Goren, saying, "His ability to connect and have honest, frank and supportive conversations have spurred learning opportunities, collaborative outlets and positive challenges that have helped many find community at Lehigh."
At the University of Pennsylvania
, the other winner of the Indispensible Campus Partner Award, students and staff from Hillel took the lead in opposing protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that espouses racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. As one of the university faculty members writes, "When a hate group came to campus, Hillel was the magnet for dozens of groups. When national elections roll around Hillel is there for the voter mobilization drive. Everyone knows and feels comfortable, Jewish or not, relying on Hillel to engage in all of the academic and key extracurricular activities that define Penn at its best." Minsk Hillel
in Belarus received the Joseph Meyerhoff Award for Meaningful Jewish Experience because, despite economic challenges in 2009, it was able to double the number of students participating in its Seminar on Wheels: A Student Expedition to the Jewish Sites of Belarus. Seminar on Wheels is a weeklong experience that stands as a catalyst for future Jewish engagement. The Seminar includes elements of tzedek, Jewish learning, and community building to inspire Jewish students and young adults. Staff follow through by developing relationships with the students and creating space for students to own their Jewish experiences.
Two Hillels were recognized with Honorable Mention awards in this category: Hillel of Argentina for its study abroad initiative and the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University for its Jewish learning initiative.By Communications Intern David Meyer, a first-year student at the University of Maryland.