Hillel Accreditation team in front of Hillel Uruguay. From left: Nati Sperber, Luciano Griboff, Bea Mandel, Lynne Harrison, Edith Everett, Gabriel Trajtenberg.
From March 14-18, a team of Hillel professionals, lay leaders and students visited Hillel Uruguay to examine its operation and to consider whether to confer accreditation - Hillel's "hecksher" on local operations that meet its Standards of Excellence.
This is the first Hillel in Latin America to undergo this process and only the second Hillel outside of North America to do so. The first was Hillel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The decision to consider Hillel Uruguay's candidacy for accreditation reflects the vitality of the operation and its impact on the community.
"Last year I visited Montevideo, Uruguay and was enormously impressed with their Hillel and the entire Jewish community of 14,000, which supports over 60 Jewish organizations, literally cradle-to-grave," said Dr. Lynne B Harrison, Chair of Hillel's Accreditation Committee. "This Hillel is filled with committed, caring lay leaders, a creative professional staff, and involved students with a strong passion for social justice and tzedek, Israeli culture, and social issues. These young people are being empowered to act on ideas that emerged from their friendsâ€”in fact, as [Hillel's International Board of Directors Chair] Bea Mandel said, 'They are living CEI.'"
Over the course of five days, the accreditation team met with Hillel Uruguay's staff, students, and local board members, as well as leaders from Montevideo's universities and Jewish communities. The team also had dinner with the former President of Uruguay, Dr. Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera.
This visit, the culmination of months of preparation by Hillel Uruguay's staff and board, yielded some surprising results.
"The process of accreditation has been a bit like going to a psychologist," said Hillel Uruguay Executive Director Fabian Schamis. "It's been incredible to get to know ourselves in this way, to see our strengths and our weaknesses."
This sentiment was echoed by Hillel Uruguay Board President Ricardo Hofstadter. "This process has been one of the richest exercises we've embarked on in the last five years," said Hofstadter. "Whatever the final outcome of the accreditation, this organizationâ€”and our Board in particularâ€”has been revitalized."
While the accreditation team will analyze their findings in order to make their recommendation to the Accreditation Committee, the staff and board of Hillel Uruguay are already looking ahead.
"We are excited to launch into the next chapter," said Schamis. "Based on what we learned during this process, Hillel Uruguay is ready to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose."
And the impacts of this accreditation are poised to be felt throughout the Hillel family.
"It is my strong belief that accreditation is a 2-way streetâ€”we have as much to learn from each Hillel with which we undergo the accreditation process, as we have to teach them," said Harrison. "Increasingly, all of us are realizing the enormous benefits to be reaped from true globalization of Hillel."
The Hillel Uruguay accreditation team was led by Dr. Lynne B Harrison, Chair of Hillel's Accreditation Committee and a member of Hillel's International Board of Governors, and consisted of: Bea Mandel, Chair of Hillel's International Board of Directors, Edith Everett, member of Hillel's International Board of Governors and Board of Directors and "Mother of Hillel Accreditation", Gabriel Trajtenberg, Regional Director of Hillel Latin America, Nati Sperber, Director of Program Professional Development at the Schusterman International Center, and Luciano Griboff, Hillel student activist from Hillel Cordoba in Argentina.