This guest post is written by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student Robbie Schnitzer, student president of Hillel at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
From February 22-24, the Big Ten Hillel Network Shabbaton took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. About 50 students and faculty from most Big Ten schools, along with 150 active Illinois students, joined us for an amazing weekend. It began with services and Shabbat dinner, which were followed by a concert by three Illinois A cappella groups, each led by a Jewish student who was excited to show off their skills. The night ended with an Oneg (a celebratory gathering), with singing and excitement for the next day’s activities.
Saturday began with services and lunch, followed by the featured leadership speaker: Lisette Zaid of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, who runs the JUF Lewis Summer Internship Program. Having Zaid speak to these Jewish leaders was invaluable, particularly as she explained to students what employers look for.
Students led breakout sessions on Saturday afternoon, and each class I attended was great, and I was happy to learn from other students and Hillel professionals. Afterwards, a megillah reading and pizza party revived everyone, and the night was capped off with a rocking Purim costume party. The Shabbaton ended with a bagel brunch on Sunday, complete with plenty of pictures taken with new friends. Though the weekend was over, the learnings will stay with each participant. The main purpose was to create Jewish leaders, and I believe this Shabbaton was a success because of the learning and networking which occurred.
I am so proud to have been involved in this first ever Big Ten Hillel Network Shabbaton and am thankful for everyone who planned, attended, and supported it. I cannot express how exciting it was to be the president at Illini Hillel, the first Hillel ever created, during this weekend. I was impacted greatly by the people I met and collaborated with. This event and the experiences resulting from it make a better Illini Hillel and improve the other Hillels around the Big Ten. I can’t wait for next years’ Shabbaton!