More than twenty years ago, the Kristol family of Wilmington, Delaware was approached with an opportunity they never would have imagined. A small but mighty group of local leaders had a vision to grow the Hillel at the University of Delaware from a mom-and-pop operation into a fully functioning organization, complete with a building. It was then that Yetta Chaiken (University of Delaware class of 1944) had a conversation with Dan Kristol, and from there emerged a family commitment to what would become the Kristol Center for Jewish Life at the University of Delaware.
In 1993, the University of Delaware Hillel office, then located above the 5&10 store on Main Street in Newark, Delaware, moved into the Kristol Center for Jewish Life on West Delaware Avenue, a location with heavy foot traffic between east and west campus. From there began an upward trajectory of programmatic, student leadership and professional growth. Today, Hillel at the University of Delaware has a “shem tov” (good name) as an organization known for producing strong student leaders, providing enriching Jewish opportunities and attracting talented professionals.
Twenty years later, brothers Dan, Howard and David, inspired by the model of their parents, Abe and Pearl Kristol, have continued to be ardent and active supporters of the Hillel at the University of Delaware. Though they began with no connection to the university, the Kristol family name is now associated with vibrant Jewish life on campus.
On October 28, 2013, the Kristol Center for Jewish Life, in partnership with the Jewish Studies program, will celebrate 20 years on the University of Delaware campus. The main event will feature a keynote address by Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who will speak on the topic of Fighting Hate & anti-Semitism: 100 Years of Experience and Still Leaning. President of the University of Delaware Patrick Harker will open the evening, along with remarks from Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut.
In addition to the presence of the Kristol family, event co-chair Yetta Chaiken, also an active supporter of Hillel, will be in attendance on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of her commencement from the University of Delaware.
What an honor and a privilege it is to serve as the Executive Director of an organization with such leadership and longevity!
Ronit Sherwin is the Executive Director of the Kristol Center for Jewish Life at the University of Delaware/Hillel Foundation, where she began in 2011.