Among the many faces at Hillel Institute: August Convening, the annual gathering of Hillel students and professionals for engagement training beginning this week at Washington University in St. Louis, will be twelve Jewish students from Germany. Sending the delegation is the culmination of several years’ work to establish a successful system of Hillels in Europe. The students, along with supervisors Johannes Frank and Rabbi Tobias Simon, are attending to learn about Hillel and its mission at universities around the world.
The students attend universities across Germany, and are part of a German government-funded scholarship program called the Ernst Ludwig Erlich Student Fund, or ELES. Established five years ago, ELES awards scholarships to gifted Jewish university student leaders. There are currently three hundred ELES scholars. Johannes Frank is the Director of ELES.
“Hillel hopes to pivot around these students, after their training, to create four new Hillel hubs around Germany,” noted Robert Goldberg, Hillel International’s Vice President of Leadership and Governance.
Hillel has partnered with ELES to bring the delegation to St. Louis in August, thanks in no small part to Rabbi Yossie Goldman, the founder of Hillel Israel and Hillel in the former Soviet Union, who has spearheaded efforts to launch European Hillels. “With this partnership, Hillel will expand its global impact into Europe,” said Goldman.
Goldman has been working with ELES since April 2013, when a Hillel pilot program launched in Heidelberg, Germany. It was through this program that the model of a Hillel “hub” was created. The hubs act as central stations, with smaller Hillel micro-communities throughout the surrounding region. This model works best for the decentralized university system in Europe. By introducing local Jewish leaders to Hillel, their communities will be better equipped to establish four proposed hubs in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt.
“These hubs are to be established in the next twelve months and staffed initially by ELES scholars,” said Goldman. “We will look to empower the 300 ELES scholars to implement this project.”
Hillel will implement national seminars and conferences for the proposed Hillel hubs, as well as training seminars for key student leaders. The ELES delegation at Institute is critical for initial training and knowledge about Hillel’s charge of providing a Jewish environment within communities and universities. With this understanding, the delegation will go into their hometowns and create Jewish micro-communities, supported by their Hillel hub, engaging unaffiliated young Jews.
“The Hillel hub will provide programming within the community, as well as training and micro-funding to students who live in neighboring communities, so they can create Hillel-type programming outside of the major cities,” said Goldman. “We hope the model will empower students to engage others in their communities.”
“This is our first attempt to do engagement training with a non-Hillel group,” said Goldberg. “We are very excited.”
Iva Quint is the summer communications intern at Hillel International in Washington, DC. She is a rising junior at the University of Virginia, from Alexandria, VA.