Normally, I have no time to stop and think about why I love working for Hillel; being a regional director for 13 Hillels keeps me busy almost 24/7. But when I was asked the question, I began wondering – how is it even possible to be in love with my job after so many years? Is there a secret? To discover it, I knew I had to look back at the very beginning.
Back in the early 90’s, when the Jewish community in Kiev was just a vision and a dream, I absolutely did not see myself coming to be a Hillel director or even to be connected to Hillel. There was no Hillel, after all. When I was offered the chance to start a Hillel, I didn’t say “yes” immediately. It took time, effort and the wisdom of my beloved friend and mentor Rabbi Yossie Goldman to persuade me to share his vision for the future of Jewish youth in Ukraine. I became a Hillel Kiev director in 1996.
Now, years later, I am working with 13 Hillels in 6 countries and I cannot get enough of the joy and emotion I experience each day while working with my staff and interacting with our wonderful students! I admire all the people I have the honor of working with every day. My approach to the Jewish community is based on creating a “mishpacha” (family) environment where everyone feels at home.
Hillel is a family for me, so loving my job is easy, just like loving your family. Every day I do my best to take care of them, to provide needed support, to help them grow and to be successful, to make all the great things done by Hillel happen. I guess this is the key – I love my big Jewish Hillel family.
It is a fantastic feeling of bliss to know that I do love working for Hillel. Even 20 years later, I love what I do every single day, supported by my Hillel family worldwide and our most reliable partners at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the JDC, and the Genesis Philanthropy Group.
Osik Akselrud has served as the Regional Director of Hillel in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia since 2002. He is also the Founder of Kiev Hillel and Executive Director of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. Osik is a Kiev native and holds a degree in Engineering from Moscow University. In 1996, he created the “Aviv” student club at the International Solomon University, which later became the foundation of Hillel in Kiev.