I am entering my sixth year as a Hillel director, and I can say without hesitation that being a Hillel director is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is also one of the most demanding. The sheer number of things that one must be good at to excel as a director is daunting. We serve as CEO’s, educators, counselors, CFO’s, fundraisers, event planners, PR professionals, occasional cooks, and the list could go on. This variety of roles is one of the great challenges and joys of this work. I am constantly growing and learning to be a better professional.
In many ways this job has been a trial by fire. I am formally trained as a rabbi. Through my training, I had some exposure to many aspects of my job and extensive experience in others, but there was plenty for which I was less than prepared. Fortunately, I work in a much larger movement filled with fabulous colleagues who lend support at the drop of a hat. In addition, our “parent” organization, Hillel International, sees professional development and support as a priority.
From attending training for new directors to receiving an experienced Hillel director as a coach during my first year, I have felt supported from the beginning of my Hillel career. This support continues today through my participation in the David M. Cohen Fellowship. Amidst my daily responsibilities and the all-consuming nature of this work I don’t often get the chance to be reflective about my work, leadership style, and presence. There is even less time to consciously work on improving myself as a leader.
The David M. Cohen Fellowship has given me the incredible gift of dedicated time for reflection and renewed focus. The Fellowship is designed for directors who have served for 3-5 years. It offers a 360-degree evaluation of all aspects of a director’s leadership as well as a professional executive coach for 18 months. For me this process has been transformational. Through the 360 evaluation I learned of strengths I did not realize I possessed and gained clarity around those areas where I need to continue to improve.
I have worked to deepen my skills and comfort with being a major gifts fundraiser and on strengthening my executive voice. I do all of this with the expertise of my fantastic coach, who consistently pushes and supports me in this process. The Fellowship has been a true gift for me personally and professionally, as well as for my Hillel.
Each day I am fortunate to work with incredible student leaders who I encourage to challenge themselves personally, Jewishly, and in their leadership abilities. I am privileged to work for an organization that strives to do the same for its professionals. I am honored to now serve as a coach myself for new directors, and I am proud to work for an organization that prioritizes the professional growth and development of its professionals.
Rabbi Jake Rubin is the Executive Director of the Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia and a member of the 2014 cohort of the David M. Cohen Fellowship. In 2009, he received his rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC), from which he also graduated with a Master’s in Hebrew Letters. While at RRC, Jake served as the Jewish Student Advisor at Swarthmore College, an affiliate of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. He also worked as a chaplain for Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia and as an educator and student rabbi for a number of congregations.
Through the generosity of Abby and David Cohen, the David M. Cohen Fellowship guarantees that Hillel’s highest-performing and highest-potential directors are supported with tools to strengthen and sharpen their skills, resulting in greater professional excellence and increased capacity for the Hillels they lead.