Major Gift in Hillel’s “Drive to Excellence” Campaign to Deepen and Expand Jewish Learning Experiences for Students
WASHINGTON -- Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, has received a new $16 million grant over five years from the Jim Joseph Foundation, positioning the organization to provide significantly more and better educational experiences to Jewish students on college campuses. The Foundation’s grant—the largest it has ever awarded—comes as Hillel begins its Drive to Excellence, which will help campuses and communities around the world implement the best practices for supporting Jewish student life.
“We are excited and deeply humbled to receive this grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, which will position Hillel International to begin implementing its Drive to Excellence campaign,” says Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO of Hillel International. “As a global movement, we are intent on utilizing best practices to inspire every single Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning, and Israel.”
Hillel is following an ambitious business plan, developed over the last year, which offers a detailed set of activities to help the organization achieve the goals outlined in the Drive to Excellence. The plan paints a rich picture of what it means to be an “excellent Hillel”—from a dynamic range of programs to nurturing a supporting environment for personal growth—and presents three pillars on which Hillel is building to achieve this excellence: 1) Recruiting and Developing Talent, 2) Student Engagement, and 3) Resource Development. With these funds, the Schusterman International Center will focus significant attention on building a robust talent pipeline, increasing the financial resources available across the movement and ensuring that data, best practices and services for achieving the desired student outcomes are accessible to all. The Jim Joseph Foundation hopes this investment catalyzes others to help Hillel develop its capacity to address all of these areas and to track and measure its success.
“When it comes to reaching, educating, and inspiring Jewish college students, Hillel is unsurpassed,” says Al Levitt, President of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “The Drive to Excellence is a strategic, deeply thoughtful initiative that can expand Hillel’s already effective efforts. This campaign warrants a grant of this magnitude, and we hope others are moved by the exciting possibilities too.”
A guiding principle in Hillel’s efforts is the critical role of the Jewish educator, both in developing meaningful relationships with students and in having the skills to impart Jewish learning. In 2008, with a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, Hillel launched its Senior Jewish Educator/Campus Entrepreneur Initiative pilot program, which demonstrated the combined power of talented educators and students committed to engaging their friends. Building on this initial Jim Joseph Foundation-Hillel partnership, the Foundation’s new grant to Hillel represents an increasingly deep partnership between funder and grantee.
“At the core of our Drive to Excellence plan is developing quantitative and qualitative strategies for measuring excellence on every campus, with the goal of 50 Hillels reaching excellence by 2020 and the other 85 percent improving annually,” Fingerhut said. “This grant will allow us to experiment with new fundraising models to grow the revenue of local Hillels, and help recruit more talent throughout the Hillel movement.”
Hillel offers students from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds a range of opportunities in which they can engage in Jewish life and make meaningful connections with peers and with educators. The organization is a leading provider of Birthright Israel trips; partners closely with the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the iCenter on Israel education and advocacy activities; partners with Repair the World on alternative spring break trips and other service learning experiences; and works with Mechon Hadar, Pardes Institute, and the Shalom Hartman Institute to offer access to specialized immersive Jewish learning programs for students and staff. Hillel’s Schusterman International Center is the hub for this planning and coordination, while also providing centralized support to its broad network of local campus Hillels that serve 550 campuses with an estimated population of 400,000 college Jewish students.
The Foundation and Hillel both note that Hillel’s impact on students is seen long after they graduate, with many of them participating in post-college Jewish young adult life in their local communities and working as Jewish professionals. Hillel recently has begun to more proactively encourage the “pipeline of involvement” through deepened partnerships with BBYO and Moishe House.