Last week, 16 new Hillel directors from campuses across the United States gathered at the Schusterman International Center in Washington, D.C., for a week-long training that has equipped them with new tools for leading a successful Hillel.
New directors attend development session at the SIC.
Over five days, the incoming directors participated in sessions led by various Hillel professionals from both the SIC and the field. These sessions were aimed at helping professionals better understand the Millennial generation, engage students, foster university relations and communicate effectively with lay leadership.
Lisa Kudish, the new Hillel director at Northwestern University, was particularly affected by the relationship building and one-to-one discourse.
"Each conversation helped me to deconstruct the wealth of content provided to us and then reconstruct my thinking about how to go about achieving mission-driven excellence," she said. "The New Directors Institute helped me to focus my heart, ideas and energy in key directions."
Throughout the week, the new directors were introduced to some of Hillel's new initiatives and concepts pertaining to successful student engagement and leadership. A great emphasis was placed on best practices and knowledge sharing from longtime Hillel professionals at both the SIC and in the field.
"The New Directors Institute is a tremendous opportunity for Hillel professionals to come together and engage in high level instruction and discussion," explained Scott Brown, executive vice president of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
In addition, those directors participating in Hillel's next level coaching initiative met with their professional coaches face-to-face for the first time. In those meetings, directors gained powerful insight from seasoned professionals eager to help them succeed in their new role.
Rabbi Seth Goren, the new director at Lehigh University Hillel, said networking with his peers also enhanced the experience.
New director takes notes during training session.
"There is no substitute for having the opportunity to interact with other Jewish professionals who are starting off as Hillel directors," Rabbi Goren said. "These networks make being a part of the Hillel family a fantastic experience. I was particularly struck by the enthusiasm and diversity displayed in this new group of directors and I am confident that we will bring what we have learned from each other back to our campuses and to the rest of the Hillel world."
"Being new to the Hillel family," said Kudish. "These relationships [with colleagues] are of paramount importance and value to me and then by extension, to the students and team at Northwestern University."
The new directors represented campuses in Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missiouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
"We know that what works on one campus may not work on another," said Brown. "For that reason, the New Directors Institute is comprised of a diverse group of professionals on campuses of different sizes and Jewish populations."
Daily text studies were woven in with the week's sessions and practical advice on day-to-day operations was included along with fundraising techniques and performance management tools. Hillel's Success Factors, the specific characteristics that help define a Hillel professional's core competencies, were also presented.
Also this month, nine outstanding Hillel professionals spent three weeks in Israel studying and learning together at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. In addition to their Pardes coursework, the professionals - three from the SIC and six from local Hillels - focused primarily on engagement methodology and professional development.
Over the next six weeks, 300 professionals will be participating in Hillel's new Engagement Institutes, held separately on the East and West Coasts.