Hailing from Santa Barbara, California, Tbilisi, Georgia and a dozen points in between, the 15 early career professionals selected to participate in LAPID, Hillel's new professional development initiative, are making history.
LAPID participants meet with Dr Lynne B Harrison and Hillel leaders during a training seminar in Washington, D.C.
LAPID, which stands for the Leadership and Professional International Development Initiative and means "torch" in Hebrew, marks the first time one of Hillel's professional development ventures has a prominent global focus — five of the 15 participants are from outside of North America — a focus that has added a unique dimension to the initiative.
"The international nature of LAPID is very powerful," said LAPID director Nati Sperber. "Participants are interacting with their peers from around the world and seeing things through new perspectives. They are learning from each others' differences and similarities, and connecting across language, culture and community."
Through in-person seminars, monthly conference calls, webinars and ongoing coaching, LAPID focuses on providing professionals with practical tools and seed funding to develop student-focused initiatives in their home communities. These initiatives must incorporate both social justice and student leadership development, a goal particularly important to LAPID's funder and Hillel's International Board of Governors member Dr Lynne B Harrison.
"The biggest challenge facing the Jewish community worldwide is Jewish continuity, for which we have to develop young Jewish leadership," said Dr Harrison. "We need Jewish youth to understand their Jewish identity and the moral and ethical precepts of Judaism. And of course, to attain its highest goals, the LAPID program has to be global — ‘All Jews are One'."
The first seminar, held in December 2009, launched participants' planning of the initiatives they will implement in their home communities. This seminar also gave the cohort a chance to get to know one another.
"It has been incredible to meet colleagues from around the world who share my same passions and challenges," said LAPID participant and Hillel Santa Barbara engagement associate Jason Leivenberg. "The caliber of this group is amazing. Every single person made an impact on me during our days together at the seminar."
"It was very interesting to get to know people from all over the world," said LAPID participant and Hillel Uruguay assistant program director Veronica Albert. "It was empowering to see how inspirational Hillel is and how it brings people from different countries together and unites them with the same mission."
As the participants focus on planning for their home initiatives, they are strengthened by the global network of peers and partners they have now built through LAPID.
"I have never had an opportunity like this before," said LAPID participant and Tbilisi, Georgia Hillel program coordinator Natalia Namgaladze. "It is a tremendous feeling to realize that no matter how far we are from each other, we are still one big team, one big family."
Meet the LAPID participants: Veronica Albert, assistant program director, Hillel Uruguay; Neil A. Cantor, director of Jewish student life, Hillel of Metro Detroit; Natalia Etkin, program coordinator, Hillel Buenos Aires (Argentina); Erica Frankel, program coordinator, Arts on the Move, NYU Hillel; Gennady Gerovich, program director, Hillel at the College of Staten Island; Alana Kayfetz, executive director, Hillel Ottawa (Canada); Jason Leivenberg, engagement associate, Santa Barbara Hillel; Eric Marcus, program director, Hillel of Cleveland; Natalia Namgaladze, program coordinator, Hillel Tbilisi (Georgia); Leah Newman, program director, Hillel of San Diego UCSD; Jaime Reich, emerging campuses associate, Hillel of Toronto, Canada; Corey Smith, co-associate director, programming and engagement, Hillel of New Orleans; Gady Tenezer, program director, Hillel of Sapir College, Sderot (Israel); Gonzalo Valenci, programs coordinator, Hillel Cordoba (Argentina); Aleksandra (Sasha) Zolbina, assistant director, Hillel Odessa (Ukraine).