Students learn team-building on the low ropes course. Photo by Jonathan Pollack.
More than 700 Hillel student activists, professionals and lay leaders gathered at Washington University in St. Louis, August 10-15, for the first Hillel Institute, a unique conference that brought together student and professional training in the same location.
“This was an immersive experience for professionals and students alike,” explains Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone. “We wanted to provide all participants with the opportunity to have a meaningful Jewish experience in St. Louis that would touch their lives and that they will carry back to their campuses.”
The professional conference kicked off with training for new Hillel staff members and intensive training in such areas as development and administration. The Israel on Campus Coalition sponsored a 24-hour simulation exercise to help Hillel professionals educate and advocate for Israel on campus. Hillel professionals learned how to broaden and deepen their engagement of Jewish students on campus and enjoyed text-based Jewish learning groups as well as a “global Hillel Tisch” that highlighted the Hillel experience around the world. Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone gave a plenary address that focused on the achievements of the past school year and his vision for the next. Build a Bear Founder and Chief Executive Bear Maxine Clark spoke to professionals about her entrepreneurial career and her support for the Jewish community.
At the conference, Hillel named eight professionals as Richard M. Joel Exemplars of Excellence and marked the significant career milestones of veteran staff members.
Among the 400 professionals were staffers from outside the United States, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Hillel’s new cadre of Israel Fellows also convened at the Hillel Institute.
Student participants at the Hillel Institute included Campus Entrepreneurs and Peer Network Engagement Interns who learned the art of relationship-based engagement. Their training included a variety of sessions such as a presentation from social entrepreneur Christopher Gergen, a low-ropes course, and instruction in “Reach,” Hillel’s proprietary relationship database system.
The conference was covered by JTA and the St. Louis Jewish Light.
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