TParticipants in the Southern California Hillel Engagement Retreat.
Students from several Southern California colleges and universities came together September 9th-11th for the Southern California CSU Hillel Engagement Retreat, the first event of its kind in the area to teach students the art of building stronger relationships and advancing Jewish journeys.
Hosted by CSUN Hillel and Hillel of Long Beach and West Orange County, the conference taught nearly 20 students peer-engagement methodologies used by Hillels around the globe to engage their peers and help them grow as Jews. The participants came from CSUs Northridge, Long Beach, Fullerton and San Marcos as well as San Diego State University and Los Angeles Valley College. The conference was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance.
"The skills that the facilitators brought with them will really help our students develop meaningful Jewish student experiences for their fellow students on campus as well as recognizing their own Jewish journeys," said Rachel Kaplan, director of Hillel of Long Beach and West Orange County. "Seeing how our work fits into the broader scoop of the Jewish future helps to motivate our students to continue their important work."
"Talented and passionate Jewish students are themselves the greatest asset we have to reach and engage their Jewish peers," said Graham Hoffman, Associate Vice President of Strategy with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, who led several sessions over the weekend. "Preparing them with the skills, impetus, and support to develop and expand their social networks - building relationships with uninvolved Jewish peers and connecting them to Jewish life -- are among the most successful ways we can broaden and expand the reach and impact of Jewish life on campus."
"I felt like I became very aware of resources available to me as an intern," said Marysa Miller, a student at California State University, Long Beach. "I was also able to learn about resources that should be available to Jewish students, in general, and how Hillel plays a role in that for students on campus. I think that being able to meet students from other Cal States was able to help me a lot in just being able to talk with other students who have been involved in other ways that I have and to bring an awareness to issues that we all face."
“Helping students learn to create relationships with one another is particularly important – and challenging – among Cal State Universities, since these are commuter schools in which social and extracurricular activities compete with schoolwork, home life and jobs,” explains Rabbi Drew Kaplan of Southern California Jewish Student Services, who helped organized the event and provided the Jewish content of the weekend.
The training took place at Camp Max Straus in Glendale and included sessions on goal-setting, program & initiative training, and exploring one's Jewish journey.