(Chicago, IL) Two Hillels, located within 20 miles of each other, have both received prestigious grants from The Covenant Foundation totaling $300,000 to be issued over the next three years.
Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University and Newberger Hillel at the University of Chicago will each receive $150,000 through 2011 to implement programs aimed at Jewish young adults, developed by Hillel professionals on those campuses. The programs were developed separately and each Hillel applied independently.
"Hillel is starting to take its place at the center of what is going on in the world of emerging adult Jews," says Dan Libenson, executive director of Newberger Hillel at the University of Chicago. "Hillel can become a 'university of the Jewish people' that prepares Jewish college students for Jewish adulthood where they'll create the kinds of innovative organizations that are beginning to sprout up in the young adult Jewish world."
Newberger Hillel will use the Covenant grant money to fund the first stage of "Jewish Adulthood Education on Campus: The Jethro Initiative," a project that will train students in Jewish citizenship and help alumni stay connected to Jewish life after graduation. Named for Moses' father-in-law, the project is based on Exodus 18:21-23 in which Jethro instructs Moses to select "the most excellent people" to lead small groups rather than for Moses to lead the entire people alone.
The Jethro Initiative embraces the concept of small groups as effective means of connecting people to a mission or peoplehood. The project will train Jewish professionals in a variety of fields to act as informal Jewish educators. Those people will then lead small groups of Jewish young adults who have a shared interest. Already, Newberger Hillel is working with a Jewish filmmaker and hip-hop poet to develop these groups.
Meanwhile, Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University (NU) in Evanston, Illinois will use its grant money to launch the Jewish social networking Web site, HowDoYouJew? Fiedler Hillel Executive Director Adam Simon will lead the project and explains the funding will help to research, establish and develop a replicable model of a user-driven Internet platform for Northwestern University students and young alumni to engage in meaningful Jewish experiences both on-and off-line.
NU sophomore Scott Topal, vice president of external affairs for Fiedler Hillel, told The Daily Northwestern, "Ultimately, Hillel is about students, so students will be involved to ensure the grant is used successfully and results in something that can be applied and used."
Also speaking to the school paper, Simon said, "More students are on Facebook than go to class. Wouldn't it be cool to do something cultural without walking away from the computer?"
The Covenant Foundation seeks to support innovative programs in Jewish education through an annual grant-making process. Though a rigorous and competitive process, a maximum of ten Covenant Grants are awarded annually. In the grant program's 16-year history, Hillel foundations have be awarded funds only three times. They are Hillel's Schusterman International Center (1993), Ohio State Hillel (1999) and Michigan State Hillel (2003).
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