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The Holy Work of a Hillel Professional

by Rabbi Kate Speizer |Feb 11, 2013|Comments

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Hillel professionals, sharing why they love what they do. Rabbi Kate Speizer has been engaging students in Jewish life at Cornell University since July 2008. She loves that her work at Cornell Hillel makes a difference in the lives of individuals and the world.

Cornell Hillel professionals.Pictured: Rabbi Kate Speizer (on left) with fellow Cornell Hillel professionals Igor Khokhlov and Alexis Robins

When my family took me on a tour of colleges to get a sense of what my options were for my undergraduate education, Hillel was a stop on each tour that I requested we make. I imagined then that Jewish life would be part of my network of support in university life. Who knew that close to twenty years later, Hillel would continue to be a home for me?

While the campuses have changed over the years, Hillel has been a constant in my life. From Tucson to Jerusalem, Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and Tel Aviv to Ithaca, Hillel has been an infrastructure for meaning making and Jewish relevance in both my personal and professional life.

It is the focus on student growth and self-discovery, particularly in the area of Jewish identity, which I find most compelling in our work at Hillel. We strive to make Judaism relevant and accessible to all who are interested in exploring how it relates to their lives. The experiences I have shared with them that were based on Jewish learning, celebration, grief, and/or struggle connect us in ways that I find deeply satisfying. It is an honor and a privilege to accompany people on their Jewish journeys, sensing first-hand when to provide comfort, challenge, peace or provocation. Hillel has given me skills and techniques to carry out this holy work with excellence.

My professional growth is nurtured through weekly supervision, coaching, cohort support, conferences, and more. I feel especially lucky to have been selected and participated in the second group of Weinberg ACCELERATE, Hillel’s Executive Training Program, where I had a year of in-depth, personalized work on my executive skill set.

At Hillel, I see one of our goals as making the tradition readily available to people, on their terms, in a pluralistically supportive environment at a critical time in their lives. We get to inspire and invest in the future, particularly around deepening Jewish students’ connection to their values and improving the world.

We partner to create opportunities with students to increase their knowledge and core competencies, help them to acquire positive Jewish memories, develop strong Jewish self-confidence, and assist in connecting and building community. As we build environments that are open to diversity, integrate secular and Jewish commitments; embrace the importance of Israel and the concept of Jewish peoplehood, we are making the world a better place one student at a time. It is holy work and I feel privileged to be doing it!

Rabbi Kate Speizer is the Campus Rabbi and Associate Director of Cornell University Hillel: The Yudowitz Center for Jewish Campus Life.

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