Hillel Communications.


What If?

by Hillel News |Jan 26, 2015|Comments

The following was published as a special edition of YU’s Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education Educator’s Newsletter, dedicated to Hillel professionals working on college campuses. 

We're honored to have Marc Newburgh - a supervisor of two of our alumni and Executive Director of Hillel of Greater Toronto - write an introductory note. We've also asked our College Campus professionals to share with us how they are using EJE in their practice.

We hope you enjoy this special edition. And at the same time wish the best of luck to Cohort IV who are about to begin their final seminar and graduate.



Marc Newburgh
Executive Director
Hillel of Greater Toronto

Knowledge has always been considered to be one of the most powerful tools any professional can have available to them in the performance of their work. However, I would argue that the ability to frame a conversation, create an environment that helps to facilitate discussion, think big, or outside the box, when done well, is simply invaluable.

So what if Jewish professionals weren’t afraid to step out of their comfort zone? What if they weren’t afraid to think big? What if we were more inclined to take risk in our work, in conversations and in relationships? What if?

As Executive Director of Hillel of Greater Toronto, I am always encouraging staff and students to find ways to step out of their comfort zone and take risks. For me, the Experiential Jewish Education Program offered by Yeshiva University provides an effective opportunity for Jewish Professionals to wrap their head around the concept of “What if?”

I have the pleasure of having had two of our staff complete the EJE program, Lior Cyngiser, Director, Israel Engagement, Education and Advocacy and Elise Loterman, Director, Engagement.

It’s clear since completing the program how much Lior and Elise have benefited from their experience and incorporated this into their work. In particular understanding the importance of reflection and conceptualization, finding ways to incorporate Intentionality and purpose when designing a program or event, recognizing there are different types of students and that everyone “learns” or “experiences” things in a different way.

These key concepts, such an integral part of the EJE learning experience, have made a significant impact on the work of our professional staff and student leaders, having had exposure to them in “Ice Breakers” held during a retreat at a Jewish Overnight Camp, during supervision meetings, and during professional development sessions that Lior and Elise have facilitated.

The impact of the EJE Program can now be felt throughout our organization as staff and students approach their programming, conversations and relationships in a very different way, giving thought, and reflection on how to apply these concepts and think big.

Application of EJE by Featured Alumni

Elise_Loterman.Elise Loterman
Cohort 3
Director of Engagement
Hillel of Greater Toronto

Experiential Jewish Education at Hillel is the opportunity to be intentional about my work. EJE provided me with the knowledge and tools to transform every interaction with a student or a group of students from a conversation to a moment of learning, development, and growth.

One specific methodology that I learned in the program that I bring to Hillel in various settings is the Circle of Gratitude. A simple opportunity for individuals to reflect on what they are grateful for helps them realize the various brachot (blessings) in their lives as well as gain a new understanding and appreciation for their peers. It allows group members to focus on the positive and in turn creates a more positive and productive group dynamic.

At the recent Hillel International Global Assembly, I received an award for 5 years of service to the organization. EJE provided me with the opportunity to help me transform something that I felt was “a job when I completed university” to a challenging and meaningful career that I am proud of.

Ross_Diamond.Ross Diamond
Cohort 2
Executive Director, George Mason Hillel

For me, EJE at Hillel is a way to think broadly about how I approach the educational experiences we provide our students with. Education doesn't start in the classroom or at the program, it starts well before the program begins and continues well after a student graduates. I think about how the planning of a program can be a learning experience on its own. I integrate Jewish learning into our planning meetings to make sure we don't miss an opportunity to connect our leaders with relevant Jewish content. Before a student graduates, if they are open to it, I work with them to identify opportunities to further their personal interest. If it is a career, travel, learning or social opportunity I try to match them with an area of their personal interest. I continually participate in Jewish learning myself to ensure I am inspired. It is my philosophy that self-development is critical because I believe in order to inspire others you must be inspired yourself.

Sara_Rich.Sara Rich
Cohort 4
Director of Education
Center for Jewish Life-Hillel at Princeton University

For me, EJE at Hillel creates a beautiful harmony with our approach towards working with students. At our Hillel, we strive to inspire and equip every Jewish student to contribute with passion and knowledge to the Jewish community and the world at large. We seek to ignite this passion and to offer them meaningful and memorable ways to obtain this knowledge. We do not, however, dictate what each student’s path should be, because we affirm that there is a multitude of valid ways to live a Jewish life. As in EJE, the focus on Jewish values, creating community, and giving students agency over their Jewish choices are the essential principles that define our work, and as such, the skills and knowledge that this field contains will help us to reach and to serve our students.

Benji_Berlow.Benji Berlow
Cohort 3
Director of Jewish Student Life at Carnegie Mellon University
The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh

For me, EJE at Hillel is being conscious and aware of how subtle changes and intentionality can transform a learning experience.  Whether it is the questions being asked, the modality of learning, or the use of space, EJE enables me to be a better educator by utilizing a wide range of perspectives and tools to teach effectively. Below are two handouts I created from the EJE methodology cards to help teach my staff and students about how to consciously use space and be aware of engaging multiple intelligences.

Lior.Lior Cyngiser
Cohort 3
Director of Israel Engagement, Education & Advocacy
Hillel of Greater Toronto

For me, EJE at Hillel is all about Imagineering.  We at Hillel of Greater Toronto take our work extremely seriously. One of my favorite go-to phrases since completing the EJE certificate program has been “WHAT IF”.  While this short two-word phrase seems simple and obvious, its implications are quite the opposite.  Too often when we are brainstorming programming, activities or events, and we find ourselves starting with the mindset of focusing on the limitations/restrictions that are set out as boundaries/guidelines to channel our creativity.  By starting from this point, we are in fact stifling our potential and ultimately our students’ experiences are the ones that suffer as a result.

WHAT IF… WHAT IF we started our brainstorming from the exact opposite perspective?  WHAT IF instead of brainstorming within our constraints, we just brainstormed?  WHAT IF we looked at all the possibilities rather than the limitations and used possibilities as our guide to channel our creativity?  By using different techniques offered in the EJE program to brainstorm, and enhance our creativity, we are able to think and work at a significantly higher level.  We are able to view the world of possibility as our canvas rather than just the opposite.

At one point in our lives, we have all been told to “think outside the box.” To that I say, “WHAT IF there was no box in the first place”?  Why do we place boundaries on our creative processes that restrict our ability to succeed? We should be encouraging our colleagues, students, and participants to not settle for status quo, to not settle for the easy and convenient solution.  We must keep thinking about enhancing the work that we do, to make it richer, deeper, add meaning and value and have purpose – otherwise what is the point of what we do?


Robby_Charnoff.Robby Charnoff
Cohort 4
Rabbi and Educator, Orthodox Union JLIC
Queens College

For me, EJE as an OU-JLIC Educator is a cutting edge way to critically analyze, elevate, and reimagine almost everything I do on campus in order to deepen the richness of my students’ growth in their Jewish identities during one of the most critical and exploratory periods of their lives. EJE has made it a priority for me to deliberately and subtly highlight the values inherent in the rich Jewish texts I consistently teach and do so effectively. It has given me the framework to understand what a meaningful and genuine Jewish journey looks like, which greatly impacts my one-on-one discussions with students. It has provided me the language to help my students understand what they have experienced in our programs and meaningfully integrate the impact into their lives. In short, for me EJE means taking what I do on campus to the next level – and my students are all the better for it.

Erica_Frankel.Erica Frankel
Cohort 3
Senior Associate, Manager of Student Life
The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU

I believe that Hillel work is, fundamentally, experiential Jewish education. At its best, my work moves a student's Jewish life in ways that are richer, deeper, more nuanced, and more felt than when they arrived on campus — preparing them for adult Jewish lives post-graduation and beyond. The word felt is key. Students come to a university to participate in the Great Conversation of Ideas. We have the opportunity to invite them into Judaism's Great Conversation, which isn't (only) on the page or delivered from the front of a classroom. It must be experienced, practiced, tried on, and felt!

Back to Top

  • JLIC
  • Queens College
  • Mason Hillel
  • George Mason University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Hillel of Greater Toronto
  • Princeton Hillel
  • Bronfman Center for Jewish Life
  • Marc Newburgh
  • Ross Diamond
  • Sara Rich
  • Lior Cynigser
  • Robby Charnoff
  • Benji Berlow
  • Elise Loterman
  • Erica Frankel
  • YU Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education
  • Experiential Jewish Education
  • 2015

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