Hillel International announced today its first operations in Poland to better serve the needs of its growing Jewish population. Based in Warsaw, the new Hillel will bring together a generation of Jewish students, recent graduates and young adults in Poland to participate in diverse programming, social events and educational and professional development opportunities. Polish Jews from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds will come together under one roof, along with Jews from around the world who travel to Poland to engage with the local Jewish community.
The opening of Hillel Warsaw, which is funded in part by grants from the UJA-Federation of New York, Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation, builds on decades of work that Hillel International has undertaken to build communities with underserved Jewish students. There are currently Hillels in 14 other nations around the world, including Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Georgia, Israel, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Uruguay, United States and Uzbekistan.
“At Hillel International, our mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students everywhere so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world,” said Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International. “Jewish life in Poland has seen a remarkable revitalization in recent years, but that progress can only be sustained if we ensure that young Polish Jews have the community and the resources necessary to thrive.”
Hillel’s Schusterman International Center recently hired Magda Dorosz as its first Hillel Warsaw executive director. Dorosz, herself a millennial Jewish woman born in Wroclaw, Poland, will spend the first several months at Hillel Warsaw meeting with young Jews and exploring the types of programs and services that can best meet the unique needs of Poland’s Jewish community. Additionally, she will work to establish formal relationships with the Polish government and several of the largest universities in the Warsaw area (in contrast to Hillels in North America, most international Hillels serve all of the young Jews in a particular city, rather than a specific college campus).
“Young Jews in Poland today carry with them both the tragedies our parents and grandparents endured and the flourishing community our generation has witnessed,” Dorosz said. “We have particular needs as a community and a unique story to share with the rest of the Jewish world. The recognition and resources that Hillel International is committing to young Jews in Poland is a fantastic benchmark for our community’s growth.”
Hillel has worked to reach Jews around the world for more than 60 years, since the opening of Hillel Israel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1954. In 1994, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, Hillel opened in Russia to serve Jews who had long struggled without an organized community. In the years that followed, Hillel expanded its reach and now 20 Hillel centers engage students and young adults in seven countries of the former Soviet Union. Most recently, Hillel founded its first chapters in Germany, reaching more than 2,000 students and expanding in a short time from Berlin to a dozen different communities across the region.
“Breaking ground on a new Hillel community in Poland is the best way to build on the foundation Hillel International has laid in our work in Germany, Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet Union,” said Rabbi Yossi Goldman, the founder of Hillel Warsaw, Hillel Israel and Hillel in the former Soviet Union. “Too often the international Jewish community remembers these places only as dark moments of our history, ignoring the vibrant Jewish communities that live there today. Hillel Warsaw is just one more example of Hillel International’s commitment to reach out to young Jews in these countries and help them thrive.”
Hillel Warsaw will be formally dedicated on April 18, 2016, on the eve of the 73rd anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A delegation of Hillel International leaders and Jewish dignitaries from around the world will gather in Poland for the event. In addition to a reception for Polish students, the program will highlight the rapidly growing Jewish infrastructure in Warsaw with a visit to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Warsaw Jewish Community Center, which opened more than years ago.
“Poland has a small and vibrant reemerging Jewish community wanting to rejoin the Jewish world which it nurtured and enriched for nearly a millennium. Hillel in Poland is a case study of engaging students in a Jewish life that was forbidden for their parents and grandparents,” said Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland. “We need Hillel in Poland now. It’s the right time; it’s the right place.”
About Hillel International
Founded in 1923, Hillel has been enriching the lives of Jewish students for more than 90 years. Today, Hillel International is a global organization that welcomes students of all backgrounds and fosters an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Hillel is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. As the largest Jewish student organization in the world, Hillel builds connections with emerging adults at more than 550 colleges and universities, and inspires them to direct their own path. During their formative college years, students are challenged to explore, experience, and create vibrant Jewish lives.