Taking the main stage at the Hillel International Global Assembly in Denver on Monday, Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, told the audience “think about all the times you’ve helped students navigate issues in their lives, become leaders or learn Torah for themselves. You’ve just filled this room with the meaning of Hillel. We’re making a difference every day.”
His message to the 1,100 professionals, stakeholders and partners from the global Hillel movement resonated with the conference’s theme — connect, educate and inspire.
The weeklong conference, which began with a surprise appearance by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, featured a variety of thought-provoking sessions, including a lunch focused on the empowerment of women as well as a panel of five student representatives from campuses across the United States. Panelist Russell Monkarsh, a Hillel student at the University of Southern California, said “college is an opportunity for students to find their own Judaism, and ensuring the Jewish future is the most important thing we can do.”
That work, which the global Hillel movement is committed to doing on more than 550 campuses in 17 countries, is never easy. That’s why Hillel International began the fourth-annual conference by recognizing more than 25 professionals and campuses who applied innovative strategies to engage students in campus Jewish life.
There were also two firsts at the conference:
More than 100 lay leaders convened for the inaugural Global Leadership Conference — an effort to bring stakeholders together to exchange ideas, share best practices and spark innovation across the movement as part of the Global Leadership Society.
We also hosted Hillel Talks, a new series featuring five campus professionals who shared their stories, insights and ideas to inspire their peers.
In her talk, Rabbi Michelle Fisher, executive director of MIT Hillel, stressed the importance of self-care as Hillel goes about its critical mission, “we enter this work because we want to make a difference. We can only do this work when we care about ourselves and each other as much as we care about students we serve.”
Another speaker, Sasha Joseph, director of student life at San Francisco Hillel, offered her advice on engaging students from all backgrounds, “one in five Jews is a Jew of color. Reach diverse Jewish students with experiences that are personalized, relatable and experiential.”
Nalini Haueter, who will begin work as an engagement associate in January at Ithaca College Hillel, said the conference allowed her to connect with inspirational people. “I love seeing students develop into leaders on campus, and I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned from this conference on campus.”