The COVID-19 pandemic forced institutions and leaders of all kinds to significantly change how they do their work in an era of social distancing. Jewish organizations, including Hillels, were not spared from this tumult. Still, in the face of these challenges, anecdotal evidence suggests that Hillels have been successful in engaging college students and responding to their needs: transposing programming, religious services, and classes online; gathering in safe, socially-distanced ways; and distributing “Shabbat boxes” and other kinds of self-care materials to students.
While these efforts across all Hillels are admirable, the pandemic is associated with a notable decline in the number of students participating in Hillel activities. This study, Hillel Engagement Practices in COVID, seeks to understand in a more systematic way the activities, approaches, and strategies at Hillels that have experienced relatively smaller declines, or even growth, in participation during the Fall 2020 Covid semester. It not only describes what successful Hillel professionals did to engage students during the pandemic, but also what those strategies and approaches accomplished for students. Its goal is to identify actionable and replicable approaches, so other Hillels can use or adapt them in the Spring 2021 semester and beyond.
An initial analysis identified five major themes across Hillels:
(1) Strategic collection and use of data
(2) a Focus on depth and cohort based experiences,
(3) Key strategies to connect with a wider group of new students
(4) Strategic use of swag and give-aways, and
(5) the Reimagining of Shabbat.
Read the full report here: Hillel Engagement Practices in COVID