The most valued members of Stetson University Hillel have four legs. They are Renegade and Charlie: the prized pups of Stetson Hillel Director Sam Friedman.
Both dogs accompany Friedman to work daily. Renegade is a 5-year-old Plott Hound and Stetson Hillel’s “mascot,” and Charlie is a 2-year-old American Cocker Spaniel who likes to cuddle on the couch.
Stetson University Hillel is one of many campus Hillels that considers dogs to be a valued part of their community. Many of these belong to employees who bring them to work, or they live in the Hillel house. No matter what breed or what Hillel, every Hillel dog brings joy to their communities.
Avital Brodski, a senior at Northeastern University and president of Northeastern Hillel, loves going to Hillel to spend time with Asher, the operations manager’s 2-year-old Australian Shepherd. Asher previously lived in the Northeastern Hillel house with his owner, but now just comes to work with him.
“Every time I see him, I feel an instant rush of serotonin and after just a few seconds of petting him, all of my stress disappears,” Brodski said. “He’s also helped me make some friendly connections during the times where I had to share him with some other students.”
With bright blue eyes and wiggly tail, Asher can’t help but bring a smile to the faces of Northeastern students.
When Sara Evangelista started working at Johns Hopkins Hillel two years ago, an aspect of her new job that excited her was the flexibility around her dog.
Evangelista’s dog is a 4-year-old, 7-pound, black-furred Yorkie mix named Orli, who has become a “Hillel fan favorite.” Orli often comes to work with Evangelista.
“She has her own space in my office where she hangs out and barks at whoever rings the doorbell,” Evangelista, Johns Hopkins Hillel’s program director, said. “Pre-COVID, students knew they could find her in my office.”
Evangelista said she would often come into her office to gather her things after a Shabbat dinner and find a group of students sitting on the floor, playing with Orli.
For Purim in 2019, Evangelista and Orli dressed up in matching costumes: Superman and Wonderwoman, and Boo and Mike Wazowski from “Monsters Inc.”
“I appreciate and love that my Hillel allows me to bring my dog to work,” Evangelista said. “It shows that they care about us as more than just being an employee.”
Jeremy Lichtig, Assistant Director at University of Georgia Hillel also said he took his job partially because of the ability to bring his dogs into work. “They didn’t realize how much a part of Hillel my dogs would become,” Lichtig said.
Lichtig currently has two dogs, Mando, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Sansa, a 1-year-old lab shepherd mix.
“[Mando and Sansa] have always been a welcome sight at Shabbat,” Lichtig said. “I usually have to put them back in my office and students often sneak in to say ‘hello’ to them.”
If students ask to take one of the dogs for a walk or play with them, they’re always welcome.
Friedman said that, for students, having dogs at Hillel is a source of comfort and fun. “It reminds them of home … Students get all of the benefits of having a dog without any of the obligations.” Renegade and Charlie also add to Stetson Hillel’s “homey feel,” he said.
Dogs also provide a source of wellness, Lichtig said. “Dogs keep you centered. They keep you living in the moment.”
It’s well-established that dogs bring lots of love and joy into Hillels. But sometimes, they get into trouble too.
When Sam Friedman worked at Central Florida Hillel, Renegade once ate an entire plate of brisket that someone left on the table. Another time, she ate an entire bag of Hershey Kisses (she was fine, he clarified).
Jeremy Lichtig’s dog Sansa has a tendency to pee when he’s happy — which often happens around students. Lichtig’s other dog, Mando, doesn’t know his own size and knocks people over. “He’s like a bowling ball. He’s 95 pounds of doofus,” Lichtig said.
At Northeastern Hillel, Asher likes to chew the heads off foam camels used for Birthright promotion. He also loves getting pets and scratches, to the point where it causes problems.
“He loves [pets] so much that no matter where you are or what you’re holding, he will either stand or sit on you and basically demand some loving. This has caused some trouble from time to time when I was tying my shoelaces, working on my laptop on the couch, or had to move the delivered Shabbat food,” Brodski said.
When we reached Asher for comment on these accusations, he gave an innocent-sounding “woof” and wandered away from the phone.