Hillel International and Penn Hillel announce the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Endowment



September 29, 2016

WASHINGTON AND PHILADELPHIA – Hillel International’s Office of Innovation (OOI) and Penn Hillel announced today the establishment of the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Endowment, a new joint venture. The Endowment will fund several projects – the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Summit, Innovation Fellow and Innovation Award – all designed to foster creative thinking and new ideas towards Hillel’s vision of inspiring every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. This initiative is made possible through a gift from the Eleanor M. and Herbert D. Katz Family Foundation.

The Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Summit will annually convene Hillel professionals from all over the country to explore the most innovative and cutting-edge methodologies for reaching and inspiring the next generation of Jewish students. Summit topics will reflect the full complexity and richness of Jewish life, ranging from prayer to community organizing to technology.

“The Summit will be a platform for visioning and generating new ideas,” said Rabbi Dan Smokler, Hillel International Chief Innovation Officer. “Thought leaders from both within the Hillel system and outside of Hillel will have the chance to challenge and provoke Hillel professionals to think in new ways.”

“Hillel is the ideal venue for Jewish innovation because the future of Judaism is being created on campuses today,” said Rabbi Mike Uram, Executive Director and Campus Rabbi at Penn Hillel. “This endowment will help foster programs that allow students to showcase their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit as we seek to discover new ways to build a brighter Jewish future.”

The Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Innovation Fellow will oversee the Summit and serve as an aggregator of Jewish innovations from Penn Hillel, the Office of Innovation and the entire Hillel movement, fostering a culture of innovation.

The Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Award will honor and reward the best Jewish innovations incubated on campus that are bold, creative, and deeply impactful to students.    

Laura Cutler, daughter of Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz (z”l) said, “We can think of no better way to honor our mother’s philanthropic legacy than to create the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Innovation Fellow at Hillel International. Our mother was passionate about providing excellence in Jewish education and saw Hillel as the place on college campuses for students to explore their own Jewish journeys and establish meaningful Jewish communities. Our hope is that this endowment will enable the whole system to benefit from best practices at Hillels around the world.”

“The Meyerhoff and Katz families have been instrumental in creating several Hillel initiatives, including the Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellowship and the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience,” said Hillel International President and CEO Eric D. Fingerhut. “This endowment will enable Hillel to confront the most important social and demographic trends emerging on campus and in our society.”

The Katz and Meyerhoff families have also been leaders in supporting several initiatives at Penn Hillel that have become national models for the larger Hillel system like the Jewish Renaissance Project, whose award-winning model has now spread to more than 120 campuses.

“Our mother Eleanor was an innovator and change agent during very critical years for Hillel International and with our family’s long time association with Penn Hillel, this endowment is a wonderful way to honor her legacy of local empowerment and national visioning,” said her daughter Sally Katz.