Hillel Professionals Connect and Uplift at Hillel International’s Global Assembly 2023



December 7, 2023

Highlights from HIGA 2023

Hillel International’s Global Assembly (HIGA) 2023 certainly lived up to its hype as over 1,200 Hillel professionals and partners from all over the world gathered for the three-day annual conference in Dallas. Though this year carried a more somber tone given the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and record levels of antisemitism affecting Jewish college students across the country, HIGA 2023 provided meaningful opportunities for attendees to find comfort in one another, strengthen connections, grow professionally, and honor Hillel’s collective efforts. 

Monday night’s opening session featured leaders and partners from across the Hillel movement who set the stage for the three-day gathering as a time for communal support and rejuvenation. Adam Lehman, Hillel International President and CEO, announced four new initiatives that will launch in January to foster and support Hillel professionals’ resilience, including special talent grants to fund additional staffing and grant-covered therapy and coaching sessions. 

Adam then welcomed to the stage Daniel Lubetzky, founder of KIND, and the two leaders engaged in meaningful dialogue relevant to the current, challenging moment. Daniel shared his Jewish life journey, his connection to Hillel, and provided insight into his philanthropic work focused on decreasing divisions and polarization. 

“The fights that we had to fight were nothing like today, but I remember Rabbi Ari Cartun and Hillel being an incredible rock of love and depth for me and a lot of what I became, and a lot of what I accomplished was thanks to the nurturing love that I got from the Hillel community when I was a student,” Lubetzky reflected. He offered advice on applying his learnings to the current conflict and how to overcome the stark divisions that are unsettling campus communities.  

Two days of sessions focused on Jewish values, connecting Jewish texts to today’s challenges and opportunities, and professional development provided the connection, reflection, and inspiration that HIGA attendees needed.

Bringing the theme of  “My Heart Is In the East” (Libi B’Mizrach) to life, Hillel hosted special sessions each day that provided opportunities for attendees to focus their learning and reflection on Israel in the midst of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. 

In between the jam-packed learning schedule, Hillel professionals could shop at a holiday market featuring Israeli artists and visit the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. One of the most popular interactive experiences was the building of the collective sukkat shalom, or shelter of peace, in the conference center lobby. Participants helped build the walls of the sukkat shalom with different colored spools of ribbon, and, once inside, could engage in a variety of meaningful activities centered on core Jewish values. Whether painting stones to memorialize a lost physical connection, giving tzedakah, charity, to a non-profit making a difference in people’s lives or reciting Birkot Hashachar, the Jewish daily morning prayers, the collective sukkat shalom provided a space for the community to share and learn from each other.   

Oren Persing from Interplay Design was responsible for the idea and execution of the communal sukkat shalom. “With everything going on in Israel, we wanted to create an interactive installation that would bring Hillel professionals together to collectively build a space for solace, and hope,” Oren explained. “The effect of the sukkat shalom was really moving, and it was inspiring to watch folks come together to weave the walls, but what we didn’t expect was just how much fun it would be to participate! The only thing brighter than the ribbons themselves were the smiles on people’s faces as they wove their way around the structure. As we continue to reflect on HIGA and process current events in Israel, we’re excited to grow this experience by working with individual Hillels on similar installations that impact their students in new ways.”

While HIGA 2023 was certainly different from past years, the most important component remained unchanged. HIGA 2023 brought the Hillel community together at a time when connection was needed most, and provided a renewed strength, determination, and focus for Hillel professionals to continue their essential and impactful work.

Thank you to our HIGA 2023 Sponsors!