Brittany Lenhart’s love affair with building dynamic Jewish community began early in her life, at age 9, when she attended the URJ’s Goldman Union Camp Institute for the first time. Fourteen summers later, Brittany found herself wanting to give back to the Jews, the people who had given her spiritual confidence and a curiosity about shared history. Brittany has now worked for Jewish organizations in Indiana, North Carolina, and Oregon, and is currently serving as the assistant director of the Oregon Hillel Foundation.
Brittany’s role is to facilitate the student leadership experience and yearly program, manage student-level fundraising efforts, and coordinate larger projects on the calendar, such as last year’s first-ever Yom Ha’atzmaut Israel Block Party and the annual MLK-weekend Ski Retreat Shabbaton in Sun River, Oregon. Brittany is especially excited about a new project on her plate, Oregon Hillel’s collaborative Manzil Midrash dialogue series. This 10-week series brings Hillel together with the Muslim Student Association and the Arab Student Union for student-lead presentations and discussions.
Over the last three years, UO students and community members have engaged in these dialogues, covering topics such as culture, traditional foods, Jerusalem, socialist movements in the Middle East, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. These conversations are a positive addition to UO’s campus climate, as the series is a place where each person can speak for themselves and is not responsible to represent any group as a whole.
For Lenhart, who completed a master’s degree in International Education prior to her current role, this program, which stresses cultural competence and cross-cultural communication, is a part of Hillel’s work she feels particularly enthusiastic about. She believes that “students can learn real-life conflict resolution skills through attending Manzil Midrash, such as the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. These are lessons that students will remember and apply their whole lives. At Oregon Hillel, we are fortunate to be able to make a difference in this way.”