Reflecting on 100 Years of Hillel at the Hillel International Founders Dinner



May 15, 2023

100 years of Hillel?! When I joined the Hillel International Student Cabinet two years ago, those words were already buzzing through conversations, but I didn’t really understand why. Even after I joined the Centennial committee as a student representative, it took me some time to realize the significance of this milestone. But after my first official meeting, I realized that Hillel’s 100th year would be a chance to think bigger and innovate in ways that will impact the next 100 years of Hillel. Becoming Co-Chair of the Student Cabinet during this significant time at Hillel is a true honor and I am excited for the energy that every opportunity carries this year. 

Last week, I had the honor of providing the opening remarks at Hillel International’s Founders Dinner, an event honoring some of Hillel’s most generous supporters. As I spoke to supporters from each generation, I was struck by the sense of purpose and excitement of every person in the room. I always appreciate meeting people who have been and continue to be invested, in all senses of the word, in Hillel’s success. 

Along with outgoing Co-Chair of the Student Cabinet, Jordan Robinson, I spoke about how Hillel’s long and rich history can inspire us to affect change that will continue into the future. Hillel’s commitment to welcoming all kinds of Jewish students to participate and become leaders on campus inspires my thoughts and plans for this year. 

Hearing Matthew Bronfman, Chair of Hillel International’s Board of Governors, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Rabbi of Park East Synagogue, and Jessica Yeroshalmi, outgoing Co-Chair of the Hillel International Student Cabinet speak about their dedication to the Hillel movement and their passion for supporting Jewish students reminded me of the generations of students who have empowered by Hillel to embrace their Jewish identities and values. 

During dinner, I was fortunate to sit with Rabbi Cosgrove and share the impact of my Hillel experiences with him. He asked me about an influential person in my Jewish journey, and I immediately pointed to my own Hillel staff members, who are guiding me to become the Jewish young adult and Jewish leader I want to be.  

During the second part of the program, Rabbi Cosgrove sat on stage and reflected on the pivotal first interaction he had with his Hillel professional at the University of Michigan, when he was saying the Mourner’s Kaddish for a close family friend who had passed away. Michael Brooks, his own Hillel director, was sitting in the audience at the dinner, and had the honor of hearing the impact of that interaction on Rabbi Cosgrove’s life today. I was so moved by his story, and it was yet another example of the impact of our movement for the last 100 years and the potential of the next 100. 

As I head home for the summer to plan for the exciting year ahead, I will be reflecting on the conversations that I had at the Founders Dinner, how proud the Hillel community is of its past, and how dedicated we are to its future.