100 Years of Hillel Stories



May 22, 2023

Scan of an old photo with Hillel alumni gathered together on campus

Hillel is turning 100! In honor of this milestone and to mark the launch of the Hillel Alumni Network, we asked alumni from throughout Hillel’s rich history to share their memories with us. We’ve compiled their memories into a Hillel Scrapbook and are excited to share these excerpts with you:

Susan Fendrick, Brown University ‘84: During my first week of classes at Brown University in September 1979, I went to a meeting to organize Reform High Holiday services. I met Sharon, a sophomore, and by Yom Kippur morning services—when I arrived late, ran quickly up to the bimah, sat next to her, and we both started giggling—our friendship was sealed. 

Sharon and I spent the year shuttling between Hillel (Shabbat services and dinners) and progressive organizations (a radical student newspaper and anti-nuclear activism), between her Grad Center suite and my Morris-Champlain dorm room. She went to Israel the following year, and I went the year after that; we lived in a group house when I returned, and she stayed in Providence after graduation, and our close friendship was a constant thread in our lives.

Over the past nearly 44 years, we have been through and shared relationships lost and found, the tragic deaths of several dear friends, living together, moving up and down the Northeast Corridor, getting married, the death of parents, the arrival of children. We have logged many hundreds (thousands?) of hours of intense phone conversations and countless emails, communicating about everything under the sun: Israel, moral quandaries, progressive politics, the endless parsing of interpersonal dynamics…and laughing, always laughing.

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld and I have lived in the same city for the past two decades. She is the President of Hebrew College; I am also a rabbi, a Judaic studies editor, and a spiritual director. We are not as close as we once were, but we are forever connected, our friendship a testament to the fact that a lifelong relationship can have many parshiyot (chapters).

And it all started at Hillel.

Andrea Hoffman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ‘96: In 1986, I was sitting in the Hillel lounge with a few friends watching the space shuttle Challenger launch, and then tragically collapse. Our Hillel’s Executive Director, Rabbi Mark Mulgay was there with us and I honestly don’t remember much about that day other than total shock and his calming presence. Flash forward to 2012 when I was the Executive Director at the University of Chicago Hillel and a student walked in with his father, Rabbi Mark Mulgay. I reminded him of that day in 1986 and we shared an amazing moment. I told Mark that while I hoped we never faced that type of tragedy while his son was at UChicago, I promised I would try to be the same kind of presence for his son that he, Mark, was for me.

Judy and Michael Turk, Brooklyn College ‘70: There used to be a saying at Brooklyn College Hillel, “I met my spouse in Hillel House”. We met there more than 50 years ago and we’re still friends with some of the wonderful people we met at Hillel.

Robin Frost, Arizona State University ‘75: My husband and I met on Shabbat, March 7, 1971. It was love at first sight for me.  I even have a picture of him standing next to the candles as they were lit.  We were married for nearly 30 years before he passed away.  I loved my time spent with friends at Hillel; so many adventures and so much fun!