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Hillels move forward to new normal

        BY DEBORAH MOON                                                                 us to  evaluate  the  true  meaning
         Hillel leaders in Oregon are ready                                             of the work we do and have all of
        to  move  forward to  a  new normal                                             our decisions be values based. Our
        – one that emphasizes personal con-                                             values of care (chesed), responsi-
        nections.                                                                       bility (achrayut), elevate (kedosha)
         “If  we’re  not  learning  from  what                                          and wonder (hitlamdut) inform our
        the  last  year  has  taught  us, we’re                                         work and allow us to  imbue  our
        missing good opportunities to better                                            work with Jewish meaning.”
        serve our communities  and do our                                                Sherman says those values are
        work better, build our relationships                                            considered  in all decisions about
        better,” says Oregon Hillel Founda-                                             programming and engagement.
        tion Executive Director Andy Gitel-                                              “We, too, have shifted and
        son. “We’ve had a lot of one-on-one                                             will continue to shift from pro-
        interactions  with  students  – just                                            gram-centered  work to  relational
        reaching out, checking in for cof-                                              Judaism, using personal and mean-
        fee, checking on their mental health,                                           ingful one-on-one connections with
        seeing what they need from us, what                                             our students to drive engagement,”
        they’re  missing and how they’re                                                says Sherman.
        navigating the experience.”                                                      Shabbats, holidays and other pro-
         Oregon Hillel serves students at the                                           grams reach a broad swath of stu-
        University of Oregon and Oregon                                                 dents, and PDX Hillel plans to con-
        State University. Both campuses have                                            tinue those programs when students
        seen increased engagement during                                                are back on campus. But Sherman
        the pandemic. During the 2019/2020                                              says some  students  don’t  feel
        academic year, when two of the three                                            comfortable  stepping  into  Jewish
        terms were in person, 245 students                                              spaces on campus, and PDX Hillel
        (216 identified as Jewish) had six or                                           works to ensure those students that
        more connections with Oregon Hillel.                                            they are not alone.
        This year (with a few weeks to go in                                             “After a year plus of social isola-
        the  2020/2021  academic  year),  305   Oregon Hillel  senior & UO Sammy President Seth    tion, it is now more important than
        students  (268  identified  as  Jewish)   Murawsky volunteers to help  deliver to-go Shabbat din-  ever for Hillel to create a welcom-
        have  had  six  or  more  connections   ner meals to his Duck community. This year, Friday night   ing, vibrant  and inclusive  Jewish
        with Oregon Hillel.             Shabbat dinner orders increased from 40-60 each week   community  on campus,” says
         “We’re seeing our regular students   previously to 200 each week. “Twenty percent of those are   Sherman. “Using meaningful one-
        and  far  greater  numbers  by  taking   non-Jewish students who are roommates and partners of   on-one  connections  has  and  will
        an approach that’s not program fo-  Jewish  students,” says Oregon  Hillel  Executive Director   continue to allow us to get to know
        cused or events focused but people  Andy Gitelson. “They are ordering these Shabbat meals   students on a deeper level and in-
        focused,” says Gitelson. “I’ve been  for one Jewish kid and three non-Jewish roommates to cel-  corporate their authentic selves and
        impressed by our team of staff and  ebrate Shabbat together, and have challah, and talk about   interests into our work. We want to
        the support of our board to be really  how we experience anti-Semitism.”        empower all students. … We can-
        creative and focused on the individ-                                            not wait to return to our campuses
        ual, which is really what we’re always here to do in the first place.  in the fall, using our values to drive our work and reimagine what
        I think we sometimes get pulled into this loop of program develop-  Jewish life can look like in Portland.”
        ment and program creation. It’s nothing we didn’t know could be   To engage students in Hillel and Jewish life, Sherman says staff
        possible, but (it doesn’t happen) until you’re really put in a posi-  must first get to know the student on a personal level – to learn
        tion where you have to think about operating with different roles.”  about their interests, major, hobbies, favorite TV shows and more.
         PDX Hillel, which serves students on campuses near Portland,   “Most of these conversations happen over coffee on campus,”
        has also learned valuable lessons over the past year. Values-based  says Sherman. She adds that using the information from those con-
        engagement and one-on-one interactions have moved to the fore.  versations, “We can often introduce them to other students who
         “What once was normal is no longer normal,” says PDX Hil-  share the same interests and broaden the breadth of our Jewish
        lel Executive Director Hannah Sherman. “The pandemic forced  community.”

        Teens and parents invited to experience Virtual College Road Trip

         High school students and their  with university admissions and   Teens are invited to #JumpOn-  The Virtual College Road Trip
        families  can  explore  college  Hillel professionals (who  will  TheBus where they can follow  is offered to the community for
        and Jewish life on campus on  share insights on Jewish and  college  student “bus drivers”  free by the Jewish Teen Educa-
        a   Virtual College Road  Trip  general  campus life)  engaging  for insider guides sharing the  tion  and Engagement  Funder
        during a monthlong series.  webinars  and  other  resources.  highlights of their campus and  Collaborative, a network of na-
        Each  day until  June 30, the  For a  comprehensive  list  of  college towns – what they love,  tional and local funders work-
        Virtual College Road Trip will  the 40-plus participating  cam-  what  makes  the  place  special  ing together to develop, nurture
        offer student-led college tours,  puses across the  country, visit  and what Jewish life is like  and scale new approaches to
        virtual  information  sessions  there.                     teen engagement.
        4 Jewish Review June 9, 2021
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