by Jenna Scheier, CSULB student
At the second SoCal Area Wide Hillel Leadership Gathering, students met at Chapman University to learn not only what it means to be a leader, but also how they as student board leaders can become better Hillel leaders. The program, run by Southern California Jewish Student Services (SoCalJSS) in partnership with Orange County Hillel and Long Beach Hillel, served to prepare each school’s Hillel group for the upcoming semester while simultaneously connecting all of the participating Hillels to create an opportunity to learn from each other. “You could see the students becoming empowered to make a change on their campuses as a result of the activities they participated in,” said Sarah Austin, UCI Hillel’s programming associate.
Received well by the students, the event proved beneficial as Fullerton student David Rosen describes, “I enjoyed discovering leadership styles and discovering which abilities I need to work on.” Starting with a fun, hands-on activity, as the day progressed; students identified and tackled difficulties from the previous semesters.
Starting off with an activity called “Building a Future for Hillel”, led by Megan Kanofsky and Sarah Austin of Orange County Hillel, the program got students involved meeting others and working together. The project allowed the students to begin thinking of the Hillel they would like to see and the outcome resulted in an interesting view for the students. At the end of the first activity, it was very clear that each individual in the room had their own leadership qualities; however, it was not until the second activity that these qualities were identified.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz ran the second program, which consisted of reading an excerpt from the Talmud, distinguishing the difference between a prophet and a leader, and doing a bit of movement. Although all activities throughout the day were enjoyable, this last activity seemed to really hit home for many of the students I interviewed. Separating the room into four types of leadership qualities, which included empathy, analysis, vision and action, Rabbi Shmuly had the participants choose the quality that most described the individual as well as the one that the individual had most difficulty with. Rabbi Shmuly brought to light the idea that being a leader can be carried out differently by different people and that a combination of these attributes within numerous people can describe a well-rounded team.
Jordan Fruchtman, executive director of Orange County Hillel, led a discussion of difficulties Hillel leaders in the area had been encountering so far in the year. This program was found to be very helpful as one student in a follow-up survey put it, “we got a chance to discuss the problems we are having at our various Hillels. It was nice to know that we’re not the only Hillel that has some problems! Also, we were able to bounce ideas off each other which is always helpful.”
The program finished with a “Jewish Life After College” discussion led a by Parker Weinthal, a Moishe House resident, who spoke on not only social options for Jewish young adults after college, but also on how Moishe House plans out their programming.
Leaving with a better understanding of what it means to be a leader and semester goals of the different university Hillels working together as well as programs for individual Hillel’s, the students agreed that the program had been helpful. As Rachel Kaplan, Beach Hillel’s director said, “It gave students the opportunity to work and think together with students from other areas and to build relationships throughout the semester.”