Campus Affairs & Student Engagement

Mensch’s Guide to Campus Activism

Guide to Campus Activism

A Mensch's Guide to Campus Activism
Connecting college students to worldly issues.


The Hillels of Illinois
Regional Programs
30 S. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60606
phone: (312) 444-2868
fax: (312) 855-2479

Lewis Summer
Intern Program
The Hillels of Illinois
30 S. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60606
phone: (312) 444-2868

College Blog

Hillel Blog

Hillel at Loyola Gilad Shalit Welcome Home Card/Poster signed by people throughout university!

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The Hillel at Loyola Israel/Culture Committee created an "Isreality" display/information table in the Loyola Student Union. With an Israeli flag as the table banner, the focus of the display was a poster-sized "Welcome Home, Gilad!" card that is being sent to the Shalit family in Israel in celebration of the return of Gilad Shalit after 5 years in captivity. At the "Isreality" Table, In addition to Israel information, students served Israeli tea with fresh mint and gave out little bags of Bamba and Bissili. Students, faculty and staff from throughout the university came to sign the "Welcome Home, Gilad!" card.

The poster/card was displayed again, and Loyola student athletes and fraternity members added their names, when they participated in making sandwiches for Hillel's annual PBJam for Loyola's Hunger Week. The final display of the card was at Hillel's Kristallnacht program, when Holocaust survivor, Mr. Israel Starck, signed his name after speaking to a large university gathering. A picture of Gilad Shalit and information about his captivity has been posted in Loyola Hillel since the time of his capture, and it was wonderful to replace that with the the "Welcome Home, Gilad!" card.






What's new with NU Hillel

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Once again, the NU Hillel community has come together to pull off another wildly successful Phone-a-thon! The spirit of hard work and volunteerism was palpable over the two weeks students were making calls-- especially among the group of kids who came back night after night putting in hours at a time. It's never easy to ask people for donations, but students who take part in the Fiedler Hillel's programs know how important it is that these programs continue to benefit the Northwestern Jewish community through this year and beyond. Even so, the committee in charge of Phone-a-thon knew that it would take a little "incentivizing" to reach our critical mass of callers each night (at least in the beginning) so all eight nights were full of pizza, baked goods, and candy, along with lots of laughs and mini-competitions between the groups of friends who came in. In the end, after our big final push, we were ecstatic to find out that our student-run Phone-a-thon had raised over $30,000! It was a credit to each and every student who came in to help out, and we're looking forward to pulling it off again next semester. 

Though it's not our biggest student group, Social Team is responsible for putting together some of the most memorable events our Hillel has to offer. Their highlight event this quarter was "Hillel Formal: Livin' the Chai Life". It was a night spent noshing, dancing, and...noshing in an elegantly arranged party hall in South Evanston. Over 100 students attended the event, and more than a few of those were heard complimenting the decadent delicacies Social Team had prepared. In addition to Social Team's culinary talents, the party goers were also lucky enough to enjoy the talents of local DJ Rob Fenton, who kept the energy high the whole night. And finally, thanks to another local talent, photographer Justin Barbin, we have an amazing collection of photos to remember the formal by.

NU Hillel

My Story: Yelena Lemberg

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 Yelena's Story

I was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1986 and came to America in December of 1989. I had no idea what a Jewish holiday was, let alone what it meant to be a Jew. My family moved to Rogers Park and sent me to kindergarten at Hillel Torah. I felt like an outcast because all the other kids in my class already knew what Shabbat was and understood what being Jewish meant. My classmates were used to kosher meals, while my family always had “Russian” food in the house.

Through the years, my family always did the best they could to participate in Jewish life despite the minimal knowledge we had about it. We lit Hanukkah candles and ate matzo during Passover, but it was never explained why we didn’t do more. I had many questions that my parents couldn’t answer because being a Jew was frowned upon where we came from. I started trying to find other Russian Jews to spend my time with and learn from.

Eventually, a couple of years ago, I decided to partake in an event through Russian Hillel called Skate with Israel, then I signed up for a Birthright trip. I was accepted and experienced travelling through the most amazing land that I had ever been to. After going to Israel I decided that I would try to spread the word of how amazing it is while finding more of a Jewish community for myself. I genuinely believe that everyone should get to go on a Birthright trip, so I signed up for Russian Hillel’s School of Madrichim, a leadership training program for Russian young adults, to better teach my fellow Russian Jews about the importance of going to Israel. During my time participating in the School of Madrichim, I attended a program called Russian Shabbaton where I met so many new people (that I still communicate with on a very regular basis).

I finally found where I fit in after so many years of searching. I felt accepted and welcome in my very own Jewish community. Events like Russian Shabbaton and Birthright helped open my eyes to the amazing people that come out of our community. The Jew I am today is a complete 180 degree spin from who I was. I now understand why we have our rituals and the meaning behind our holidays. I also finally feel comfortable embracing my Jewish self around others. Without the Jewish community I have through Russian Hillel, I would still be searching for who I really am and where I fit in.

Spotlight on UIUC Hillel's Jessica Ost at The General Assembly

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 Ost speaks at GA Conference

Click here to watch Jessica's speech

Below is the text from Jessica Ost's speech at the at the 2011 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly:

"The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has been my constant mentor and partner throughout my college experience, and I owe JUF an enormous debt of gratitude for the life-changing opportunities it has provided me.

Recognizing my deep passion for Israel and my personal Israel advocacy efforts on campus during my freshman year in college, in 2009 JUF offered me a position as one of the Israel Education Center Interns at the University of Illinois. I continue to serve in that position, doing all that I can within my campus community to educate the next generation of leaders, building multi-cultural and bi-partisan coalitions positively focused on Israeli culture, history and politics. So many students come to think of Israel in a positive light through events we host, from a joint Indian-Israeli dancing night to a September 11th memorial vigil for victims of terror.

Two summers ago, the Jewish United Fund honored me with another opportunity: I was chosen as a Hillels of Illinois Harriet and Maurice Lewis Family Summer Intern, where I was placed with JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council in downtown Chicago. Among all my assignments, I was most touched by the candlelight vigil I helped organize marking the fourth year of Gilad Shalit’s captivity. The number of people who attended the vigil was astounding and it was a really moving and powerful experience. People from all over the Chicago area came together to show our longing for Gilad’s return home to Israel. I wept when he finally did return.

Through my JCRC internship, I also learned about the wide-ranging humanitarian services JUF provides for Jews and non-Jews alike in Chicago, from food and emergency cash to support that helps seniors stay in their homes and at-risk children better succeed in school, and helping to maintain Jewish community from Buffalo Grove to Buenos Aires to Budapest.

The extensive network of Jewish agencies working together through the JUF/Federation system showed me how JUF provides for our Jewish community holistically. And there are so many opportunities that JUF affords for community members of all ages to allow them to give back to help their community, the Jewish people and Israel.

After working for the Jewish United Fund for more than three years, I am certain my career path, influenced by my work with JUF, will lead me to dedicate my life to the service of the Jewish community either here in the United States or in Israel. These opportunities enhanced my lifelong desire to serve and have shown me the many ways in which I can successfully accomplish my dreams by serving as a Jewish communal professional. No matter where I end up working I know that I will be helping protect Israel and the Jewish people.
I wish, of course, to thank everyone I have encountered at the JUF. Every one of the warm, generous, capable people has contributed to the formulation of my career objectives, served as a model of chesed, and left an indelible mark on life. To all of you: thank you.

Finally, thank you to the organization itself. My college experience certainly could not have been as meaningful without the opportunities JUF has provided me. I cannot imagine where I would be without the support of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago."

Student Teams Up with Rabbi For Memorable Service

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by Rachel Borgman

Hillels across the country are helping students retain their Jewish identities while they are away at college. The Hillel at Bradley University has taken this mission a step further. With a new house, the BU Hillel began an era of dedication to upholding Jewish customs and traditions. One way to encourage learning is to have students become more personally involved in everything that Hillel does. Shabbat services are one of the programs that students are being encouraged to become more involved with.

One student has taken her experience to another level by actually leading her fellow Jews in a Shabbat services that she designed along with the Hillel Director, Rabbi Daniel Bogard. This opportunity was made possible through focusing the services on the students themselves.

Gabriela Granote, a senior at Bradley explains that "Rabbi Bogard wants to make this our service, not his. Which I think is cool. He emphasizes in educating us so we can make meaningful decisions for us in terms of how we maintain Judaism after college and lead a Jewish lifestyle."

With the invitation to lead a service, Emily Goldberg, a freshman at Bradley, decided that she wanted to share some of her own traditions with others. To prepare for Shabbat, she got together with the rabbi and prepared the service that she wanted to experience with everyone.

The service started much like the other Reform services. Rabbi Bogard lead students through the starting psalms and then passed the role on to Emily. Before each prayer, Emily would explain the melodies that she had chosen, many of which she had held on to from her experiences at camp.

"I have gone to the reform Jewish camp, Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, for 8 years as a camper, and I recently worked there on staff. I always really liked the way we ran services at the camp, so I decided, why not bring some OSRUI into a Hillel Service," explained Goldberg after the service. "I just kept thinking of the melodies I always sing at camp, melodies that I am used to, melodies that I love to sing."

Other students followed her lead as she introduced new songs to the group. Audrey Hutnick, a senior member of Hillel, expressed how much she enjoyed the service because it was different than others she had been to. "Back home you go to synagogue and the rabbi runs services. It is a fun, new experience to have a student working with the rabbi to run services their own way."

As an active member of Hillel, Emily's Jewish Identity remains very important to her, and through her participation, she hopes to share her passion with others like her."I love being able to express my Reform Judaism to the Hillel Community and to be able to share this experience with them, along with experiencing other types of services. It's a great way to see other perspectives and aspects of Judaism", Emily said.

Because Hillel is open to all sects of Judaism, experiencing different customs is another way that students help each other learn about the differences in Judaism. Having students lead their own services is a great start to teaching young Jews how to further connect with their roots.

Although Rabbi Bogard will continue to lead services, the option for a student led service or a learner's service will always be available with the goal of continuing to educate young Jews and strengthen their religious beliefs.

Emily Goldberg

Emily standing in front of one of the stain glass windows in the sanctuary.

Building Jewish community: A Voice from Illinois Wesleyan University

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by Nate Evans

It is intriguing to hear about the assorted Jewish backgrounds of our Hillel members. Some belong to a conservative temple while others are active in a reform community. The style of Jewish education we received varies in the methods of learning Hebrew, the roles of rabbis, and what we were taught about Jewish history. The ways in which we practice Judaism at home differ in the manner of Sabbath observance and holiday celebrations. Some had the pleasure of visiting Israel and chat about their unforgettable experiences. Others plan to go someday through Birthright or an equal program. A few point out that they were among countless Jewish students in high school whereas others reveal they swam in a sea of gentiles throughout those four years.

Certainly, each one of us makes claim to such diverse and unique Jewish experiences and I think it is inspiring to listen to people discuss what being a Jew means to them. What I find even more extraordinary is that every Thursday night, we discuss these differences and form a Jewish community that is compatible, alive, and in fact a product of our unique Jewish identities. At its core, Hillel is a group of people utilizing their differences in a positive way to reach a common goal. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of.