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

Looking forward: How JCRC increased my excitement to study in Israel

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By: Jessica Ost

During my sophomore year at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, I was given an opportunity that truly changed my life; that opportunity was being the JCRC/Hillel Israel Initiative Intern on my campus.  During the first semester of my internship, I worked closely with shaliach Erez Cohen where we organized dozens of cultural and political Israel programs.  From that first semester until now, our “Israel team” has only grown bigger and stronger.  Through our collective Israel programs—from weekly Israeli movie showings, tabling about Gilad Shalit on the quad, celebrating LGBT rights in Israel, hearing Jewish-Iranian Tabby Davoodi speak about Iran as well as many other programs—we reached a multitude of different students on campus.

During the summer of 2010, I was accepted as one of 28 Lewis Summer Interns.  My placement was with the Jewish Community Relations Council where I researched anti-Israel groups in Chicago, met state, domestic, national and international political leaders, wrote for the JUF News, helped organize and participated in the candlelight vigil for Gilad Shalit as well as many other assignments.

The work I have done with JCRC on campus and downtown has inspired me in many aspects of my life.  Second semester I will be studying in Jerusalem at Hebrew University Rothberg International.  Although, as a Global Studies major I am required to study abroad in Israel, there is no other country where I could imagine choosing to study.  Working with the JCRC has only increased my excitement to study in Israel!

Northwestern Student Meredith Aaron Receives International Hillel Award

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Northwestern student Meredith Aaron, Class of 2011, received the prestigious Philip H. and Susan Rudd Cohen Student Exemplar of Excellence Award from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at an international gathering of Hillel students, professionals and lay leaders in New Orleans.

In presenting the award, Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone explained that the eight young people who received top honors demonstrated “tireless devotion and transformative impact by inspiring others to act and lead, building meaningful relationships, fostering innovation and creativity, and modeling Jewish growth.”

Aaron has grown in her leadership positions with Hillel, beginning as president of the First-Year Students of Hillel program and later taking on the role of president of Hillel’s Student Leadership Council. “Understanding the importance of collaboration, she has built valuable relationships with organizations such as the Admissions Office and Office of Alumni Relations and Development to enhance Hillel’s role on campus as an indispensible university partner,” said Firestone, adding, “She inspires students along their Jewish journeys by serving as a role model through her passion and commitment to Jewish life. She has made innumerable contributions to and a significant impact on Northwestern Hillel.”


University of Chicago Hillel’s Mega-Shabbat Series is a Mega-Success

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Nearly 200 University of Chicago students packed into Ida Noyes Hall for a banquet style Shabbat dinner on January 28th. The dinner was the third in a series of six “Mega Shabbat” dinners hosted by the University of Chicago’s Newberger Hillel Center.

The evening’s remarkable turnout—25% of all Jewish college students at the University—was fueled by eight student interns trained and managed by Hillel’s Director of Engagement, Leah Kahn. This student leadership team studies and practices community organizing techniques in addition to other skills essential for recruitment such as empathetic listening and marketing. Their effort to build relationships with uninvolved Jewish students on campus over the course of the full school year pays off at events like Mega-Shabbat, where students can meet and mingle with other Jewish students.

The interns made sure their friends and new contacts felt welcome by seating them at tables of smaller groups and student communities of like-minded peers. So often students feel lost and overwhelmed in big crowds, but each student leaves Mega-Shabbat with a new Jewish friend similarly trying to navigate Jewish identity in college.

One popular dinner table topic was the opening of registration for the University of Chicago Hillel’s Birthright Israel trip on February 15th. Alumni of past Hillel Birthright trips sat among students to share stories from their Israel experience and encourage them to apply for this year’s trip. 85 students applied by the end of the registration deadline (about 10% of Jewish college students on campus!).

Each Mega-Shabbat addresses issues of Jewish identity and meaning by introducing a “Thinker-in-Residence” who is also hosted by University of Chicago Hillel that weekend. The thinker has opportunities over a Mega-Shabbat weekend to introduce students to new or novel approaches to living a Jewish life.

The January Mega-Shabbat featured a presentation and performance by Rachel Havrelock, UIC professor and Bible scholar, and her husband Yuri Lane, a vocal musician whose “human beatbox” style resonated with many students. The duo shared ideas about the creative process and how it relates to understanding Israel’s cultural nuances. Many students stayed to ask questions and discuss new ideas inspired by the talk.

Havrelock and Lane also led numerous workshops on campus over the weekend with the egalitarian student minyan, a Jewish acapella group, and a team of student interns planning campus events for Passover.

At the end of the evening, the team of interns thanked dinner attendees for coming and handed out invitations to the next Mega-Shabbat in March. “See you next Mega-Shabbat!”

 The Mega-Shabbat dinners and Thinker-in-Residence series, a project of the University of Chicago Hillel, is generously sponsored by the Horwitz Charitable Fund.