Nick Liebman, Program Director for Hillels Around Chicago, has been accepted into Hillel’s LAPID (Leadership And Professional International Development) program. Lapid in Hebrew means torch, and the select 15 who get to be part of the program will be given the training, tools and resources to better “light the way” as Jewish professionals and leaders. LAPID offers these dedicated professionals a unique training experience that includes seminars, monthly personal mentoring from a lay leader, web-based training, an opportunity to be part of a unique cohort of International colleagues, and support to significantly develop leadership and social justice activities on campus. Nick shares his thoughts with us on this honor:
“The first thing that caught my eye about LAPID was the opportunity to learn from more experienced Hillel professionals, lay leaders, and my own Hillel peers from around the world. I have been with Hillel now for about a year and a half. In that time, I have already learned so much about our Hillel, the campuses we work on, and the work we've been doing up until now. Like any Hillel, though, we are always looking for ways to reach more students and to develop within them a sense of ownership of their Jewish lives. I cannot wait to learn from others' successes in the field.
Additionally, the focus of this year's LAPID program will be the creation of a campus based Jewish Social Justice initiative. This focus resonates with me personally and with our student populations. I began working in the field of Jewish Education by introducing high school students to a Jewish way of looking at poverty and injustice in our world. Using a model that incorporated direct action, text study, and inter-communal cooperation, I was able to see in my students, as well as in myself, an increased commitment to Jewish principles, the Jewish Community, and our traditions. That commitment stemmed directly from their experiences of putting Tzedek principles into action across Chicago's diverse communities. Think about it: many of us are taught throughout our lives to help those in need. We learn about this through a civic lens in public school, we learn about it through a Christian lens via cultural osmosis. But very rarely do we examine the biblical, talmudic, and midrashic texts that command us to pursue justice. Discovering the Jewsish response to suffering and poverty, and discovering that we have been grappling with these issues for thousands of years, is powerful. It can be a healthy source of pride, a call to action, even an invitation to explore other parts of Judaism, like Shabbat or keeping kosher.
At DePaul University, the very same values of uplifting the poor and disadvantaged, correcting the flaws in society, and healing the world are embodied by the school's namesake, St. Vincent DePaul. While there are many reasons why students choose to attend a school, DePaul's commitment to social justice is a major draw. Designing a new initiative, which explicitly identifies the Jewish values of Tzedakah, Tikkun Olam, and the constant pursuit of justice will give the Jewish students at DePaul a connection to Jewish life that is tangible and meaningful for them, and easy to translate into wider, more universal language.
I'm so excited that I won't have to be feeling around in the dark, so to speak, but that I'll have guidance, resources and support as I begin expanding our Hillel's reach and programming. I cannot wait to begin sharing what I've learned with my colleagues and students. But I most eagerly await that very special moment of connection, when a Jewish student comes into my office, overflowing with enthusiasm for the work he is doing, for the meaning she has found, and the commitment they are making to live a vibrant and exciting Jewish life.”
The Jewish community is fortunate to have professionals like Nick who continue to enhance Jewish life on campus, and who empower our students now and for the future.