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

A Shaliach in Chicago!

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By Lisette Dolgin



There is big news coming to Levine Hillel at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  Next year, they will be getting their first Israeli Shaliach on staff.  The term shaliach means “messenger”, but the actual position is much, much more.  On campus, the Shaliach’s job is to help connect students to Israel, and be a representative of Israel on campus, like an ambassador.  This program, a partnership between Hillel and the Jewish Agency, has brought Israelis to campuses around the country. Having a Shaliach on campus provides a higher profile for Israel on campus, as the individual’s main job is to work with students to provide quality pro-Israel programming and advocacy to students.  “Having a Shaliach  on campus is an opportunity for Hillel students and the larger campus community to have a first-hand experience with Israel, not as an issue of the media or politics, but as a real life place with citizens, “explained Marla Baker, Executive Director of Levine Hillel at UIC.
 “The Shaliach needs to be someone who can relate to students,” Marla explained as she described what she will be looking for in the new Israeli staff member, “he or she will have to be able to connect with students on this important issue of Israel, have fun with students, and at the same time, connect with a range of people and their pro-Israel perspectives, where ever their politics are.” 
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has already had a Shaliach for a number of years now. Their current Shaliach, Erez Cohen, has been an amazing influence for Hillel, “It’s made a tremendous difference in terms of having someone on staff that really embodies Israel for the Jewish and general university community,” explained Joel  Schwitzer, Executive Director of the Cohen Hillel Center at UIUC.
Having a Shaliach at UIC was made possible by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), who have provided UIC with the funding for the Shaliach, as well as Israel advocacy programming and internships to students through their Hillel/JCRC Israel Initiative program.    “Having a Shaliach on campus will be energizing!“ Lindsay Folkerth, Director of the Hillel/JCRC Israel Initiative exclaimed. She called the Shaliach a “personal ambassador” from Israel to UIC, “The Shaliach will be a great resource for UIC, and other campuses in the Chicagoland area.”  

UIC’s campus does not have a tremendous amount of anti-Israel activity, but there are plenty of Israel’s detractors there. They recently had an Israel apartheid Week come to campus, but the resources available through Hillel to counter the activity have made a huge difference in keeping a positive Israel image at UIC. Marla Baker has been the Executive Director of the Hillel at UIC for 15 years, and has seen the impact that a very positive, proactive Israel program has on the campus environment. She is proud that the Levine Hillel at UIC has been able to use the tools provided to them so that most of the conversation on Israel is on their terms. “I’ve had faculty stop me on campus to tell me how our programming has impacted how the campus community sees Israel. Having these positive Israel resources helps Jewish students strengthen their own identities,” said Marla.
It will be exciting to see what happens with UIC Hillel next year as the Shaliach becomes part of the community.  The importance of this “messenger” cannot be overlooked. “The future leaders of our country are all on campuses right now,” Joel Schwitzer explained. “  Ensuring that there is a shaliach on campus to represent Israel -  not just to the Jewish community but also to the entire campus community - is essential in ensuring that Israel is framed appropriately for the upcoming generation of leadership.”

Hillel At Loyola Yom Ha'Atzmaut Celebration 2010

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Erin Golger
Hillel/JCRC Israel Initiative Intern, Loyola University Chicago



For the first time ever, Loyola experienced a Palestine Awareness Week the week before Israel Independence Day. Although we started the week anxiously, after seeing the construction of a small, yet visible wall-like structure on Halas Field, Palestine Awareness Week fizzled almost from the very beginning. After reviewing the flyers outlining the events for the week, Hillel quickly created a flyer responding to the inaccurate information depicted on the “wall” and organized its distribution beginning on Monday morning. Distributing the flyer upset the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) members. One of our students discovered that the main quote, supposedly said by Nelson Mandela, was a total fabrication, and the MESA students had to send an apology to the Dean of Students, publicly list the fabrication on their Facebook page, and hand out a written apology to anyone who approached the wall. On Monday night, Hillel students attended the first lecture of Palestine Week. Only 15 people were present in the entire auditorium set up for 200. The five Hillel students in attendance confronted all the inaccuracies of the speaker. On Tuesday, Hillel leaders met with the Dean of Students to express their concern that the wall was on university property with funding from the university. The Dean explained that no one knew the structure would look the way it did, and assured the Hillel students that MESA would not be allowed to set up mock check points on Thursday in front of the university’s main classroom building. By Wednesday, no more significant activity occurred around the “wall,” and by Thursday when Hillel began its final preparation for our Israel Independence Day Celebration, it was clear that our voice had been heard. Judging by comments received from Jewish and non-Jewish students, Palestine Awareness Week was not received well by the university community, in general.

As the only Illinois campus which had a major public Yom Ha'atzmaut party in the entire Student Union Lobby it was a spectacular party it was for Hillel and for Loyola University at large!  Maybe because of the events of the previous week, many university administrators were present, and they could not have received a better indication of how Hillel at Loyola functions in our university!

The Student Union Lobby was a sea of blue and white balloons! There have never been balloons like this in the Student Union before. Besides the balloon arch over the stage, all of the columns were wrapped in balloons, and all the tables in the Student Union were clothed in blue and white.  Stereo Sinai provided outstanding entertainment, and the Hillel students created amazing signage for each of the tables from an Israeli snack table to Israeli Artwork to an "I Love Israel Table" to Israel Facts to the Ahava gift giveaways to the table with the long lines (only at Loyola!) to get a keychain with your name written in Hebrew and English and decorated with Israeli flags.   And when you entered the Student Union, you were greeted with the stage at one end and two huge display tables at the other end with a giant Israeli flag and a blue and white banner that said "Happy Birthday, Israel! - 62 Years!"

Alpha Psi Lambda Latino Fraternity, The Turkish Intercultural Club, and the Department of Diversity were sponsors of our celebration. The Latino Fraternity bought a huge, colorful piñata for us that said Happy Birthday! on it.  We filled it with Israeli candy, and the university staff hung it in a central place in the Student Union. We served Israeli food at the falafel stand, as well as Turkish Kosher and Latino Kosher food. We also had two huge birthday cakes shaped like an Israeli flag. The Turkish students, at their table, set up a whole Turkish Coffee stand, and throughout the afternoon served authentic Turkish Coffee in a backdrop of Israel flags and blue and white balloons.

Finally, what was very moving for everyone there was the Yom Ha'Atzmaut ceremony. Our Israeli students and the Hillel President president read in Hebrew and English the prayer for the well-being of the IDF, the State of Israel, and a prayer for Peace. Then they asked everyone present to please stand (most people were already standing, but some were not) - and literally everyone who was in the entire Student Union Lobby stood up, and we sang Hatikvah. Alan Sufrin from Stereo Sinai played the guitar, and he and the Israeli students led the singing of Israel’s national anthem.  We passed out the lyrics before the ceremony.  You had to be there to see the Jews, the Christian, the Turks, the Latinos, and others standing while many of us sang Hatikvah in the middle of the Loyola Student Union. Truly a sight to remember.


University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Celebrates Israel

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by Danielle Perlin, Hillel/JCRC Israel Initiative Intern



Blue and white balloons decorated the University of Illinois main quad on Tuesday, April 19 in celebration of Israeli Independence Day. The smell of hummus and falafel filled the air, and the Hebrew music blasting from the radio helped bring Israeli culture to campus.
The week of April 12 was Israeli Peace Week at the University, and the week after was Israel Week, celebrating Israel's 62nd birthday. A plethora of programs and events were planned by Hillel, The American-Israeli Student Coalition (AISC), Jewish Education Team (JET) and IsraelIllini. These events were comprised of Israeli dancing, cultural group meetings, speakers and more.
Daniel Flesch, senior in Political Science, named Sgt. Benjamin Anthony's speeches as his favorite events. The British native talked to pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups on Tuesday, April 13, and he spoke with a purely Jewish crowd on Wednesday, April 14.
"The first night, he spoke as a soldier. He gave us numerous accounts of how the soldiers don't celebrate or rejoice after a battle. They cry; they write down their last will ... they're ultimately striving for peace," said Flesch.
Anthony has an organization called Our Soldiers Speak. According to its website, its mission is "to bring the IDF’s proud truth from the front line of Israel’s battlefields to the people of the Diaspora; wherever and whenever audience is granted."
"I'm going to remember his tone and the way he approaches the issue of the conflict in broad terms," said Flesch. "We can engage in these conversations with people who don't like what we have to say ... in a calm, collective manner."
The  events throughout the two weeks, including Anthony's speeches, were successful, according to Erez Cohen, Israel Programs Coordinator at Illini Hillel.
"We have seen greater numbers attend all events than in recent years, " he added. "More than that, this is the first time that the Jewish community of Champaign-Urbana, the Israeli community who work here and the student community are celebrating together."
Opening up the celebration to the community has helped foster new relationships with other student organizations. Cultural groups on campus, including the Turkish, Indian and Phillipino Student Associations, now have a connection with the Jewish community.
"These relationships [open] the campus to more opportunities in the future," said Cohen.


Check Out Yad B'Yad

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Hand in Hand Logo

The Hillels of Illinois joins with the Jewish Child and Family Services in building relationships between young adult volunteers and Jewish young adult participants with  developmental or learning disabilities. Yad B’Yad, the program’s name, is Hebrew for “hand in hand.” Yad B’Yad clinician Meredith Sices describes this partnership as a fun, social way of bringing together these two communities. “We bring participants and volunteers together for an activity and a kosher meal," she explains, “it’s for young adults only, no parents, so  participants have an opportunity to enjoy time with their peers and independently create new friendships.”

Yad’ B’Yad hosts an event once a month, and programs are focused on Jewish holidays or themes, community service projects in the Jewish community, or just fun social events. Each month has a different type of program, which has helped Yad B’Yad develop many committed participants.  “It’s wonderful getting to know many people and see all kinds of friendships and connections made,” says Meredith. She says the volunteers are fabulous and have a lot of enthusiasm.  It’s this spirit of the program that makes it so amazing. “No matter what we are doing, whether it is a high energy activity like karaoke, or something mellow like planting flowers for an Earth Day project, it’s a really positive environment every month.” This year’s karaoke party was a hit. Volunteers and participants belted out songs throughout the evening. Yad B’Yad’s next big event is a celebration of Israel Independence Day with falafel and Israeli folk dancing, April 20th.

Meredith believes in Yad B’Yad’s mission, “It’s important for me to be part a program that encourages community integration and changes attitudes towards people with developmental disabilities.” Yad B’Yad welcomes student volunteers who are interested in working with individuals who have mild developmental disabilities and who want to make a difference in the Jewish community.

College and Graduate students looking to volunteer with Yad B’Yad should contact Suzanne Storrs at or call 312-673-2355.

Yad B’ Yad is a volunteer program of The Hillels of Illinois and Jewish Child and Family Services bringing together young Jewish adults with developmental disabilities and young Jewish volunteers for social, cultural and religious activities.

JCFS and The Hillels of Illinois are partners in serving our community supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation.


Robert W. Matanky to be Honored at the Hillels of Illinois 20th Annual Benefit

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By Lisette Dolgin

Rabbi Matansky Photo

Robert W. Matanky

Rabbi Hillel’s famous quote, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? ” gives insight into the qualities Hillel, as a student organization, seeks to imbue in its students to prepare them to be communal leaders.  Robert W. Matanky answered Hillel’s call over 30 years ago as a student leader at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and The Hillels of Illinois has been blessed ever since.

“The values that I saw in him as a college student are the same values he has emulated as an adult: passion for the Jewish community, for improving the quality of life for Jews overall, and, in particular, for ensuring that all Jewish college students have the opportunity to claim their Jewish heritage in a way that is personally meaningful to them,” explained Patti Ray, who was Mr. Matanky’s Hillel Director back when he was a student at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus, now known as the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).   

As a student in the ‘70s, Mr. Matanky was an active member of his Hillel, serving as Vice President, and was instrumental in promoting a Jewish presence on campus.  Circle Campus was a hotbed for anti-Israel activity at the time.  After anti-Israel protestors stormed an Israel Independence Day event, the university prohibited the Hillel students from throwing another such celebration.  Mr. Matanky was instrumental in helping to garner the resources necessary- from the Jewish Federation, as well as from state legislators- to assure that the University’s policy would be overturned.

After graduation, Mr. Matanky remained involved, joining the Hillel/College Age Youth Services Commission, the precursor to The Hillels of Illinois, and became involved in the process of providing students at UIC a place to call home. As a student “he kept saying that we need our own building,” Patti recalled, “I thought it was a fantastic idea, but improbable. “  Paul Cherner, a leading figure in the development of the Levine Hillel Center and Chair of the Governing Commission when the building opened, worked tirelessly with Mr. Matanky to ensure the success of the building.  “Every inch of the building needed to be inviting,” Mr. Matanky explained. It was truly a building designed with the help of a former Hillel student, for future Hillel students. Through a generous and inspiring gift from the Levine family through the Jewish Federation’s Continuum program, the Mildred & William Levine Hillel Center opened in 1990.

Patti Ray believes Mr. Matanky inherited his dedication to Jewish life from his father, Eugene z’’l, and his mother, Trude. “Eugene Matanky z’’l was a builder, literally and figuratively, of the Jewish community, said Patti, “Trude still remains the strong core of the family. I think Bobby had tremendous role models in his parents, which is why he and all of his siblings are active leaders in the Jewish community today.”

“My father’s active leadership always served as an inspiration.  I grew up recognizing the obligation to work together with all Jews to support, preserve and help build the community,” Mr. Matanky explained. Robert Matanky eventually became the Chair of The Hillels of Illinois, committed to the lessons he learned from his father.  Today he continues to serve on the Commission and represents the region on the International Board of Directors of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. His many achievements include fostering the creation and growth of Hillels Around Chicago and expanding services for all of the Jewish students in Illinois.

“We are fighting a battle here trying to keep young Jewish people involved in being Jewish, Bobby is a perfect example of someone who carries that banner very passionately,” said Ila Lewis, Hillel Governing Commission member and a former Chair. The Jerusalem Talmud B’rachot says, “anyone who is involved in the welfare of the public is as if he is involved in words of Torah.”  As Mr. Matanky continues his holy work, his vision, leadership, and commitment to Jewish life continues to have a profound impact. 

Robert W. Matanky will be presented with The Hillels of Illinois Exemplary Leadership Award at The Hillels of Illinois 20th Annual Benefit on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at the Standard Club.  The evening will include a dinner and dessert reception, a Silent Auction, and will feature a live performance of The Second City’s travelling troupe.  Sponsorship opportunities are available, as are opportunities to advertise in the Event Program Book.  For more information, call 312-673-2354 or visit

The Hillels of Illinois, a partner in serving our community, is supported by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.