Making Jewish Meaning with Hillel Senior Jewish Educators

From Section:
Informal Education
Apr. 26, 2010
6. April 26, 2010

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


In a post from the Growing Jewish Education in Challenging Times series, Beth Cousens of Hillel, illustrates how the Hillel Senior Jewish Educators on ten campuses around the US help hundreds of Jewish students create personal Jewish identities for themselves by taking “ownership” over their Jewishness.


Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educators program places innovative teacher-mentors steeped in Jewish learning on campuses to develop meaningful relationships with at least 180 Jewish students each and to infuse Jewish content throughout the Hillel enterprise.


She writes:

"These professionals have expertise. But their goal is not to transfer that expertise. They are not instructors but rather pastoral counselors and community organizers. They work for organizations, but they do not aim to help students develop connections to those organizations (something that frequently happens anyway). They believe in organized Jewish life, but they do not preach the existence of “the” Jewish community. They create experiences not just to gather students together but to advance students’ own capacities and skills. They have ideas about what is important Jewishly but they follow student interests, not their own.


These professionals provoke students to ask questions, to open up their very souls, to examine their assumptions, to explore on their own. When students engage in this process, when they find the meaning of their worlds within the resources of Jewish tradition, students do seize ideas for themselves and come to “own” their Jewish lives. This type of education prepares them to manage their own Jewish journeys with a robust awareness of what being Jewish means to them. They have tools necessary for self-discovery, self-authorship and also self-leadership.


Our task as Jewish educators is to prepare and motivate students to use their power, talent, and passion to build their own Jewish lives, rooted in who they are and what they consider important. When through this individualized Jewish exploration, am’cha leads themselves into their own dreams, they will contribute in new and beautiful ways to the diversity of Jewish life. Even in these challenging times, there is no greater investment we could make."

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Informal education | Jewish identity | University