Hillel Israel Gets It Right

Failure to engage alumni is, perhaps, the biggest single mistake the Jewish world has made for decades. Our camps, youth programs and Israel long-term programs – among others – are all at fault. Hundreds of thousands of interested and committed individuals, during their most formative years, have moved through our programs and institutions. And what do we as a community do to engage them when they reach alumni status? Precious little; and until recently not even that.

So when an organization takes the lead and reaches out to their alumni, Kol HaKavod! In this case to Hillel Israel.

Through a new endeavor they seek to answer the question, once a Hillel student graduates, how can he or she continue to pursue the kind of meaningful Jewish experiences they enjoyed while in college or university?

Thanks to a new initiative, their graduates can now turn to the Hillel Israel Alumni Association, which is building a community of young adults who share the Hillel vision.

Hillel alumni Amichai Haber and Tamar Shchory originated and launched the association out of a desire to be in touch with former students who share their ideals, and to build programs that speak to their shared interests.

The Hillel Israel Alumni Association has a presence on Facebook, where Hillel graduates can find one another and interact. It is both a virtual community and a real one.

securedownloadRecently the Alumni Association held its first event, a successful S’lichot tour of historic Nachla’ot in Jerusalem, complete with stories, songs, and limmud as the participants soaked up the pre-High Holiday atmosphere in this fascinating area. The night-time tour lasted from 10 to 1:30, ending at the Kotel in time for the traditional Slichot services.

For those of you not familiar, Nachla’ot was one of the earliest neighborhoods built outside the walls of the Old City. It is like a village, just a few meters off Rehov Yafo, where different groups of immigrants settled in the 19th and early 20th centuries, established their own synagogues and cooperated in communal efforts like drawing water and washing laundry. It is a neighborhood especially rich in culture and history, thus perfect for appreciating the importance of community at this time of year, as we celebrate the fall chagim.

The group represented the spectrum of young Israeli adults – Ashkenazi and Sephardi, married and single, observant and secular, graduates of Hillel campuses and their friends from other campuses.

All in all a good start. We look to hearing more in the future, not only from this group, but of how other organizations are recognizing the need and making serious efforts to engage their program alumni.