The Move to the Apple Remote, Part 2: Why Do We Exist?

uflorida HillelBy Rabbi Adam Grossman

The article, “The Move to the Apple Remote, Part 1,” centers upon the importance of Jewish organizations learning from the simplicity of an Apple remote. This column outlines University of Florida (UF) Hillel’s move in this new direction. It includes the analysis that led to the identification of its three “buttons,” so that UF Hillel could better serve Gainesville’s Jewish student population of between 6,500 and 10,000 Jews and the communities where those students will ultimately reside.

“Why do we exist?” It is a question that philosophers, theologians, and everyday individuals have debated and struggled with for millennia. While difficult to personally solve, for a business it is essential to define. Starting by asking the question “why” can positively engage, inspire and encourage people to act, buy or participate in an organization. Simon Sinek explains this in his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” He shares, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” However, rather than addressing this all-important question, many businesses and nonprofit organizations often overlook it. In determining the “three buttons” of UF Hillel, it was crucial to answer the question, “Why do why exist,” so that we could discover “How we will do it” and “What we will do to accomplish it?”

Prior to answering this question, it was imperative for UF Hillel to evaluate Hillel’s current viability, Millennial realities and trends within Jewish life. The following aspects stood out:

In order to anchor Jewish living in students’ lives so that they can impact communities after graduation, this information demonstrated the need to build a more relevant place on campus and something more pertinent to students’ desires. To do this, we committed to reimagining old paradigms, celebrating creativity and being comfortable with failure. The following framework emerged:

Why do we exist:

  • Enhance students’ college experience and prepare them for their life post-college
  • Motivate talented students to sustain and transform communities following their time on campus
  • Inspire and perpetuate Jewish living from generation to generation in students and communities alike

How we do this:

  • Be the Jewish innovation capital of the Southeast by nurturing the creativity that exists on campus and in the South, and realize the power of failure as a fertilizer of success
  • Encourage students on the UF/Santa Fe campuses to find and to work towards a life mission
  • Become a movement, rather than an organization, by offering students the tools and support through universal Jewish values to find solutions to local, national and world issues
  • Develop the leaders on campus, who build communities in Florida and around the globe, by anchoring Judaism with their desires to find jobs, create businesses, and a make positive impact within our world

What we do:

  • Offer a resource, learning and leadership center for students focused through a Jewish lens by concentrating on Birthright, Career Growth and Leadership Development
  • Provide a space for individuals to find a home, a purpose and a future
  • Instill a sense of joy, gratefulness and meaning to those we come into contact

This blueprint guides our decisions and our structure. And it forces us to focus on strengthening the “three buttons” – Birthright, Career Growth and Leadership Development – so that we can reverse declining Jewish engagement trends, as well as significantly transform students and communities. In the next article, I will outline in more depth the “buttons” that are the key to enhancing UF Hillel’s relevancy, individual Jewish growth at the University of Florida and Jewish communities around the state of Florida and the globe.

Rabbi Adam Grossman, who is a past Slingshot Guide Award recipient and member of Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders network, is the CEO of the University of Florida Hillel. Please feel free to connect with him on Facebook (rabbiadamgrossman) or Twitter (rabbiadam).