Through the Eyes of a "Cynical" New Yorker
When I was asked to write the opener for this weekly, I jumped at the opportunity. As a "cynical" New Yorker (to be fair, less cynical and more questioning), I met your incredible staff at my first Hillel Institute in balmy, rainy, temperature challenged St. Louis. I learned three things right away: first, that the Cohen Center for Jewish Life at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was the first ever Hillel in existence; second, that your staff lived its mission by engaging a nervous first year employee at Oregon Hillel; and finally, that their passion, enthusiasm, and desire to inspire is contagious.
While all of this matters (don't get me wrong, it really does matter), what matters even more is the love and pride that they have for their students. Every conversation they have revolves around their impressive programmatic undertakings or the comic relief and camaraderie that they share with their student leaders and interns. They encourage everyone to be uniquely comfortable or productively uncomfortable-as long as they bring their authentic selves to the game. Anyone who spends five minutes with Erez, Asaf, Brian, Carly, Mike, Michael, or Vera leaves the conversation feeling like a part of the Illini family: at ease, at home, and at once longing to visit the campus and to meet all of you.
I know that all of you are going through finals week and I want to wish you the best of luck (from Oregon or from Israel, depending on where I'm at when you read this). Feel free to experience the inspiration for yourself-Illini Hillel is at hand with anything you need: support, smiles, and all the snacks you want.
Amanda Katherine Weiss
Director of Jewish Leadership & Learning