As a new school year begins, we are proud to present all of Illini Hillel’s accomplishments in the previous year. For the 2017-2018 year, we engaged 1,921 students, about 70% of the Jewish student body and more than ever before! We hired a Senior Jewish Educator, Rabbi Ari, who has increased high-impact programming where students grapple with religion and current Jewish topics. We also hosted many social events to bring the UIUC Jewish community together. Popular events included:


  • Wellness Wednesdays, led by our social work intern, focused on importance of physical, mental and other types of wellness for students.

  • Sandy’s Bagel Brunch which served 2,945 meals.

  • Shabbat Dinners which served 3,750 meals.


Thanks to the work of our OU-JLIC couple, we increased Kosher food availability on campus. The Champaign branch of Cold Stone Creamery received Kosher certification from the St Louis OV. This year, Illini Hillel made a large effort to focus on community service. Our most successful philanthropy events were:


  • Our 12-student Relay for Life team from Illini Hillel that raised over $3,500.

  • Illini Hillel hosted two community-wide blood drives, saving 117 lives. 

  • Cafe Sababa, our kosher cafe, raised $650 during fundraisers for Habitat for Humanity, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and more.


This April, over 250 people joined Illini Hillel for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Margie K. and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life. The event honored Maury Fertig, Barry Weiner and the Cohen/Takiff Family for their work and dedication to Illini Hillel. The new building has allowed Illini Hillel to create a warm environment to engage more Jewish students in a more meaningful way. We are so proud of all that we have accomplished together as a strong Jewish community.  Illini Hillel fought alongside students, parents and alumni against anti-Semitism. We supported Chancellor Jones in his statement condemning anti-Semitism being masked as anti-Zionism.  We also led an effort that defeated a deceptive and reoccurring BDS referendum with a 2 to 1 margin.  We combatted challenges head on and increased our student outreach programs and Israeli programming:


  • Hosted Israel Week with 580 students.

  • Subsidized and sent 36 students to AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

  • Sent 184 students to Israel through Birthright Israel, internships, and long-term Israel programs.


We are looking forward to next year and thank you for your continued support.


Paul Lapping                                             Sammy Marks

Co-Chair                                                    Co-Chair                                                              

Thriving Jewish Life


Click on each image to learn more about the different Jewish life programs offered throughout the semester such as our Lag B'Omer bonfire and our Interfaith Dinner in the Sukkah.

Jake Lewis

Reform Minyan Leader

Class of 2021

Nava Wolgel

JLIC Intern

Class of 2021

Strong Connection to Israel


Click on each image to learn more about how the University of Illinois Jewish community stays connected to Israel through Birthright Israel trips and Israel Week on campus each semester.

Amanda Sugar

Class of 2020

Hayley Nagelberg

Class of 2019


Plenty of Fun with Friends

Click on each image to learn more about some of the 400 programs that Illini Hillel puts on throughout the year, featuring Welcome Week, Barn Dance, cooking in the ARC and scrabble tournaments.

Alli Schwartz

Class of 2018

Melanie Kagan

Class of 2021

Community Building


Click on each image to learn more about the organizations and communities that Illini Hillel partners with in Champaign-Urbana, the University of Illinois, Chicago and beyond. 

Emily Kopka

Illini Challah for Hunger President

Class of 2019

Jake Feiger

Colleges Against Cancer Board Member

Class of 2020

Dear Stakeholders,


For the first time in many years, we are producing a formal annual report, to give you deeper insight into the life-changing work that we are doing on campus. In the last few years, we have been working to increase our visibility with supporters by sending out monthly alumni and parent emails.


95 years ago, Rabbi Benjamin Frankel sought to bring together Jewish students at the University of Illinois. He created the first Hillel in the world on our very campus. I often think how proud he would be to see the thousands of students that are engaged through Hillel every year. It is from his vision that we draw the motivation to grow our outreach efforts to reach every Jewish student on our campus. The third year of our 5-year strategic plan will include significant growth in our programs and outreach efforts. We have hired two additional staff members, Danielle and Nalani, who will work on increasing outreach to freshmen and sophomores as well as growing the availability of immersive experiences for all students. 


Illini Hillel will be offering more high-impact and immersive learning experiences this year. We have joined Hillel International’s Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF), a 10-week learning cohort for over 60 students on campus. We are also working to further develop our internship program by adding supplemental trainings to grow their professional development skills. For our observant community, we are planning on establishing a daily Minyan. Additionally, we will continue working with the University of Illinois to expand the opportunities relating to Israel, including creating bi-national research opportunities, study abroad experiences, and bringing Israeli speakers to campus. 


Another exciting moment this coming year is the honorary naming of John Street, where Hillel’s Cohen Center is located, as Honorary Rabbi Ben Frankel Way. To celebrate this and honor Hillel’s founder, we will host a block party at the beginning of the school year. This event will be part of the celebrations leading up to Hillel’s centennial year in 2023. 


None of these exciting initiatives could be done without you. I am grateful for your support and guidance. I look forward to seeing what the year ahead brings. 





Erez Cohen

Executive Director



Andrea Rich

Paul Lapping

Jeff Kaminsky

Paula Harris

Barry Altshuler

Marion Smith

Michael Arbus

Brett Taylor

Vadim Sagalchik 

Allison Nagelberg

Barry Weiner

Beth Grey

Sammy Marks

Adam Sturt 

Irene Zharnitsky 


Jordan Allen

Steve Miller

Sherri Zirlin

Lizzy Takiff Scheinfeld

Jill Takiff Hirsh

Bobette Takiff


Erez Cohen

Executive Director

Carly Froomkin Burak

Assistant Director

Rabbi Ariel Naveh

Senior Jewish Educator

Rabbi Shlomo Schachter


Jeremy Spiegel

Program Director

Bari Goldman

Director of Communications

Virni Bryson

Office Manager

Sammi Cutler

Senior Development Manager

Ahava Schachter-Zarembski

OU-JLIC Jewish Educator

Waga Brok

Israel Fellow

Danielle Baron

Engagement Associate

Nalani Haueter

Springboard Fellow

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • Google+ - Grey Circle
  • YouTube - Grey Circle
  • Instagram - Grey Circle
The Margie K. and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life

© 2023 by Architects. Proudly created with