Illini Hillel Annual Report 2019


Annual Report 2019

Reflecting on the past year as the Co-Chairs of Illini Hillel, we are so proud of all that was accomplished together. For the 2018-2019 year, we engaged 1,437 students, 48% of the Jewish student body. We are in the top percentile of Hillels, across the country, in terms of engagement and outreach work. Our events this year were content-rich and well thought out, to engage a more diverse group of students in a large variety of programs. We engaged 377 students in high-impact experiences, which are proven to further Jewish interactions and future commitment to Jewish life. Some highlights included:


• Sandy’s Bagel Brunch which served 3,240 meals and Shabbat Dinners which served 3,990 meals and had a variety of themes, to engage students in topics that interest them.

• The addition of the Jewish Learning Fellowship, a 10-week experiential, conversational seminar for students looking to deepen their understanding of Judaism on their own terms.

• We hosted two Israel Weeks, with events ranging from Krav Magav, to working with an Israeli artist to spray paint a mural, to enjoying pita and falafel at Eat Your Way Through Israel.


Illini Hillel provided numerous travel opportunities. For the second year in a row, our Student Leadership Trip brought five pro-Israel activists together with 20 campus leaders representing the African American Cultural House, the Latino Cultural House, Resident Halls, Fraternities and Sororities, and other major student groups to explore Israel. The purpose of this trip was to expose student leaders to the reality on the ground in Israel and build a social network of students who  have personal experience with Israel. The trip is also expected to help to mitigate claims from the BDS movement about what is happening in Israel.


• This year we increased our Birthright Israel recruitment and as a result, we saw a record number of registrations during Spring semester, to send over 80 students on Birthright this summer.

• We funded and led 26 students to AIPAC’s Policy Conference.

• We hosted an overnight student leadership retreat with 25 students. The retreat helped equip our student leaders to best engage with the diverse students we represent and create programs to benefit and interest all the students we serve.  

• We took 18 students on our first Camping Shabbaton during the High Holidays.


Illini Hillel also reacted quickly when the tragedy in Pittsburgh took place. The staff made themselves readily available to give the students the support that they needed, as well as several outlets to discuss their feelings. The Cohen Center increased its security measures and touched base with local police authorities following the attack. During the weekend’s Sandy’s Bagel Brunch, Hillel offered students the opportunity to write condolence notes to the Pittsburgh Jewish community. Close to 50 students wrote notes and dozens more sat with staff members to talk about the difficult time. Illini Hillel also held a vigil on the quad, alongside Chabad and JET (Jewish Education Team). The vigil attracted several hundred people. Illini Hillel staff were quick to react to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Jewish students on campus.


We are very proud of the work that is being done and are looking forward to another successful year.

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Paul Lapping

Sammy Marks

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Thriving Jewish Life


Click on each image to learn more about the different Jewish life programs offered throughout the semester such as our Purim Drag Show and our Interfaith Dinner in the Sukkah.

"JLF classes provided me with a space to discuss Jewish texts from a modern lens. Each class prompted thought provoking conversations, and an opportunity to widen my perspective from my peer"

Allison Perlman

JLF Participant
Class of 2019

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.


"I was involved in Israel Week but my favorite event was probably Artists4Israel where we had artists come and spray paint a mural on the quad."

Lexi English

Class of 2021

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Plenty of Fun with Friends

Click on each image to learn more about some of the 400 programs that Illini Hillel this year. Staff and students teamed up for hot chocolate bars, mah jongg games, movie nights and more.

"LGBTJew was difficult to get started but incredibly rewarding and successful in terms of outreach and support."

Claire Katz-Mariani

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. 

"This story that the Besa exhibit tells is a story we don't hear often. It's a story about how one can transform their surroundings and even in a time of pure evil, pure darkness, they can find hope and still help."

Tyeese Braslavsky

Besa: A Code of Honor Volunteer

Class of 2022

“We look forward to continuing to work with hillel as we help students here feel they can be proud of their Jewish faith and to celebrate it while being proud of being

students on this campus."

- Dean Jeffrey R. Brown of the gies college of business

upon receiving the 2019 King Cyrus Award

Dear Stakeholders,


The 2018-2019 school year has been a year of tremendous growth for us at Hillel at the University of Illinois. We experienced the national rise in anti-Semitism, while proudly celebrating our Jewish identity on campus. The shootings at the Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogues rattled us but did not stop us from celebrating being Jewish. We were able to celebrate the honorary naming of John Street as Rabbi Ben Frankel Way, culminating in a block party. The challenges that we faced did not stop us from engaging with other communities through the BESA exhibit, the Interfaith Conference, and other cross campus events. These challenges did not deter us from our enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning, and Israel.  

For the 2019-2020 school year, we are expecting additional challenges and opportunities. We are already working with the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois to hold several major Holocaust education events this coming year. We will support Jewish and Israeli cultural events on our campus including musical performances, movie screenings, speakers, and more. Most importantly, we will continue to provide services, support, and mentorship to Jewish students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We will offer our students opportunities for growth through internships, scholarships, and leadership roles. We will give them opportunities to explore the world through various trips, including to Israel, shabbatons and conferences around the country, and alternative breaks. We will help sustain their Jewish identity through volunteer activities, social events, and Jewish learning opportunities.  

Illini Hillel’s strategic plan identifies the upcoming year as critical to ensuring our Hillel’s success and excellence for the future. We will start getting ready for the centennial year of Hillel, 2023, while building strong social networks for students, parents, and alumni.  

Throughout this hard and important work, we count on your partnership with us — as donors, ambassadors, and supporters of Illini Hillel. We are grateful for all the support you have provided in the past and are looking forward to doing great things together this coming year.  
Thank you for your role in empowering young Jewish leaders. 





Erez Cohen

Executive Director



Paula Harris

Paul Lapping, Co-Chair

Justin Malina

Sammy Marks, Co-Chair

Allison Nagelberg

Andrea Rich

Marion Smith

Adam Sturt, Secretary

Tammy Sugar

Barry Weiner


Jordan Allen

Steve Miller

Lizzy Takiff Scheinfeld

Jill Takiff Hirsh

Bobette Takiff

Sherri Zirlin Z"L


Erez Cohen

Executive Director

Carly Froomkin Burak

Assistant Director

Rabbi Ariel Naveh

Senior Jewish Educator

Jeremy Spiegel

Director of Jewish Student Life

Bari Goldman

Director of Communications 

Sammi Cutler

Senior Development Manager

Virni Bryson

Office Manager

Rabbi Shlomo Schachter


Waga Brok

Israel Fellow

Danielle Baron

Engagement Associate

Nalani Haueter

Immersive Experiences Coordinator

Ahava Schachter-Zarembski

OU-JLIC Jewish Educator

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