Yesterday, I led a discussion with a dozen students at California State University, Long Beach for Beach Hillel on the topic of judging. Appropriate for the upcoming holiday of Rosh HaShanah – the Jewish New Year, also known as Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment, we discussed judging. As a way to ground our conversation, I had gathered over a half-dozen texts from the Mishnah and the Talmud for conversing about how our Sages considered judging.
For the 2014-2015 academic year, Beach Hillel is holding a monthly Jewish learning opportunity in the form of a “Torah on Tap”-style class and I lead the discussion on a Jewish topic, while Beach Hillel covers the first round of drinks. For this first “Torah on Tap” discussion of the academic year, I though that “judging” would be an interesting topic to cover, since many university students discuss judging and how right or wrong it is.
One thing I wanted to push was the very important rabbinic dictum, which appears several times in rabbinic literature, of hevy dan haverkha lekhaf zekhut – judge your fellow person favorably (in other words, giving people the benefit of the doubt), about which I have written elsewhere.
With this first class of the year for Beach Hillel, I am excited for future such classes with students 🙂
The clear highlights for me were attending Rabbi Daniel Smokler’s sessions. He did one with a bunch of Jewish educators, rabbis, etc., which was amazing as we were flying through ideas, tools, and methodologies – it was very impressive. I was greatly enriched by it, especially getting a perspective on how different Jews (especially generations of Jews) conceive of their Jewish identities differently. An important tool that he shared with us was his description of a Conversation Arc, which is very helpful, especially to move beyond simply schmoozing. Another key takeaway from it for me was – in his describing primary elements for us to share with our students – the importance of community for students. His presentation is worthy of a lot of time, writing, etc. However, Rabbi Smokler permitted me to record his excellent session, so you can listen for yourself, which is available here (I have listened to it multiple times, despite having been in the room). Another opportunity I had to hear Rabbi Smokler was at a lunch & learn session – to which I chose to go – and also enjoyed.
Another major session I attended was about fundraising. I was hoping it would be about making asks, conversing with donors – skill sets for raising money. Unfortunately, that had been going on during the sessions I was with other Jewish educators. So, since mine was for development professionals about thinking about time spent on development and coming up with a development plan etc., I departed in the midst of it.
A two-part session I attended was incredible. The executive directors of Berkeley Hillel and Princeton Hillel for presented on not only coming up with qualitative metrics (which is, apparently, rare amongst Hillels) but also skillfully weaving it with their vision, goals, mission and strategies. Afterwards, it dawned on me that the phenomenal material and ideas shared would be amazing for ALL Hillel staffs to be considering. I was fortunate in that I was able to convince the executive director of Berkeley Hillel to share some of this incredible work at the west coast Hillel staff conference in the winter (which I co-chaired).
I also want to give sincere appreciation to my alma mater, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, for sponsoring the handful of alumni to get together for some beers, which was a nice way not only for us to re-connect, but also to share ideas, materials, etc.
Finally, I thought the award presentations were done phenomenally – I have consistently been impressed at how well-run these award presentations are done, year-in and year-out – it is a good model for the rest of the Jewish world.
A couple of realizations I had while attending the conference:
Since many of our students are not particularly keen on looking at printed texts and discussing them, I thought to move towards a discussion model, less focus on printed texts in front of us. That doesn’t mean necessarily getting rid of them altogether, just not always having to rely upon them.
Every time I have attended Hillel Institute, it has been greatly enriching professionally and encouraging in our line of work, as well, especially to give us an energy boost moving into the new school year. (And, yes, I am sad that it moved.)
As the spring semester is wrapping up, I wanted to share which discussions I have led at which campuses here in Southern California, through my current position as rabbi of Southern California Jewish Student Services. I will start off with my two discussions at California State University, Fullerton with the Hillel group there, where I […]
A month ago, I not only had the pleasure of attending a conference for Hillel professionals on the west coast, I also co-chaired it! Taking place December 16-18, it was a good mid-year opportunity to reconvene with fellow Hillel professionals! Every year that I’ve been serving as the rabbi for Long Beach Hillel, there has […]
This fall, I had the pleasure of leading four different discussions with a few Hillels on various topics. The first was in October at a Starbucks in Oceanside with North County, San Diego Hillel, leading a discussion with MiraCosta College students on the topic of Relationships, where we explored texts from the beginning of the […]
Ever since Rachel and I came out to begin working with Long Beach Hillel, we have enjoyed attending the annual national Hillel staff conference in St. Louis at Washington University. Entitled “Hillel Institute” and organized by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the conference, which took place at the gorgeous Washington University campus, lasted […]
This fall, I have found that I have been spending a lot of my work with/for Beach Hillel. To be specific, about 62.5% of my energy has focused on working with Beach Hillel. In contrast to throughout out last year where 44% of my time was with Beach Hillel, this is definitely a big jump. […]
As in years past, I spent many activities with Long Beach Hillel for the holiday of Sukkot, enriching its programs and its students. Beginning with leading a Beach Hillel staff learning session on Sukkot, it continued with putting up both the off-campus and the on-campus sukkot (and picking up the four aboreal elements). It continued […]
Since I have worked in my current position, included in which is serving as the rabbi for Long Beach Hillel, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life holds an annual [inter]national staff conference in St. Louis, known as Hillel Institute, at the beautiful campus of Washington University either at the end of July or the […]
For the fourth consecutive year, I attended the annual Hillel staff conference, Hillel Institute, in St. Louis. As with the previous two years, I was there due to the financial support of Long Beach Hillel (I had to raise money from private individuals to make it possible for me to attend in 2010), which makes […]