Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

New Year's greeting from Central Florida Hillel


September 7, 2018

Aaron Weil

It's that time of the year again when roughly 350,000 Jewish college students will be facing the High Holidays away from home. Whether for the very first time or just returning for another year of school, this is a time of the year when Central Florida Hillel is at its busiest. The High Holidays present a perfect opportunity for young Jewish adults to get together, whether they are observant or completely secular. The social aspects of the holiday combined with our famously abundant, delicious kosher food create a special place for students to gather and enjoy the benefits of community. Our synagogue partners in the community-like Congregation Ohev Shalom, Congregation of Reform Judaism and Temple Israel-open up their doors as well for our students that prefer an environment more like their shuls and temples back home.

These offerings weren't always available here in Orlando and, as 5778 is making way for 5779, it is impressive to consider how just one year has changed so much on our campuses here in Central Florida.

This time last year, there was no Hillel staff at Rollins College and now we have an associate director of Jewish Student Life, Emily Block, who is leading a movement to create a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable Jewish community. This was highlighted when on Passover, President Grant Cornwell became the first president in Rollins' 130-year history to host a Passover seder at Barker House.

This time last year, there was no Hillel staff at Stetson University and now they have Sam Friedman (formerly our assistant director) as the first Hillel director at Florida's oldest university. There are literally more programs in the next two weeks at Stetson than there were almost all of last year and they are just getting started.

This time last year, there was no Israel Fellow to serve our campuses here in Central Florida. Now we have Nirit Gelfer who will be working with our students to educate the campus community about Israel.

Dana Bial

This time last year, we had no rabbi to provide for the spiritual needs of our students. This year, we have an amazing partnership with Yehudi which brought us Rabbi Yisrael and Tamar Abisror whose beautiful home just down the street from campus is already being filled with students who are eager to learn more about their heritage, as well as experience the feeling of being in a home away from home.

At the board level this time last year, we were still evolving from a nascent board to a more expansive model. Under the leadership of Board Chair Dana Bial, the board approved a new set of bylaws, introduced a committee structure where every board member serves, and inaugurated the agency's first strategic plan so that the organization that is the gateway for young adults coming into our community, can prepare a path for sustainability for the future.

Dana Bial, Hillel Board chair

Aaron Weil, CEO


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