Last year, Hillel International tapped a Google marketing director, Mimi Kravetz, to be the campus group’s first chief talent officer. Now, Kravetz is shepherding what’s being billed as “Hillel U,” the organization’s new professional development program. The project, to be launched next month with $10 million in new investments, is expected to reach 1,000 Hillel professionals around the country; the goal is to expand their “Jewish fluency” and education skills “needed to make Jewish life exciting and relevant” to students, according to a release. The first phase calls for the establishment of the Center for Jewish and Israel Education. Kravetz spoke to The Jewish Week via email.

Q: What does Hillel hope to achieve and what problem are you trying to solve with this new program?

A: By investing in our professionals, Hillel U will amplify our impact worldwide, enabling Hillel International to recruit and retain top talent, and raise the bar of workplace culture and professionalism throughout the Hillel movement and the Jewish nonprofit sector at large.

Hillel U allows Hillel International to incorporate similar programs to what innovative companies are doing by training our professionals to have the skills and support they need to not just perform well at their current jobs, but to grow in their roles in ways that will help them long into their careers.

Why so much emphasis on training? Is there a sense that Hillel professionals are not Jewishly literate enough?

Hillel U will help us to attract and retain the professionals who are not only good but want to continuously get better. Our work is critical and complex, and it requires us to continuously refresh and expand our knowledge base. We need Jewish professionals with skills and knowledge in diverse areas, including Jewish fluency and education, supervision and management, student engagement and supporting student wellness. Even outstanding professionals have room for growth in some of these areas and the best want to continue to learn and grow to better themselves and their work.

There’s been much discussion in the Jewish communal world about Israel advocacy versus Israel education. How will the new Center for Jewish and Israel Education approach this issue?

The new center will focus on Jewish and Israel education. This includes ensuring our professionals are knowledgeable about Israel’s past, present and future, as well as having knowledge of Israel’s politics, history, culture, arts, sociology and entrepreneurship. The trainings will help our professionals understand and articulate their personal relationship to Israel to the students they work with. And our professionals will learn methodologies for Israel education and conversation facilitation. This will allow our professionals and students to be more knowledgeable about the Jewish state.

How will the training take place – in person, virtually or a mix?

Hillel U will combine physical gatherings, best practices in digital learning and partner training opportunities. Courses will generally begin with an in-person experience at a Hillel International conference or a separate gathering, then move to a distance learning program modeled after top programs in the academic, corporate and nonprofit world. Participants will usually continue to be connected to the same cohort and educator they began their course with, and the online model will allow for “homework” assignments and small group exercises that put these lessons into practice.

Will there be a combating BDS component to any of the training?

While Hillel U was not specifically created to combat BDS on campus, the skills and knowledge that our professionals will gain will without question make them better equipped to face this challenge. Hillel International’s Israel education and engagement department, Hinenu, will continue to lead our work combating BDS, training Hillel professionals and supporting students with speaker programs and interventions on campuses facing challenges.

Robert@jewishweek.org