Hillel International Courts Young Techies

Hillel International Courts Young Techies

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Talented young tech professionals rarely find their calling in the world of Jewish philanthropy.

But Hillel International, the worldwide network of college-based Jewish organizations, is bent on changing that.

Last week, the organization launched the Springboard Fellowship program aimed at recruiting and retaining top-level talent among Jewish college grads. Fellows, who will receive a $40,000 stipend and placement at a college campus Hillel, will be trained in design thinking, innovation, and digital strategy — many of the skills that traditional Jewish professionals are sorely lacking, said Mimi Kravetz, chief talent officer at Hillel International.

“Today’s most competitive graduates are excited about pursuing careers in entrepreneurship, social media and digital marketing,” said Kravetz, who left her post as an executive at Google to work for Hillel. “They’re not considering taking jobs in the Jewish nonprofit sector because that does not seem like a place where they can develop these skills. We need to work together to shift that perception.”

The fellowship will begin in the fall of 2016 with a pilot, or “Aleph,” year with 20 fellows, she said. Participants will use their 21st-century skillset to spearhead campus Hillels’ outreach efforts and to build inclusive and diverse communities. For example, fellows might be challenged with creating innovative Shabbat programming that speaks to broad student interests, said Kravetz.

“We need to stay relevant to a new generation of Jews,” she said. “That means continuing to innovate from a place of knowledge.”

The first cohort will have the choice of specializing in either innovation or social media. New areas of focus will be added as the program grows, she said. Applications for the fellowship are now open.

“We need to rebuild the young talent pipeline — that’s what ensures future leadership,” said Kravetz, who served as a Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow after graduating college. The experience led her to rejoin the Jewish nonprofit world last year, even as her career in the high tech sector was on the rise. Kravetz said the new fellowship program is a reimagining of Hillel’s Service Corps Fellowship, which ran from 1994 to 2008.

“I am so proud of the hundreds of young leaders trained by the Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps, many of whom continue to serve the Jewish community in so many ways today,” said Michael Steinhardt, chair of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, in a statement. “The Springboard Fellowship is an innovative way to build on the JCSC legacy, engaging a new generation of young Jews at this critical moment for the Jewish community.”

For Kravetz, the new fellowship is personal. Her experiences in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley impressed upon her the necessity of keeping up a competitive edge, even when it comes to community-building.

“Generally speaking, these skills are desired and lacking at Hillels and across the Jewish world. While there are pockets of people doing them well, they aren’t skills that have been fully integrated into our practice as Jewish professionals — yet.”

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