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Hillel meets its goal for student programs

Tufts Hillel recently completed a $6.4 million campaign to support its broad range of programs that promote Jewish community and culture, interfaith dialogue and social justice, and serve not only Tufts' 1,400 Jewish students, but the entire university community.

The program endowment campaign, chaired by Daniel Kraft, A87, a Tufts trustee and member of the Hillel Board, exceeded its goal with the help of a $750,000 matching challenge by Tufts Trustee Joseph Neubauer, E63, J90P, and his wife, Jeanette, J90P. Leadership gifts were received from Kraft and his wife, Wendy, J87; Vivian Merrin, A80P, A82P, A85P, and Trustee Emeritus Edward Merrin, A50, A80P, A82P, A85P; and Joan Arbetter Rosenberg, N84, and Hillel Board member David Rosenberg.

Tufts Hillel, the second largest student organization on campus, is believed to be the first Hillel to complete such an endowment fund in support of its programming. The Hillel fund-raising effort also helps the larger Beyond Boundaries campaign draw closer to its target of $50 million for programming university-wide.

The Beyond Boundaries newsletter spoke with Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit, AG88, AG95, A03P, A05P, Neubauer Executive Director at Tufts Hillel, about the unique contribution Hillel makes to university life.

Q. What is the significance of the recently completed campaign?

A. We want to develop programming so compelling that we double the number of students meaningfully engaged in Jewish life at Tufts. We've been engaging approximately 35 percent of Jewish students on campus through our programs, but that leaves 65 percent who have yet to be reached.

Hillel at Tufts is run by a very active 40-student board that does broad programming for the entire Tufts community. When Hillel is rolling, we have activities practically every day: workshops, lectures, service trips, religious services, performances, and educational programs open to the entire campus community.

Hillel's Merrin Moral Voices program recently invited leaders of a Jewish, Muslim, and Christian fair-trade coffee organization in Uganda to a campus for a large interfaith conference. Our Vitality program examines health and wellness from a Jewish perspective. Another major initiative, Read by the River, encourages children's literacy: Jews are called the "People of the Book," and we have a responsibility to promote literacy in our culture.

A goal of Hillel is to engage the Tufts community in a larger discussion of values we feel are essential. Those values are encapsulated in certain questions: What does it mean to make a difference in the world? How do I contribute meaningfully to my community? What does it mean to build strong families and positive friendships?

At a time when religious divisions plague so much of the world, it's our goal to present the Tufts campus with a different vision. We want to develop a dialogue based on respect of other religious traditions. If you can't talk to people who are different in college, when are you ever going to do it?

Q. How would you describe the spirit of Hillel?

A. Our goal over the years has been to build a vibrant Jewish community, where students celebrate, argue, eat, sing and learn in a welcoming atmosphere, where Jewish students appreciate and understand their heritage at the same time they are engaged with the entire Tufts community. Hillel has made a real contribution to date. Now we're poised to impact so many more students as a result of this program endowment.