Hillel grows strong at OSU

Last year the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland provided a start-up three-year grant of $30,000 to help launch Hillel at Oregon State University. Under the professional leadership of Oregon Hillel Foundation Executive Director Andy Gitelson and his team at Oregon Hillel, the program has quickly gotten off the ground.

“Given that we are able to provide a staff member on campus one day a week we are thrilled beyond words with the growth that we have seen in connecting Jewish students and building Jewish student life at the University of Oregon over the past year,” says Andy.

The following letter from OSU Hillel Student President  Leah Chasin (Class of 2018) explains the dramatic growth of the Hillel at OSU:

One year ago, as I walked around Oregon State University’s Beaver Community Fair, I desperately searched for a club or organization I could call home – specifically a place for Jewish students to get together, since that was something I was familiar with. There was no table set up for such group. At the end of the fair I hadn’t found any clubs that really grabbed my interests and felt I would never find my niche. However I did my research and found out that Hillel existed and was rebuilding and I jumped in wholeheartedly.

A year later, I found myself once again at the welcoming Beaver Community Fair, but this time I was standing there with Hillel. I loved meeting all the new people and inviting them to our events later that week. By far the highlight of that day was when a faculty member came up to the table and in shock said, “I’ve been here for three years! Where have you guys been all this time?” He could not be happier to see a Jewish student organization making a name for itself on the quad. From carpooling down to Eugene to celebrate Yom Kippur services to a hysterical bagel brunch in a gorgeous room on campus that I had no clue existed before, to our own personal portable sukkah on the quad (and enjoying “pizza in the hut,”) our welcome week has been full of opportunities for us to learn, laugh and grow together as a Jewish community on campus.

I cannot thank the people who made this all possible enough, from the student volunteers who helped build (and move!) the sukkah and Tim Stover of the Westminster House, to the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for supplying the funds to make this all possible. I can’t forget the Oregon Hillel Foundation staff – Amanda Weiss, Andy Gitelson and Becca Marx – for realizing how important it was for Oregon State Jewish students to have a home away from home. And most of all, a huge thank you and welcome to all of the students who have joined us thus far this year.

In the last school year, we engaged over 50 students at Oregon State University and created a goal to double that number this year through events and one-on-one interactions. Amazingly, we’ve already engaged over 50 students in our first week! So our goal has increased: we plan to engage 150 students by June 2016. I have loved meeting everyone so far and cannot wait to meet so many more Jewish students looking for a Jewish home away from home on campus!

Plans now call for a full-time staff in Corvallis by the fall of 2017.

“To be able to cultivate Jewish student leaders like Leah is at the core of Oregon Hillel’s mission and it is why having a formal Hillel presence at Oregon State University is critical,” says Andy. For more information on OSU Hillel, contact Oregon Hillel Foundation Executive Director Andy Gitelson at andy@oregonhillel.org or 541-343-8920 ext. 101.

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