Students connect best with their peers.
For more than 10 years, UD Hillel has partnered with student interns, our Campus Engagement Interns (CEI’s), with exactly that idea in mind. CEI is a partnership between our organization and our students. These interns come from a wide variety of Jewish backgrounds and also bring their own personal interests and networks to the table, choosing a speciality (from Greek Life to engineering majors, and service-oriented students to seniors) in order to take advantage of their unique strengths in building their own miniature Jewish communities.
The program is selective and rigorous. Less than half of the students who apply are chosen, and they commit to intense weekly meetings, led in part by a student mentor and in part by Rabbi Nick Renner, Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educator and the staff supervisor for the CEI cohort. These meetings are partially intense conversations about some of the most hot-button issues in the Jewish community and among young adults (from interfaith relationships to social media and mental health), and partially trainings on how to conduct meaningful peer-to-peer conversations about these issues. Aldyn Flavin ‘21 describes her CEI meeting as chances to “figure out who [I] want to be within and outside of Judaism”. Rabbi Nick describes cohort meetings as “spaces where [students] can ask questions from their soul” and get answers, not only from a rabbi, but also from their peers in a secure space.
Then the students fan out across campus, engaging at least 60 students in a meaningful way. Sometimes engagement simply means a purposeful conversation in which both students “leave with more knowledge about [themselves]”, according to Ashley Cohen ‘21. Other times it can mean accompanying other students to a holiday celebration or a Hillel event, holding a Shabbat dinner in a student apartment, or even hosting a unique event!
Rabbi Nick sees the program as the way that Hillel “builds its community outward”. Students know what their peers want, where they live, and how they connect with one another, and take advantage of Hillel’s resources to bring Judaism to coffee shops, dorms, and restaurants across campus. Whatever students’ academic interests, personal passions, and relationships with their Jewish identities, the CEI program is Hillel’s best tool to create meaningful and exciting Jewish student life on campus at UD.
The CEI program at the University of Delaware is underwritten by the Susser Family Trust.