Over the past several years, Jewish Life at Elon University has grown, bringing with it increased interest and support for the on-campus Jewish population. To create new and grow existing programs at Elon Hillel, Jessica Waldman will be joining as the new Director of Jewish Life.
“I am pumped to be working with the students at Elon,” Waldman said. “Working with students energizes and excites me, and I can already tell that the Elon Hillel students are going to be an incredible group to work with. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how Elon’s intentional and engaged academic practices translate to students involvement in, and dedication to, Hillel and other campus organizations.”
The newest addition to Elon Hillel, Waldman previously worked for Cornell University Hillel in Ithaca, New York, as Director of Engagement. While at Cornell, Waldman focused on women’s programming, which she hopes to continue at Elon, as well as creating more male-oriented programs.
Current Hillel staff is excited to have her on board and see what she will bring to the table.
“From the moment we met, Jessica impressed me with her kindness, her intellect and her diligence,” said Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life Rabbi Meir Goldstein. “She has a unique way of building instant relationships with people that is quite inspiring. I look forward to watching our students grow in relationship to Jessica’s mentorship and guidance.”
Waldman said her immediate goal at Elon Hillel is to learn how her position within the organization functions, and she especially looks forward to working and growing alongside Elon students this year.
“A long-term goal [I have] is similar to those of many Hillels: inviting students to make an enduring commitment to Judaism and Jewish Life,” Waldman said. “Judaism is so multi-faceted and can be accessed in so many different ways. I think it’s fair to say that one of my goals is to create meaningful entry points for students so they may continue to grow, both Jewishly and as young adults.”
Jessica Waldman looks forward to new activities at Hillel. Photo by Diego Pineda, Photo Editor
At Cornell Hillel, Waldman planned many large programs, gaining a “behind-the-scenes” knowledge that she hopes will allow Elon Hillel students to take ownership over their programming.
Elon Hillel is run by students who create the programs and is supported by staff members.
This year, Waldman plans to continue the partnership with Hillel International and other Hillels in North Carolina so Elon students have more opportunities to get involved with other initiatives outside the school.
“I think Hillel students will be excited to know that they will have more autonomy this year as leaders,” Waldman said. “We are making some changes in the structure of Hillel to allow the students take more ownership over things which are important parts of the organizational workings — PR, finance, aspects of development — experiences students may not get through other organizations on campus.”
That focus on student leadership is what Goldstein said makes Jewish Life and Elon Hillel stand out.
“First-year students can anticipate a place where they can feel at home and are invited to share a variety of experiences,” Goldstein said. “Ultimately, students should know that Elon Hillel and Jewish Life is defined by them. Being student-led means that our programs come about by student interest.”
Many Jewish students have found a home away from home in Hillel, a place where they can chat with friends over bagels, go to Shabbat dinner, learn more about the traditional Jewish texts or help find their own identity, according to Goldstein.
Waldman said the level of student engagement at Hillel attracted her to the position. While pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice, Waldman thought about how to make an impact with communities, which led to her to work with college students and pursue a career in student engagement with Hillel.
“I chose to pursue a career with Hillel because I really value living life with students,” Waldman said. “I hope to set an example of living Jewishly that is accessible to students and I look forward to connecting with students where they are, Jewishly and otherwise. I am honored to have the opportunity to invest in Elon students as a staff member, as a mentor and as a friend.”