Building Bridges on Campus
By Alex Hamilton, Class of 2016
Rutgers Hillel Student Board President 2015-2016
When I started this year, I set out to do three things: to connect more organizations to Hillel, to encourage more inter-Hillel work, and to help the Rutgers Hillel Student Board continue to create amazing programs. I am incredibly pleased with how the Student Board performed this year. Hillel is a huge organization and no one person could have done it alone.
This year the Hillel Student Board worked with over 35 on-campus organizations, including the Veg Society, the Astronomical Society, and the Catholic Student Association. Personally I met with over 20 of those organizations. I would frequently meet with student leaders for coffee and discuss our relationships. I have gotten close with the presidents of the Catholic Student Association and Ahlul-Bayt (Shi’ite Muslim Student Group). This has helped Hillel become a stronger campus presence and allow for new people to get involved in Hillel.
The quality of the programming this year was astounding. We have run programs ranging from Chinese-Jewish Culture to preparing Purim Care-Packages for Special Needs Children, to a Shabbat-friendly tailgate. The quality and variety of our programs had drastically improved, partially due to a new idea presented at Rutgers Hillel student board leadership training day. It was called “car with no wheels”. The main point was to try to come up with standard programs without the essence of it. For instance, imagine an ice cream social with no ice cream. We also had to program as if there were no restrictions such as Shabbat prohibitions or limited funds, as if there were no obstacles to overcome. Then we added things back in, and were able to harmonize these new ideas with Shabbat prohibitions and budget restraints as new restrictions. It was a way to force us to think outside of the box.
The other part that helped the programming improve was the fact that board members were encouraged to work more closely together. This had more people coming to the events we were running. Frequently all three religious communities came together for the common good, but also the Conservative community would work with the Community Service committee or the Israel chairs would work with the Reform community chairs. Watching people come together from different places within Hillel was very satisfying.
All in all, I am proud of the work the Hillel Student Board has done. We have reached hundreds of new people on campus, we have come up with innovative programming, and we have worked with people outside of the overall Hillel community.
When I found out I was being honored with the Rising Star award, I was incredibly humbled. It is not often that people go out of their way to say thank you for working hard. I don’t expect a thank you. That’s not why I served as president. I served to give back to my community. I am incredibly grateful that I am getting a thank you. But even were I not to get this recognition, I would do it again.
Rutgers Hillel is proud to honor Alex Hamilton at the Annual Gala on Thursday, June 2nd.
Rutgers Hillel cultivates the next generation of Jewish leaders. Alex is a true testament to that.