Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pizza Party!

Hillel threw a Pizza Party at a local campus hot spot. Tons of students turned out in attendance, made great connections with other students, and will be coming out to more of our events. We look forward to seeing them again and meeting new students throughout the semester.

Hillel strikes out! a good way

We were bowling not playing baseball!

For our second event of the week, we went bowling.  We had an amazing turn-out with freshmen, grad students, and everyone in between being represented.  We hope to see you at the next event!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

High Holidays Approach… (and they’re coming fast!)

The University of Florida Hillel is a place where many Jewish students can call home, especially during the High Holidays. This year more students than ever will depend on UF Hillel for services and meals… and, UF Hillel depends on the generosity of supporters to make this possible.
Your generosity to UF Hillel’s Gators and Honey fund will help ensure that no student is alone during the Holy Days. It will help provide a place to observe and feel part of a Jewish family.
Please help us welcome students who wish to celebrate the Jewish New Year by considering a gift to the University of Florida Hillel. Your generosity will support High Holiday services, meals for students and will ensure that the traditions on the Jewish people continue to thrive!

Contribute now at

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grafi-Tee's were a success!

Today we tried our first ever spray painting custom shirt event.  The student's loved the idea.  It rained during all 4 hours we were there, but it didn't stop us!  We moved under the awning in front of Library West and...well check out this video from our new Youtube channel to see the rest.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Welcome Week Schedule!

We have huge plans for this week!

Monday (8/23) tabling in Turlington

Tuesday (8/24) Grafi-tees
Students can custom designing t-shirts on the Plaza of the Americas, in front of Library West from 11am to 1:30 pm.  All materials will be supplied, just bring your creativity.

Wednesday (8/25) Bowling at Reitz
You can bowl for free from 7pm to 9 pm.  Just bring your socks.

Thursday (8/26) I Love NY Pizza Party
Pizza party upstairs on 17th and University from 7pm to 9 pm.  This time all you need to bring is an appetite.

Friday (8/27) First Shabbat of the semester
We have Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox minyans at the Hillel House (2020 W University Ave).  Services are at 6:30 pm.  Dinner is immediately after.

Hope to see you all there and on campus!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reflections Part Deux

"Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on. For it won't be long, till I'm gonna need, somebody to lean on"

I spent seven wonderful summers at Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia. Every time I hear this song, I automatically think about sitting around a camp fire, swaying with my cabin mates and friends. But after spending a week in St. Louis at the Hillel Institute, the song has a much more profound meaning. Sure, it will always remind me of camp and the place where my Jewish identity began to form but I am now able to integrate it into my life 15 years later.

Before the Institute began, I participated in what was called NPI (New Professional Training). Here, nearly 50 new Hillel Professionals met and became well versed on the ins and outs of programming and engagement.  In my opinion, the most valuable thing that one could learn from this week of intensive (and unbearably hot) training was the importance and necessity of your network. 

Not only did NPI provide me with dozens of people I can call, e-mail or bounce ideas off of, but it also gave me individuals who understand my way of life. My job does not run 9-5 nor does it require me to wear a suit and heels. I work when students need me to work. Sometimes its till 11 p.m., other times its on a Sunday. I run around campus in shorts and Converse passing out fliers of upcoming Hillel events.  And on a bad day, I get confused for a Freshman. The people I met at NPI are the ones who will understand this job at its best, its most stressful and who unquestionably agree that this is the greatest job on earth. 

But it isn't just about the New Professionals. Hillel Institute allowed us to network and meet with other schools who share similar predicaments and problems. One of the lessons they hoped we walked away with was the that of finding a mentor. It did not need to be someone who worked for the same school as you, but rather a person you found could guide you through your professional journey of Hillel. I was fortunate enough to connect with many people who were able to offer insight and advice about some of the many facets of this job. After a week of feeling overwhelmed by an incredible amount of information, it was reassuring to know that there were people only a phone call away who could walk me through any situation and would never find any question too stupid or unimportant.

And so these song lyrics finally come full circle. What once started as a tribute to my many summers spent at Camp Coleman now defines the family-like foundation of working for Hillel. There is always somebody to call. There is always somebody to e-mail. There are always databases of ideas to browse through. In a time where your whole life is changing (graduation--moving to a new city---first job...hello---it's scary!) finding a constant is an incredible relief and an empowering thing to own. 

Until next time,


This post was written by our new program director Jessica Davis.  She can be reached at or follow her on Twitter @Jcdgators.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reflections on the Hillel Institute

We are back from the Hillel Institute in St. Louis and so energized and excited  to start the Fall semester.  I have been reflecting on the week lately and have come to several conclusions. Let me just assure you that we, and more generally Hillel,  are moving in the right direction.

A big theme this year was breadth and depth.  This focus translates to how programs can touch a wide audience and also be meaningful.  These concepts, on the surface, are counter-intuitive.  It would seem that a program that has a wide audience must be watered-down and mainstreamed (2 aquatic metaphors) which could negate any attempt at reaching depth.  Depth is supposed measure the meaningfulness of an experience.  The correlation here is that the more meaningful something is the deeper it will resonate within someone. This is the old debate of quality versus quantity.  Is our mission to merely touch as many lives as we can or really focus and really work to develop several students (out of the +8000 Jewish students in Gainesville) into heliga menschkite?  The mission is to do both, to do all.  To enrich the lives of as many students as we can while providing meaningful Jewish experiences to all that will participate.

I contemplated this for some time.   I really struggled with the idea of depth.  Maybe not the idea but the definition, the imagery of what depth is.  To me, the word most closely resembling a meaningful Jewish experience, with follow-up is "growth".  Growth seems to be what we are after.  But I could be wrong.  I thought more about these conflicting terms and tried to reconcile them.  So, what grows deep?


When roots grow, they grow slowly.  Over time, little by little.  They grow deep, they grow wide.  They are the support and sustainability that is the success of a tree.  I think that is where breadth and depth play into what programing should look like.  Programs should run the gambit of accessibility however they should be rife with opportunities for depth.  Once our students develop wide and meaningful experiences, their Jewish identity will flourish.  Our experiences and memories become our roots, the way we live and act in the world is our tree.

And what happens when trees fall?  What happens when programs look great on paper but in real life don't come together at all? I can honestly say I no longer have fear of F.L.O.P.S.S. (Feeling Like Our Programs Suck Syndrome).  Another great thing about the conference was the amount of networking we were encouraged to do.  It would seem that most people go to conferences for the "hallway conversations".  In a brilliant move by the conference staff, they structured groups to have "hallway conversation" time in classrooms around the campus.  We were able to learn so much from our colleagues, friends, and like-minded schools.  We have the resources now to connect with the people who serve as friends and informal mentors to us.  When we want to try out a program like "Grad Student Alternative Spring Break" I can contact the director from that school to learn from them.  With ease we can find out what were the struggles to recruit students, how did that trip differ from an undergraduate trip, will they do it again, and how will it be different?  This makes our programming better, our Hillel better, and other Hillels better too.

My absolute hands down favorite part of the conference that I will carry with me throughout is the feeling of service and gratitude amongst all the participants.  I know it sounds cheesy but whatever.  Truthfully, it is an amazing feeling to work for an organization that is full of talented and passionate people focused on providing whatever we can, at the highest level of quality that we can, for the betterment of the future.  For our future, for your future, for everyone's future. 

Well our students are starting to trickle back into town.  We wish them all the success in the upcoming semester!  Look out for us next week, we will be all over campus tabling and hosting events.  Hope to see you there,


This post was written by our new program director Jeff Kaplan.  He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @Jeffdude

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Staff! Big plans for Fall!

So much has been going on at Hillel this summer!!

We have a mostly new staff that has been working diligently to prepare for an excellent fall semester.  Things to expect are a big Welcome Week push, excellent High Holy days services, Freshmen student specific programs, Graduate/Professional student events, regular Shabbat services, and many social events for everyone.  Once these are finalized we will be posting information here, on our website at, and of course you can follow us on twitter @UFhillel.

Feel free to read the new staff bios here:

See our calendar of events here:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Welcome to the new and official UF Hillel Blog


This is the new and official blog for University of Florida’s Hillel.  Here we will be posting information, news updates, and sharing what’s going on here.  The University of Florida has the largest Jewish student population of any school in the United States of America so be sure to check back frequently to see what we have planned for the 2010-2011 school year.

Also follow us on Twitter @UFHillel and on Facebook where we have a group and fan page.