A four-day conference on major issues affecting Jewish life on campus is set for Atlanta next week.
The Hillel International Global Assembly will kick off at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center Dec. 9 and wrap up Dec. 12. It is slated for 2020 in Atlanta as well. Last year’s event in Denver drew more than 1,200 Hillel representatives and key stakeholders from the United States and abroad, according to the organization’s website.
University of Georgia Hillel Director Roey Shoshan told the AJT the conference focuses on professional development, engagement and fundraising. “There are a lot of one-on-one opportunities with other professionals; it’s great for socializing, but it’s also a great time for the Hillel movement to sharpen up some of the things we’ve been working on throughout the year – issues like anti-Semitism – that we need to address together as a community.”
Panels and speakers will take on topics such as the future of education, security concerns and how to prioritize mental and physical health.
“Communication for people in college now is very different,” Shoshan said. “Social media has become a really big player, so how do you utilize that to get students to participate in programs? … So engagement and reaching out to people is a big one.”
Shoshan, who began his stint at UGA in July 2018, said he wants to create ways for his students to hone their Jewish identity. “What kind of Jewish texts and studies can you offer them these days that they would be interested in? It’s something we’re working really hard on.” He also grapples with raising funds for the program. “As an organization that lives off donations, we always have to think about that,” he said.
Partnerships with other entities such as Birthright Israel, Maccabee Task Force and Jewish Learning Fellowship will be discussed at the conference, Shoshan said.
“How can we integrate more organizations into our work and help expand what we do? If someone comes in and offers us a group program, we’re going to welcome it with open arms because it serves everyone’s interest.”
Matthew Berger, communications vice president at Hillel International, said the HIGA conference is significant because it promotes professional development and allows members to see what their counterparts are up to. “It’s so great to get that perspective from other campuses on how they’re doing things.”
Berger will be moderating a session called Safety and Security on Campus. “We have become increasingly concerned about the rise of security issues on campus, and we are working to ensure that all our students and professionals are safe every time they’re involved with Hillel. We want to be open and engaging, but at the same time we need to ensure our security. How we balance that is a real challenge and something that will be discussed in depth.”
Another area of concern is the well-being of students, Berger noted. “Suicide rates are rising. More students are reporting stress and feeling inundated and having trouble as part of their life on campus. More and more often we are asking professionals to support students that are dealing with time-management and stress and mental health challenges.” There will also be a session on the realities of food insecurity among students in college.
Berger said the HIGA conference will “re-energize our professionals who are often working in a vacuum on campus, embracing the fact that they’re part of a bigger community having a really strong impact around the country and around the world.”
Details on HIGA 2019 can be found at hillel.org/get-involved/conferences-and-events/hillel-international-global-assembly.