August, 2017

Dear Parents and UM Hillel Community,

As the new academic year begins, I want to share my thoughts on one of the most inspiring weeks I’ve seen at UM Hillel so far.

When I assumed the position of the Executive Director at UM Hillel, I started implementing a relationship-based engagement methodology on campus. In short - we build relationships with students, and use various programmatic tools as vehicles for larger student involvement, rather than creating programs just for programs' sake.

It took time, staff, and assessment to change the culture, and I am so happy to share with you that I am starting to see first fruits of our labor.

Last week was “Welcome Week” at UM Hillel, a time when we traditionally did a Welcome Back BBQ in the middle of campus.  This very large and costly event attracted around 200 students (Jewish and not), who just stopped by, grabbed a burger and left. There was no real engagement, and so this year, we decided to make some dramatic changes.

We split the average budget of the welcome back BBQ into 5 days – Open House, Lunch-and-Learn, Taco Tuesday, CEI Pizza Picnic, Tel Aviv night, Jewz-n-Brewz, and Welcome Back Shabbat.  All of those initiatives are the ones that allow us to focus on micro communities, engage with different students, at different times, about different topics on their terms! 

And let me tell you – it worked. This year we hosted over 100 students at our annual Jewish students pre-orientation program, and we saw a great deal of them returning, loving their Hillel experiences so far. We hear upper classmen saying “we wish we had those opportunities when we were freshmen” – the energy is palpable.

So back to relationship building – I see UM staff working as a team, together, supporting each other. With the addition of Carly Greenspan, our Hillel acquired much needed structural, and systematic support that she brought with her from Greater Chicago Hillel, and Rachael Cohen is just shining and bursting with ideas! Rabbi Lyle Rothman has been appointed as a head chaplain at the University of Miami, the first Jewish Chaplain to lead that office in decades.

Now, a few things that are worthwhile mentioning, while I have your attention:

  • Family Weekend and Rosh Hashanah – September 20, 2017 - I know that the timing of the Family Weekend is challenging for everyone observing High Holidays. In order to make sure that everyone feels welcome and can observe Rosh Hashanah – UM Hillel is open and welcomes you to join us for services, led by Rabbi Lyle Rothman, and a follow up Rosh Hashanah Dinner on Wednesday, September 20.
  • Tri-State Parent Reception in Woodbridge, CT – October 24, 2017, please join Families and UM Hillel leadership at the home of Jeff and Robyn Teplitzky, Parents Class of 2020.
  • UM Hillel Casino Night - November 29, 2017, 7:00pm - For one night only, UM Hillel will transform into a beautiful casino with games and entertainment for everyone. Friends, delicious food and open bar will elevate your night. All the proceeds from this fundraiser will support Jewish life at the U.
  • Adult All-Inclusive Mission to Cuba, January 3-7, 2018 - $2,999 After our successful student Alternative Spring Break trip to Cuba, we are bringing an enhanced mission to explore Jewish Havana to our community. The cost includes a round trip from Miami, visa, 2 restaurant meals a day, 5* Capri Hotel, all ground travel on a dedicated bus, tour guide and sights.
  • Family Circle - I want to thank you for joining our Family Circle and truly being a partner in our work so we can ensure a welcoming and comfortable ‘home away from home' for your student. If you did not join last year,please come on board this year by clicking here.
  • Alumni – Base Miami is open in Brickell – we know that so many of you are residing in Miami after graduation – we opened a Base in Axis building in Brickell to host social gatherings, Shabbat dinners, learning etc. Led by Rabbi Adam and Jessie Gindea!

With creativity, relevancy, personal attention, and guidance, we believe that UM Hillel is the hub for Jewish life on and off campus. I am proud to lead UM Hillel and look forward to revealing our new initiatives and successes in the upcoming year. 

With deep appreciation,

Igor Khokhlov, MARE, MAJNM

Executive Director | University of Miami Hillel:
Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life
1100 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146
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