GW Hillel executive director to depart for ‘international adventure’

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, the executive director of GW Hillel, will leave his position this summer to start his dream job in Argentina.

Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth is ready for a culture shock.

Kaiser-Blueth, who has served as executive director of GW Hillel – a Jewish student educational and social organization – for seven years, will move to Buenos Aires, Argentina in July. With his wife and three kids in tow, he will begin the next step in his career as the director of the Latin America Desk for Hillel International, the group’s parent organization.

Kaiser-Blueth said the move is an exciting career prospect that is bittersweet – he will leave behind an organization and a group of people he loves, but he will pursue bigger projects while on an “international adventure” with his family.

“This is the kind of gig that you can really stay on for a long time, but in our personal lives, this has been a dream that has really little to do with leaving GW,” he said. “Sometimes, there are opportunities, and sometimes, you have to chase a dream when it finally just materializes in front of you.”

That dream will bring Kaiser-Blueth back to family roots – his father was born in Argentina and he was born in neighboring Brazil.

Kaiser-Blueth said his main role in the new position will be to act as a point of contact for connecting Hillel’s operation in South America to the rest of the world. He said it is a new and exciting position that will come with its own set of challenges, from learning Spanish to learning how nonprofits are structured.

“What I don’t know is what I can’t wait to figure out,” he said.

During his time at Hillel, Kaiser-Blueth said he mainly served as a behind-the-scenes figure, dealing with higher-ups in Hillel International and alumni relations. He said one of his most memorable accomplishments at GW was securing the funds to bring a second rabbi to campus.

But Kaiser-Blueth said he will miss the people the most.

“For me the most important part about this job has always been the conversations and the people,” he said. “That’s why you do this. You can think about these meta-important things or these transformative gifts or what is the overarching vision, but the building block of all the work has always been the people.”

The move will also shift Hillel’s current associate director, Adena Kirstein, to the organization’s top post.

“GW Hillel has to move forward, so I’m thrilled Adena’s been installed in this new role and will continue to bring GW Hillel to new heights,” Kaiser-Blueth said.

Kirstein has been his “thought partner” at Hillel for seven years, serving in a role that is more student-facing, compared to his own behind-the-scenes work, Kaiser-Blueth said.

“We used to joke, you know, ‘I’m the yes man, and she’s the no woman,’ but you sort of need both, and you push each other to learn,” he said. “It can’t always be yes and it can’t always be no, but together we really complemented each other in running this organization.”

Kaiser-Blueth said his job will also likely bring him back to D.C. at least once or twice each year – since Hillel International is located in the District – and he is excited to see how GW Hillel will evolve over that time.

Still, Kaiser-Blueth said he will miss GW and the people who impacted his personal and professional life over the past seven years. He said he will keep in contact with students and other members of the organization he has met along the way.

With a GW yarmulke sitting atop his head, Kaiser-Blueth said the one outgoing piece of advice he would give to GW Hillel students would be to live in the moment.

“Life, your spirituality, are big questions,” he said. “Those are all daunting things, but be present and enjoy the opportunities that you have in front of you.”

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