GW Hillel launches program to involve young alumni in engaging students

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Hatchet Photographer

GW Hillel launched a new initiative last week encouraging recent alumni to sponsor coffee dates between staff members and students.

Updated: Nov. 15, 2018 at 12:40 p.m.

GW Hillel is offering alumni a new avenue to give back to the Jewish community on campus.

The organization launched a program last week encouraging recent alumni to sponsor coffee dates between staff members and students, Adena Kirstein, the executive director of GW Hillel, said. Kirstein said the program will allow Hillel to engage with alumni who have graduated within the past five years while also building up relationships with current students.

Kirstein said the organization hopes to garner enough money to fund 50 coffee dates by Thanksgiving. As of Wednesday, Hillel was about 30 to 40 percent of the way to the goal, she said.

Alumni can choose to make a monthly donation of $6, $12 or $18, translating to one, two or three coffee dates, for a year or more. Those who donate will be invited to an “exclusive” annual coffee club event and will get early information about Hillel, according to a newsletter sent to alumni last Wednesday.

Kirstein said she is also reaching out to alumni to participate through personal networks.

She said the initiative is a chance for alumni to fund the day-to-day operations of Hillel since the organization pays staff who talk with and support students. She said the organization is not just fundraising for its new building – a multimillion-dollar project that is set to open in 2020 – but Hillel also needs financial support to connect with Jewish students through programming like Shabbat dinners.

Kirstein said alumni are apt to donate through the coffee club because many remember similar interactions they had with staff during their time at GW.

“They understand that’s the entry point to Jewish life on campus,” Kirstein said. “We want to have meaningful conversations with them, hear where they’re coming from, see what’s important to them.”

Alumni who donated to the club said they wanted to be involved in the initiative because Hillel gave them a sense of belonging on campus during their college years – often the result of meaningful interactions with Hillel staff, like the coffee dates they are sponsoring.

Avra Bossov, who graduated in 2015, said the program is a way for her to give back to students currently involved in Hillel. She said that she often grabbed coffee with staff and student leaders in Hillel when she was an undergraduate.

“This is a good way of paying back that kind of opportunity that made me feel like something bigger, that someone took the time out of their day to know me better,” she said.

Gidon Feen, who graduated in 2017, said he donated to Hillel while he was a student, so donating to the coffee program made sense when he was approached by Kirstein earlier this semester. He said students talking one-on-one with Hillel staff helps create a sense of community, which he benefited from while he attended GW.

“To be able to go out to coffee, to be able to talk to them – whether it’s about something Jewish or stuff on campus or just shooting the hay – that was something I thought would be of great value,” he said.

Sarah Roach contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Avra Bossov graduated in 2016. She graduated in 2015. We regret this error.

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