We build a Jewish community whose values enrich the lives of students during their college years and beyond.
Hillel of Colorado Organizational History
Hillel was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish History he is associated with the development of the Mishnah and theTalmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel, a school for Tannaim. When naming the organization, Hillel was chosen because it is a symbol of the quest for higher
learning. It is a beautiful name, too. It appealed to the Christian fellowship that pioneered the foundation, since Hillel was virtually a contemporary of Jesus. In the early days the Jewish
community still felt the need for the Christian imprimatur.
Hillel of Colorado is part of the International organization Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (created as such in 1994.) Hillel actually began in 1923 with humble means, noble mission and a breathtaking vision. Through the dedication of students, lay leaders and professionals, Hillel has grown from a handful of students in a rented room above a barbershop in Champaign, Illinois, to a worldwide movement with a gleaming home in the U.S. capital.
However, due to societal changes, the Hillel movement was in need of revitalization by the late 80s. Richard M. Joel (1988-2002) was hired to direct the national organization. He set Hillel on a path of renaissance. The mission became focused on "maximizing the number of Jews doing Jewish with other Jews", creative "engagement" programming and breaking out of the Hillel building to utilize the whole campus
Hillel came to Colorado (this region) in the late 1950s originally sharing staff and resources with Wyoming. The perception of Hillel in the early days was that it was more of a "synagogue" on campus. Hillel went through many evolutions. Staff alternated sites, in Boulder, Denver, CSU and the Air Force Academy. One of the first directors for Hillel was Max Frankel, a beloved local Denver persona who's been part of nearly every Jewish educational institution..
In the mid-late 90s, Hillel (which was then known then as the Hillel Council of Colorado) was going through rough times with focus and staffing. The Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado asked Henny Kaufmann and Irit Waldbaum to co-chair the Board and supported them in rebuilding the board from scratch. There was a great deal of trial and error with the hiring of an executive director.
Pat Blumenthal started in January, 1997 as the Executive Director. At that time, the only person on staff was a ¾ time statewide administrator. Over the next year the board formulated a vision of building Hillel's from the ground up focusing on CSU, CU and DU. These campuses were selected because they encompass around 4000 Jewish students, over 90% of all Jewish students in Colorado attend one of these three schools.
After launching a vigorous capital campaign, the new 8,000 square foot Merage & Allon Hillel Center opened its doors on the DU campus on September 26, 2006 and the David & Laura Merage Hillel Center, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins opened on January 21, 2008.
Hillel's growth over the past decade has been accomplished due to tremendous Board leadership, professional talent and commitment, student leadership, community support and major contributions from key partners: Jewish Colorado, Rose Community Foundation, and Hillel International.
TESTIMONIALS FROM HILLEL OF COLORADO PARTICIPANTS
"Hillel is my home away from home. I come here to study, hang out and meet other Jews on campus. I love the Hillel house because it is so cozy" -Lisa
"Before I came to Hillel I didn't know another Jew on campus. Now I have a whole group of close Jewish friends." -Elisha
"Hillel for me is a place I grew Jewishly in during the last three years. I never imagined I'd attend regular Shabbat Dinners - even cook some - and to sit and study Torah with peers. I love that there's no pressure around or on me to 'do the right thing' and everyone's point of view is respected." -Michelle
"I don't feel like I need or should explain myself or who I am at Hillel - just be. I walk through the door and know that the people I'm about to meet are like me." -Zach
"Hillel to me has been a home away from home, because it gave me a place to go every Friday night for services and dinner. It was the first place I made friends in Denver, and it also showed me that no matter where one goes, they will always be able to find a Jewish community. Hillel gave me the opportunity to grow as a person and understand more about what Judaism means to me" - Dani
"I feel that I am closer to my Judaism and who I am as a young Jewish woman in today's society. Hillel has helped me grow as a person, and shown me that there is a Jewish community everywhere." -Danielle
"I am confident that the friendships and relationships I've made through Hillel will greatly reinforce my own commitment to Judaism. I love how much support I've gotten from our own small campus Jewish community, and am very much excited to continue to remain active in a Jewish community" - Ella
"The leadership skills I've learned at Hillel are very valuable. I've grown so much" - Kevin
"Love, support, advice......and home cooked food every week" - Blair
"Hillel has provided me a safe haven for individuality, creativity, and friendship" - Samantha
"We learn how to embrace our similarities while respecting our differences" - Zack
"Hillel has made "doing Jewish" so much fun" - Julia
"Being a board member for Hillel has really helped me grow professionally in my ability to plan and facilitate programs. The campus director, encourages and assists us to step up, take responsibility and make the changes that we want to see at Hillel. Rather than brainstorming ideas for someone else to carry out, he has helped me figure out how to map out and make these dreams happen myself. I now have the experience and confidence that I can take an abstract idea and turn it into a real event or change for the community."
-Lizzy Wallis, DU Hillel Student