Universities oh my
An interesting mix of media coverage populates the internet today, from the coverage of the rise of secular Jewish cultural programs in universities throughout the country, to the release of a report stating the need that NYU Hillel’s be more “welcoming” to undergraduates who have one Jewish parent, to the extensive coverage of “Inspiring Values, Creating Leaders: The Summit on the University and the Jewish Community,” hosted this week in DC by Hillel. The conference drew more than 600 university leaders, professors, students and Jewish professionals to talk about yes–one of jewschool’s favorite talking points–how to reinvigorate Jewish life into Jewish youth culture.
What stood out the most in reading this coverage was, not only that Hillel pledged to double its numbers over the next five years including “double its annual campaign; double its funding to local Hillels; and launch an aggressive recruitment and retention program for campus professionals,” but also that the Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center will increase its endowment from $10 million to $100 million.
Unbelievable! $100 million!!!
Now I don’t know about you, but Hillel on my campus was far from innovative, embracing or capable of truly bringing in or meeting the needs of the breadth and depth of student life, and I don’t think that this has to do with money–inherently one institution will never be able to meet the needs of a population of people, however small or large, that varies extensively on a number of demographics, including region, class, language, race, political affiliation, background and upbringing, and the list goes on and on.
So what gives? The Schusterman’s seem to be busy with Hillel, recently supporting endeavors in Texas and DC.
So who is the Schusterman Fund?–well according to their website:
“The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is dedicated to helping the Jewish people flourish by supporting programs throughout the world that spread the joy of Jewish living, giving and learning.”
The list of places that this foundation supports is unbelievable–from federations to colleges to the Jerusalem Open House, they’re across the map–Granted I’m not “in the know” about the foundation world, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of these folks before–and I’m wondering if maybe other folks haven’t either and if not, that maybe it’s time we start knocking on their door in Tulsa, and bring coverage like the New Voices recent article on JCPA and the bureaucracy of students trying to engage with a body that claims to “serves as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the mandate of the Jewish community relations field,” or a host of other examples about the barriers to reinvigorating Jewish life, and the need to, not just study the issues impacting Gen X and Gen Y, but to also allow us to build, define and cultivate communities by and for ourselves. And definitely not only through the halls of Hillel.
I’ve always wanted to visit Tulsa, OK.
Update: A Jewschool reader rightfully suggested that we should clarify, that Charles Schusterman passed away in 2000, and since then Lynn has continued to pursue the philanthropic course she first charted with her husband of 38 years. She is joined in this task by her daughter, Stacy Schusterman, the other director of the Foundation.
2nd UPDATE:Just got off the phone with the Schusterman Family Foundation, and indeed as Jeff Rubin, Associate Vice President for Communications of Hillel wrote in the comment roll, it is NOT the Family Foundation that is increasing its endowment to Hillel by ten. Rather, the Hillel’s headquarters was named after the Schusterman’s after they gave an endowment to help build the center. A bit confusing with the names for sure, but, nonetheless, apologies for continuing to feed this confusion between the foundation, and Hillel’s international center, on Jewschool.