October 27, 2000

Hillel Head Urges C.U. Jewish Community to Develop Identity

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Members of the Cornell community gathered yesterday in Statler Hall to hear Richard Joel, president and international director of Hillel, discuss “Creating a Passionate and Purposeful Jewish Community at Cornell.”

The lecture highlighted what Joel outlined as a need to motivate Jewish students on campus in order to become more involved in realizing and celebrating their Jewish identity.

Susan Cohen ’02, Hillel co-president, noted Joel’s appeal to a college audience.

“Right now Cornell Hillel is trying to grow bigger and better, and hopefully through the help of motivational people like Richard Joel, we can fulfill that goal. We want the Cornell community mobilized and motivated,” Cohen said.

After a brief introduction and general statements about the Jewish community, Joel spoke about Cornell Hillel.

“When you walk into Anabel Taylor [Hall], you see a real Hillel center,” he said.

Joel suggested that the University has a unique opportunity for student leaders to engage the campus in Jewish activity.

“I hope [these students] will take the time to see that this is a healthy place to launch campus activities,” he said.

After praising the Cornell Hillel community, Joel adopted a more skeptical tone.

“We’re tired of people saying that no one is involved,” Joel said. “We need to look at every Jew and realize that most people have not had the opportunity to feel a sense of pride in their Jewishness outside of the home.”

As a solution to this problem he added, “If we want our children to have a Jewish background, we have to give them a Jewish playground.”

Joel emphasized community, such as the student groups at Cornell, which provide a means for students to share their experiences.

“There has never been a time when Americans have felt more unidentified and alone. Nobody knows anyone else’s names and it has forced many to ask the question ‘What is this journey really all about?'”

To illustrate this dilemma, Joel cited the popularity of the television series, “Survivor.”

“The goal of the game is to scam,” he said of the game show. “If you can scam everyone, you get a million dollars … and the reward is that you get to be alone on an island.”

Hoping to bring the Jewish Renaissance to a more local level, Joel said, “It’s our responsibility to show students that the program is valuable and that being Jewish is an option, not a condition.”

Following the lecture, Vally Kovary, Cornell Hillel Executive Director expressed her satisfaction with the outcome, and especially pointed out the diverse audience in attendance.

University trustees and council members were among the crowd.

“This is the first time that [the various leaders] really came together to look forward in a coordinated effort,” Kovary said.

Hillel Vice President of Social Programming Yonina Fishof ’02 said, “I think that Richard Joel really got his point across: the need to work towards creating an active and purposeful Jewish community. He set out some nice goals for us and we will continue on our path of improving interest in the activity of Hillel on the Cornell campus.”

Archived article by Aylin Tanyeri