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Northwestern Hillel



  • Existence: 1933    


Hillel at Northwestern University has been involved with Jewish student life on campus from the early 20th century. Hillel actively supports Jewish culture, community and social justice opportunities for Northwestern University students. The Hillel namesake refers to a sage who founded a school of thought after moving from Babylonia to Palestine in the first century. His followers were known as “Beit Hillel” (translated as “House of Hillel”). The organization originated in Champaign, Illinois, in 1923 as the Hillel Foundation. The B’nai B’rith organization began supporting the Hillel Foundation a year later, which helped grow Hillel into a national organization.

The Northwestern University chapter of Hillel was established in 1933. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, a nonprofit organization established in 1994, became responsible for the activities previously supported by the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundations. Like many local Hillel organizations, Fiedler Hillel is modeled upon the governing structure of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The Fiedler Hillel organization is a division of the Hillels of Illinois and receives funding by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

The Fiedler Hillel mission statement from 2005 reads, "Hillel's mission is to enrich the lives of undergraduates and graduate students so that they enrich the Jewish people and the world." According to the Fiedler Hillel records, "Hillel is the foundation for Jewish life at Northwestern University. We provide limitless opportunities for students to own their Jewish identities and be engaged by a Judaism that is relevant to their lives."

The Louis && Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center at 629 Foster St. was formally dedicated on April 27, 1999. At 10,000 square feet, the $2.5 million facility was three times larger than the previous facility located at Sherman Ave. Saerree Fiedler contributed the major donation for the construction. The building is named in honor of Saerree Fiedler and her husband, Louis. Additional funds for the building came from the Continuum Program, which directs the capitol and endowment gifts for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Jewish United Fund and Hillels of Illinois.

Fiedler Hillel is guided by a Board of Directors and a Governing Board consisted of faculty, alumni, parents and community members. Hillel's professional staff consists of the Executive Director, Campus Rabbi, Program Staff, and Doppelt Director of Engagement (a position preceded by the Doppelt JCSC [Jewish Campus Service Corps] Fellowship).

Rabbi Michael Balinsky served as the Hillel director at Northwestern for nearly twenty years, most of which are covered in Records of Hillel series. Balinsky was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Saerree and Louis Fiedler Hillel facility. The Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center facilitated significant growth in Fiedler Hillel in terms of student participation and programs offered. As a result of his efforts, Balinsky was awarded the Rabbi Daniel I. Leifer Award for Professional Excellence in 1999.

Rabbi Michael Mishkin, who succeeded Balinsky in 2001, was the last to hold the position of Executive Director and Campus Rabbi. In 2005, the position was split between two persons. Adam Simon became the Executive Director and Josh Feigelson became the Campus Rabbi.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Records of Hillel at Northwestern University

Identifier: 31/6/95

The Hillel organization was founded in Champaign, Illinois, in 1923 and ten years later was established at Northwestern University. Hillel engages Jewish students by providing cultural and community opportunities at the University and abroad.

Dates: 1939 - 2008; Other: Majority of material found within 1981 - 2008; Other: Date acquired: 06/07/2010