The Pennsylvania State University Hillel has won a national award from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The honor came for its work with student leaders.
The Penn State Hillel was one of five recipients — two Hillels, five individuals — of the 2012 Philip H. and Susan Rudd Cohen Student Exemplar of Excellence and Campus of Excellence Awards. The winners were announced at the recent 2012 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins University won the small campus award. The individual winners came from Hillels at the University of Maryland, Kent State University, Hillel Australia, Pace University and Rutgers University.
Penn State won the large campus award for having shown a commitment to engaging students on every level while also deepening their student leadership.
Aaron Kaufman, director of the Penn State Hillel, told the Chronicle his students demonstrated their leadership during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas when Hillel leaders at Penn State engaged anti-Israel protestors on campus, Friday, Nov. 16.
“Our student leaders on their own were able to diffuse the situation and get them to take down some of their signs,” Kaufman said.
He also said his students developed a Facebook campaign, through which they encouraged students to take pictures of themselves and answer the question, “I stand with Israel because …”
He said the Penn State Hillel serves some 4,000 to 6,000 Jewish students at the University Park campus. It does not have traditional memberships.
“The hard work of our students and staff has now been nationally recognized,” Elliott Weinstein, chair of the Penn State Hillel board of directors, said in a prepared statement. “The entire board of directors, including myself, is so proud of the work these students and professionals do every day and we congratulate everyone involved.”
Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, engaging with students at more than 550 universities across the globe.
The Philip H. Cohen and Susan Rudd Cohen Campus of Excellence Award recognizes the efforts of local Hillels to empower student leadership and foster engagement, activism, education and university partnership.
A committee from Hillel’s Schusterman International Center chose the winners, and applications were open to all Hillels, which serve more than 550 universities across the globe.
The large vs. small campus distinction refers to the Jewish student populations on the campuses served by Hillels.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)