Last week, during our last night at the second annual Hillel Institute of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, someone asked me about the seemingly numerousness of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) graduates in Hillel. In truth, in no way were YCT graduates the majority of rabbis there, but it was noticeable. For one thing, when we began the Beit midrash session on Wednesday morning, Rabbi Andy Kastner opened it up while Rabbi Ben Berger framed it for everybody. There were lots of options of sessions, although I chose to go to the one led by another two graduates, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz and Rabbi David Kasher.
I've already listed most of the YCT graduates at the conference, with the other three being Rabbi Seth Winberg, Rabbi Josh Feigelson, and myself. And while we have different positions,* we all are involved in our respective Hillels.
Having enjoyed not only the presence of YCT graduates last year, but also the responses regarding them, I was tremendously looking forward to seeing my fellow YCTers at the conference. I wasn't disappointed. Although the foremost reason for being excited to see them was having been trained in the same, special environment of YCT where there was not only a concerned discourse of general matters, but certainly when it came to Judaism (especially in (North) America), an intensive involvement with texts, and overall awesomeness. However, what may have contributed not only to seeing each other being special and catching up with each other, but also another matter: while at YCT, there is a feeling (largely unarticulated, but something that I felt nearly every day there) that we had a lot of potential in revitalizing the (North) American Jewish community; at the Hillel Institute, we got to hear and see some of the amazing energy being actualized by our fellow graduates. Not only that, but we got to hear further ideas and be inspired by each other.
By far, my favorite aspect of the conference was the sessions where all of the rabbis got together (which is another discussion altogether); however, again, the YCT graduates stood out, especially since three of them were Senior Jewish Educators at their Hillels. I could see how the person who mentioned to me that YCT guys were all over could get that impression....
*Aside from me, there was Rabbi Ben Berger ('09), senior Jewish educator (SJE) at the Hillel at The Ohio State University, Rabbi Josh Feigelson ('05), previously campus rabbi at Northwestern Hillel; Rabbi David Kasher ('07), SJE at Berkeley Hillel; Rabbi Andy Kastner ('10), campus rabbi for Washington University; Rabbi Seth Winberg ('11), associate director at U. of Michigan Hillel; Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz ('10), SJE at the Hillel at UCLA.