Having arrived yesterday here in St. Louis for the third annual Hillel Institute, the staff conference for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, it is exciting to be here once again amongst colleagues! As I did last year, I wanted to share some things I am expecting here.
1) Exciting to be in an environment with hundreds of other Jews committed to serving the young emerging adult Jews in North America and to help them grow in multiple ways. The energy that my colleagues around the continent bring to conferences such as this is very exciting to be around and helps recharge us professionally. Very few work in this area without a sense of hope for our people and this also adds to the energy! (It's also one of the reasons I decided to become a rabbi.)
|With fellow YCT alumni at Hillel Institute 2011|
2) Re-connecting with my fellow YCT alumni, which is always special, no matter the context, for a variety of reasons. Also, it will be doubly exciting to see - based off the past two years - how the YCT representation is, as it has been great!
3) Although I may have known about a fitness center last year, I didn't take advantage of it. This year, I packed clothing and plan to use it every day (if I can), which depends upon the schedule and the following:
|Twitter conversations are an important part of HI|
4) We are bringing both of our daughters this year, which is a first for us. Two years ago, we brought our older daughter (although she was an only child then) and discovered that the babysitting the conference provided was woefully inadequate. Last year, we brought our then 4-month old and it seemed to have been fine. Since we are not able to leave both of our daughters at home, we're bringing them with us, so we shall see how this will work out. I have my doubts that it will go well, but I am open to being happily surprised. However, I hope I do not get sick from getting a lack of sleep from having them sleep in our rooms....
5) Great Twitter conversations, just as in years past. I noticed that last year's conference had more tweeting going on than the first one, and I hope that this year has even more. It's also worth noting that Hillel did not come up with the hashtag (#HI2010) for the first one (I did, actually), but they were proactive last year in setting one up (#HillelInst) and have done it again, this year (#HillelInstitute). It is worth noting that it's changed every year! (And, yes, two years ago, Hillel had done an atrocious job of tweeting, but they have picked it up since then, which has been very nice to see.)
|Wayne Firestone owning the stage at HI 2011|
6) Encountering challenging ideas and/or being pushed to deal with new ones. This was something that has arisen for me each of the past two Hillel Institutes; whether it was thinking about guiding questions in our work, being reminded about what we were told in rabbinical school about charisma, or thinking about measuring the impact of the work that we do. I hope I can grow from some new ideas this year!
7) Once again, I am looking forward to another engaging plenary talk by Wayne Firestone. He has spoken tremendously well, owning the stage, and discussing some great ideas. He gave a great speech at the first one and another great one last year.
|The rabbis sessions have been the highlight for me at HI|
8) I am looking forward to the sessions with other rabbis. Last year, it was the highlight of the conference for me and I am stoked for them again. Inasmuch as there is a lot of talk at the conference (or, at least the last two years) about the importance of strengthening Jewish identity amongst young people, there is very little discussed about it, per se. When the rabbis get together, we are able to discuss this central topic in depth and with substance. It is very exciting :)
|With new colleagues at City Museum|
9) I am hoping for three special events that have gone well and taken place each of the past two Hillel Institutes: being in the audience for the smoothest awards ceremony I've ever experienced, the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Awards and Milestones; beer hang-out one night (always chill); and going to the funky City Museum, which is just weird.
10) Lastly, it is always great to not only re-connect with people that I've met previously, which is so fantastic, but also to meet new people. Not only is it nice to professionally network (which is great, by the way), but there are some really cool people there, and it's a pleasure meeting them!