While all should be delighted at the success of Hillel’s Peer Network Engagement Initiative, Ted Merwin’s April 26 tribute (“Jewish Identity, One On One”) fails to mention that this approach was pioneered and widely utilized on campus long before Hillel embraced it five years ago.
The notion of “people before programs” has been the essence of Chabad’s success on campus, and “one-on-one conversations” is at the heart of AEPi’s successful rush strategy. “Retail engagement” has been the cornerstone of AIPAC’s highly successful student program for more than a decade, and the maxim “speakers don’t engage people, people engage people” has been the central tenet of AIPAC Campus Creed since 2003. Tens of thousands of students have been empowered in the past decade, including a great many of whom who are now Hillel professionals, and more than 2,000 students attended AIPAC’s most recent Policy Conference — all through one-on-one peer engagement. In recent years, this strategy has been embraced by the Israel on Campus Coalition and The David Project, both of which have credited Jonathan Kessler of AIPAC for “setting the course for a positive relationship building strategy on campus.”
In December 2003, The Jewish Week published an op-ed on AIPAC’s success with this approach, and in April 2003 Moment Magazine wrote an extensive story on AIPAC’s emphasis on retail engagement. In that article, Kessler states, “Our students take pen and paper and clipboard and go door-to-door, dorm-to dorm, and student-by-student engaging peers about the value of the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
The whole approach is grass-roots, retail engagement, it’s a political model. That’s why it’s so different.”
The writer was AIPAC’s deputy leadership development director from 2002-07.
As an addendum to your recent coverage on the upcoming graduation ceremony of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, and reactions in the Orthodox community, please note the statement issued several weeks ago by the International Rabbinic Fellowship, the Modern Orthodox rabbinical organization based in New York City.
Kudos to Ted Merwin and the Hillel directors implementing the Peer Network Engagement Initiative (“Jewish Identity, One On One,” Back Of The Book, April 26).
They recognize that “if you build it, they will come” might work in the movies, but it is not a sufficient strategy for engaging Jewish college students. Engaging young adults on their terms and putting people before programming are key to fostering Jewish continuity, on campus and beyond.
Many college grads arrive in New York ready to tackle professional school or take on the business world. Yet they find that New York can be cold and lonely. They lack the community that Hillel and Chabad houses, or even a few like-minded classmates, provided.
The Brownstone NY offers these young adults a space to create their own community (“A ‘Brownstone’ For Young Jews,” May 3). The East Village six-story eco-friendly building features inviting lounges, dining spaces, meeting rooms and a rooftop terrace. It is an ideal place to encourage one-to-one peer conversations.
Our building is buzzing with classes, social and networking events, alumni reunions, leadership programs, and Shabbat meals.
We’re a welcoming, inclusive place. We invite your readers to check us out.
While I agree with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s advocacy of the Sharansky compromise in regard to the Western Wall, there are two elements in his Opinion article with which I disagree (“Time For Modern Orthodox Leaders To Speak Out On Kotel Proposal,” Opinion, April 26).