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Hillel pilots professional campus pipeline
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Hillel pilots professional campus pipeline

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Matt Lieberson, a recent Vanderbilt University graduate, meets with Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life/Hillel, where he will serve as a Springboard fellow.
Matt Lieberson, a recent Vanderbilt University graduate, meets with Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life/Hillel, where he will serve as a Springboard fellow.

Matthew Lieberson and Abbie Goldring will be using their social media savvy to promote Hillel International, the Jewish college campus organization, beginning in July. 

Lieberson, a native of Marblehead, Mass., will be at the Center for Jewish Life/Hillel at Princeton University, while Goldring, of Westfield, will join the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University

They are among 20 new college graduates on 20 campuses who comprise the first cohort of Hillel International Springboard Fellows. The fellows were selected from a pool of 85 applicants, and some 42 campus Hillel organizations applied to receive their services. The pilot of the two-year project is set to begin on July 7 with 10 days of training in Washington, DC. The fellows will arrive on their respective campuses on July 18. Additional training sessions will take place periodically throughout the fellowship.

Each fellow will focus on either social media or innovation. 

The initiative was designed to attract fresh talent into the Jewish professional world. “Hillel is in a unique place on college campuses, the place where people are making decisions about the rest of their lives,” said Mimi Kravetz, chief talent officer at Hillel. 

The investment in Springboard per fellow is $65,000 including salary, benefits, and training. The vision, according to Kravetz, is to eventually bring on 100 fellows each year for a total at any given time of 200 fellows, one on every campus that has a Hillel. (Hillel currently employs 1,000 people on 200 campuses.)

Both Lieberson and Goldring come to their positions with strong Jewish backgrounds and plenty of university Hillel involvement. Neither had considered a career in the Jewish world before applying for the fellowship.

Lieberson, who just graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in economics and history, grew up at a Reform synagogue in Marblehead, attended Jewish overnight camp (Camp Bauercrest in Amesbury, Mass.) for eight years, and took part in the Robert I. Lappin Youth to Israel Adventure, a two-week trip for high school students in the Boston area. 

He joined Hillel when he arrived at Vanderbilt “as a way to meet people,” and there, he said, “I found a great community and really got a lot out of my Hillel experience.” He appreciated the “diverse experiences” of the staff and students, which informed his own ideas. Lieberson was part of the First-Year Students of Hillel board during his freshman year, the Hillel programming board during his sophomore and junior years, and took part in what is known as the senior initiative during this past year.

When the director of Vanderbilt Hillel (which was selected to participate in Springboard) talked to some of the participants of the senior initiative about Springboard, Lieberson jumped at the chance. “I thought it would be a great way to combine my media and faith interests,” he said, “and a great way to develop professionally and make great connections while doing something for a community I really love.” 

He knew that social media would be his specialty — as features editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler (the name predates the eponymous porn magazine) he decided to try to live on food he could acquire free for one week for an article earlier this year. “I used Twitter every day so people could track me and people would also interact with me and tell me where” to find free food. 

“I realized social media is not just something to screw around with but that it can be used to create, reach, and build a brand.”

He will be using multiple social media platforms to engage with Princeton students as well as alumni, parents, and others, whether by sparking conversations, adding Jewish content, or posting videos of events, according to Rabbi Sara Rich, director of education at Princeton’s CJL/Hillel. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Matt to our team,” said Rich, who called him “creative, friendly, fun, dedicated, and passionate about using new tools to create Jewish community.” She added, “He is skilled in journalism and communication and is attuned to the ways that our students relate to social media. 

“Matt brings creativity and fresh ideas to the Center for Jewish Life, which will allow us to reach new students and connect students to us and to one another.” 

Goldring, who just graduated from the University of Delaware with a major in political science and a minor in political communications, grew up attending Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains. She attended Jewish camp (Camp Pembroke in Massachusetts) for seven years and has visited Israel twice. 

When she got to college, Goldring found she didn’t have Jewish friends. “It was disheartening,” she said. “I did not really know how to grow my Jewish identity without my parents taking me to synagogue.” Initially intimidated by Hillel, she finally went to some activities and eventually became a Hillel campus engagement intern, helping other Jewish students engage with Hillel. By her junior year, she was a student adviser for the group. “That experience gave me a good understanding of what other young Jews are looking for on college campuses,” she said. 

After graduating, Goldring remained in Delaware to finish up a semester-long legislative fellowship with the Public Safety Commission at the State House in Dover. 

Her dream job? “I want to be C.J. Cregg,” she said, referring to the White House press secretary played by Allison Janney on the television series The West Wing

While politics is not an overt part of the Hillel fellowship, Goldring said, she thinks the skills she will gain will help her in the long run. “It will give me a good handle on communicating about things I am passionate about, one of which is being Jewish.”

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