Joe Hollander, a businessman from Holmdel active in the Monmouth Jewish community, has been named president of the board of trustees of the Hillel of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
A leader with the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, Hollander graduated from Brown — located in Providence, as is the RISD — in 1981 with majors in psychology and music. These days he is an independent technology consultant, but his connection to his alma mater has stayed strong.
Growing up in Newton in Sussex County, he was one of only two Jews in a graduating class of 176. At Brown that changed.
“My best friends in college were all Jewish,” he told NJJN. But, he acknowledged, “I wasn’t a major Hillel user myself. I had a strong sense of Jewish identity from my parents, who were very involved in federation activities, and I thought [Hillel] was more important for the kids who didn’t have that. But in retrospect, I feel an active Jewish relationship to college life is very important.”
Hollander said he believes campus Hillels play a more important role today than ever before. “We, as Jews, are at a very significant point in history, and there are tough times ahead. There is so much anti-Jewish and anti-Israel talk, and our youth are particularly vulnerable to it.”
Brown, like other campuses, he said, is “an incubator for future leaders.”
Hillel “can help them appreciate what is important and inherently good about being Jewish,” he said, including a sense of community, social justice, and tzedaka.
With around 1,300 Jewish students — 22 percent of the total student population — Brown has one of the strongest Jewish campus environments; RISD adds another 200 Jewish students to the community, 10 percent of that population.
Hollander is heartened by the caliber of the students involved with the Hillel; many of them, he said, are “very committed and focused.”
He is equally impressed with the Hillel’s new executive director, Marshall Einhorn, whom he had a hand in hiring. “He is really bright and energetic, and he hit the ground running,” Hollander said. “It is a wonderful Hillel and it has a wonderful executive director.”
Einhorn said he was “thrilled” to be working with Hollander.
“As both an alumnus of Brown and the parent of college-age kids, Joe understands the unique opportunity we have during the four years Brown and RISD students pass through Providence,” said Einhorn, a one-time marketing executive and entrepreneur.
Hollander’s 21-year-old daughter, Rachel, is a senior at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.; her 18-year-old sister, Alyssa, will attend Lafayette in the fall.
“In his time on the executive committee and in his term thus far as president,” said Einhorn, “it’s been evident how passionate Joe is about building Jewish life on campus and helping students make life-long connections to the Jewish community and to Israel.”
In addition to using the phone and e-mail, Hollander will take the nearly three-hour train trip to Providence about once a month.
Hollander is now the incoming president-elect of federation; he was scheduled to assume the presidency, but deferred taking office until 2011 in order to fulfill the commitment to Hillel.
Besides his federation leadership, he is an active member of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen.