Elon Hillel enjoys record-setting student engagement, wins recognition from Hillel International

Elon’s Jewish population is growing, with the Class of 2025 boasting the largest-ever Jewish representation.

This fall Elon Hillel has enjoyed record-setting student engagement numbers, and completed outreach to 100 percent of the Jewish members of the Class of 2025 before Fall Break.

Elon has also been recognized at #29 in the list of “Top 60 Private Schools Jews Choose” in Hillel International’s college guide, an essential resource for Jewish students across the country choosing higher education options.

Hillel’s role on campus as a home away from home for Jewish students is a key factor in its place in the College Guide rankings. Hillel serves a rapidly growing, geographically diverse Jewish student population that now makes up a record-breaking 13 percent of the undergraduate student body with about 800 Jewish undergrads.

“Elon Hillel connects Jewish students even before they set foot on campus,” explained Director of Jewish Life and Acting Associate Chaplain Betsy Polk. “We offer a welcoming, lively, and inclusive home where students can build friendships and find a real community.”

This year, 184 students in the Class of 2025 self-identified as Jewish, which is the largest-ever number of Jewish students in Elon’s history. By fall break, 75 percent of those first-year students had enjoyed at least one meaningful engagement with Jewish Life, meaning event attendance, a one-on-one conversation over coffee, or a chance to chat anywhere across campus.

Elon Hillel’s cohort of student engagement Interns – second-year students Olivia Kogan, Mandi Lichtenstein, Lucy Sneader, Hannah Fritts, Ry Klein and Adam Horowitz – are charged with welcoming those first-year students to Elon, building strong relationships, fostering a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community.

Olivia Kogan ’24 shared why she loves to be an intern. “My job as an intern is so important because we help bridge the gap between first years and the Hillel community. We foster relationships and create an even stronger Hillel community by doing so.”

Intentional relationship-building and creating engaging programs that meet students where they are the key to Hillel’s success. This fall, Hillel has increased its depth of relationships as well as its breadth and reach. Not only did Elon Hillel host 30 well-attended events before Fall Break, but there has been a 100 percent increase in event attendance as compared to the last quarter of the 2021 academic year.

“Our engagement interns and our professional team want to get to know each Jewish student individually, and meet them where they are,” said Assistant Director of Jewish Life Hillary Zaken. “Our goal is to connect students to one another, learn about their interests, build community, and design Jewish experiences that are inclusive, meaningful and fun.”

Further, an increasing number of Jewish students have six or more interactions with Hillel, meaning they return again and again to Jewish Life programming, and bring their friends, too. More than half of the students who have six or more engagement with Elon Hillel are first-year students. Members of the Class of 2025 have had a staggering total of 750 individual engagements with Jewish Life.

Hillel’s team of Polk, Zaken, Jewish Educator Boaz Avraham-Katz and Program Coordinator Jay Rimmer, along with the cohort of engagement interns and the student executive board, have been extremely successful in helping build programs that bring students through the door of the Sklut Hillel Center.

The range of programs offered ranged from weekly Kabbalat Shabbat, a First-Year Ice Cream Social, Tie Dye and Thai, What’s Cookin’ Hillel, the Jewish Learning Fellowship and the best-attended event of the first quarter, “Shabarbeque” (a Shabbat barbecue) with the AePi fraternity.

This year’s High Holiday services, led by 4th year Rabbinical student Adam Berman, Jewish Educator Boaz Avraham-Katz, and student leaders, engaged more than 150 individual students.

Elon Hillel is based out of the Sklut Hillel Center, a renovated and repurposed house on campus with a full kitchen and all the comforts of home. Jewish students gather at Hillel for programs, to meet with staff mentors, to grab a snack from the stocked kitchen, and to do homework.

Elon University Hillel is affiliated with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (known as Hillel International), the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally, and on 550 campuses throughout the United States. Their annual College Guide is a resource for students and families embarking on their college search, and seeking to learn about the opportunities for an exciting and enriching Jewish life on campus.