Assistant Director of Jewish Life Hillary Zaken participates in prestigious Avodah Institute for Social Change

Zaken was selected as a member of the inaugural cohort, and will bring tools back to Elon to engage with Jewish social justice work

Hillary Zaken, Elon’s Assistant Director of Jewish Life, was chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Avodah Institue for Social Change, a program that will coach Jewish professionals on organizational social justice policy change, anti-racism, and allying with other groups.

The project’s first cohort is 13 leaders from the Hillel movement who will gather for small group learning, Jewish text study and one-on-one mentoring over the next six months. Each participant will return to their respective institution with the tools to advance social justice.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this cohort, and ready to engage in this very important work.” said Zaken. “Participating in this cohort of Hillel leaders alongside a faculty of leading-edge thinkers and scholars will help drive our department’s capacity to engage in meaningful social impact, and help inform our strategic planning and programming around social justice and anti-racism.”

As part of the program, Zaken will have the opportunity to sharpen her social justice analysis, engage in DEI work on the theoretical and practical levels, work through the challenges of supporting relevant programming within Jewish Life at Elon, and develop and hone skills and analysis of anti-racism and allyship.

Director of Jewish Life Betsy Polk shared: “When we first heard about Avodah, Hillary immediately stepped forward with passion for and commitment to taking on this vital work and sharing learnings with Elon Hillel. I can’t tell how excited I am about the impact this will have on Hillary, our team, students and the Elon community.”

The Hillel cohort will focus on personal leadership in the social justice sphere, and participants will dive into a curriculum that promises to engage the practical, emotional, and behavioral aspects of social justice knowledge, analysis and practice. The learning will be grounded in Jewish text, history and spiritual practice, and will offer regular opportunities to experience how justice work intersects with and is supported by spiritual practice.

The institute was created in consultation with Jewish nonprofit professionals and leaders in the Jewish social justice field, including Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., and Ilana Kaufman, executive director of the Jews of Color Initiative.  It is funded by Crown Family Philanthropies, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, Perlin Family Foundation and The Rakin Family.

Zaken will participate in the program throughout the 2021-22 academic year.