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The Hillel community is losing a popular staff member in a few weeks.

Senior Jewish Educator Rabbi Joel Nickerson will be leaving his post at Hillel to become the assistant rabbi at Temple Isaiah, a Reform synagogue in Los Angeles.

While Nickerson said the new job is a good opportunity career-wise, he regrets having to leave Penn after spending two years on campus.

“I’ll miss the dynamic nature of the job,” he said. “There’s been a lot of room for creativity. The type of teaching that I’m able to do and the conversations I’m able to have with students have been really profound, invigorating and inspiring.”

“It’s kind of bittersweet … I’m going to miss working with brilliant, brilliant students every day,” he added.

College sophomore Jake Shuster said Nickerson has helped him a lot, especially in learning “that Judaism can be a lot of different things.”

“He’s helped me realize that [Judaism] is an integral part of my identity,” he said. He’s also “helped me … figure out which element of Jewish culture and which elements of religion really matter to me.”

Nickerson — along with Emily Perl, the director of engagement at Hillel— was in charge of the Jewish Renaissance Project and Campus Entrepreneur Initiative program, which focuses on helping students understand what it means to be Jewish.

“The objective of CEI is to have Jewish conversations with students who are not involved with Hillel and discuss with them … what they see as Judaism’s role in their life,” Shuster, a current CEI intern, said.

CEI intern and College sophomore Beryl Sanders said she learned a lot through interacting with Nickerson in the CEI program.

To say he was popular “is an understatement,” she wrote in an email. “Not only have I learned more about Judaism from him … but I enjoyed doing so,” she wrote. “I wasn’t that active in Hillel during my freshman year at Penn.”

Shuster agreed, adding that Nickerson also changed the way he thought about religious authority figures.

“I think a lot of people have this image of a rabbi being this stuffy old guy,” he said. “Rabbi Joel has done a fabulous job of breaking down that barrier.”

“Rabbi Joel is the epitome of a ‘cool’ rabbi,” College sophomore Robert Berg wrote in an email. “Going to my first High Holiday services freshman year, I felt welcomed and at home.”

“[His] personable and personalized style made me really comfortable about keeping my Judaism at college,” he added.

According to Sanders, Nickerson is universally beloved by those around him. “He is without a doubt loved by every one of the students that he works with,” Sanders wrote. “He treats every one of his students with kindness.”

“The campus is really losing something next year,” Shuster said.

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