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Michael Steinhardt, W'60, speaks during the the dedication of Steinhardt Hall. The dedication of Steinhardt, the new home of hillel on Penn's campus, was thursday afternoon. Credit: Ryan Jones , Ryan Jones

Penn Hillel’s Jewish Renaissance Project was recognized by a Jewish donor guide as one of the most innovative Jewish initiatives in the country.

Penn Hillel, an independent Jewish organization on campus , was one of only two college Hillels featured in the 10th annual Slingshot Guide, published on Monday.

The Slingshot Guide is a go-to resource for donors and activists looking to invest their time and money in Jewish organizations that are engaging the Jewish community in new ways. This year’s guide featured a total of 82 organizations.

“Funders trust Slingshot because it has a proven record of identifying the most meaningful Jewish sources to be funded,” Hillel President and College senior Alon Krifcher said. “Hopefully over the next few months and even years, people can point back to this and say, ‘JRP at Penn is a program that is working, why would I give to anywhere else?’”

Gina Shapiro, Hillel’s director of institutional advancement , also anticipates long-term benefits for Penn Hillel as a result of the recognition. “Hillel is completely independent of the University in terms of funding. Eighty-five percent of our funding comes from individuals, alumni and parents, so this type of recognition of the great work our professionals are doing helps in that [funding] endeavor.”

According to the Slingshot Guide, the Jewish Renaissance Project is an initiative “that ignites sparks of Jewish identity through new models of community and education for college students who have not found a Jewish home.”

In short, the project — led by Rabbi Josh Bolton, JRP Director of Engagement Emily Kaplan and 234 student leaders — engages over 1,300 Jewish students who were previously not involved with Jewish campus life through 11 different initiatives. The initiatives, ranging from Shabbat cooking classes and discussions to movie screenings, take place in dorms, fraternity and sorority houses and in off-campus apartments.

“The Project is successful because it’s the students themselves working towards these programs, and it’s about helping other students find the Judaism that is meaningful to them,” Krifcher said.

Shapiro also emphasized the importance of creating Jewish experiences outside of the Hillel infrastructure.

“Here’s the deal, college students don’t want anyone forcing them how to think or what to do,” Shapiro said. “The Jewish Renaissance Project then is a model for how to reach students and young adults in a more effective grassroots manner.”

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