Penn has another prize for innovation — this time, for ones that contribute to Jewish life.
On Sept. 29, Penn Hillel and Hillel International’s Office of Innovation announced the establishment of the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Jewish Innovation Endowment. The Endowment will fund three projects which include the Innovation Summit, the Innovation Fellow and the Innovation Award, which are all designed to cultivate creative ideas that embody Hillel’s goal of inspiring a commitment to Jewish life.
The Innovation Summit will bring together hundreds of Hillel professionals from around the United States to explore strategies for reaching and impacting future generations of Jewish students. The summit will take place on Dec. 8 in Orlando, Fla. during the Hillel International Global assembly.
The Innovation Fellow will receive resources to supervise the summit and to serve as an aggregator of Jewish innovations. The Innovation Award will then honor the “boldest and brightest” idea presented at the summit. In line with the theme of community impact, any Hillel center can apply for the award, which includes a cash prize.
The goal of the endowment is to provide forward thinkers in the Jewish community with an outlet that is supportive of enterprising projects, Penn Hillel Board member and 1982 graduate Sally Katz said of the endowment, which is named for her mother.
“Penn and my mom were both cut from the same cloth in terms of trying to be innovators on a local and global scale,” she said. “My mom’s spirit was all about giving to the community and thinking outside the box, and that’s Penn Hillel in a nutshell.”
Executive Director at Penn Hillel Rabbi Mike Uram said the endowment is indicative of Penn Hillel’s influence on Jewish student life at campuses all over the United States.
“Penn Hillel has been a national leader in creating new and innovative ways of creating Jewish life for all Penn students. Some of those innovations that have started at Penn have spread nationally to other schools,” he said.
For example, he added, Penn Hillel’s “peer-to-peer” program, which allows student interns to plan programs for their friends outside institutional boundaries, is now a model used on campuses across the country.
“Students seem to be really excited about it and I know I can say for myself that I think this is an incredible opportunity for Jewish students, not just at Penn but across the country,” College senior and Hillel Student Board President Katie Hartman said. “I’m graduating at the end of the year, but as a student I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”