Penn Hillel’s Manager of Student Leadership Allison Sorgeloos announced her departure from the organization on April 12 — three years after she joined its team.
In an email sent to students and alumni of Penn Hillel, Sorgeloos announced that she is leaving Penn to start a new job as a consultant for a nonprofit organization in Washington. Sorgeloos will graduate from the School of Social Policy & Practice with a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership this May.
Sorgeloos joined the Hillel staff in August 2019 as a Springboard Innovation Fellow, tasked with brainstorming new ideas, connecting with students, and bringing creativity into Hillel’s work.
Over time, Sorgeloos has taken on multiple leadership roles at Hillel, helping to establish the Student Leadership Executive Committee and the First Year Leadership Board. She was also responsible for planning the 2021 Penn Hillel Pre-Orientation Retreat.
Sorgeloos has run Hillel’s fellowships, including the Jewish Learning Fellowship, a 10-week seminar for students looking to deepen their understanding of Judaism, and the Pincus Scholars Fellowship, a fellows group in which students engage in a semester of Jewish learning and exploration of Jewish life.
Sorgeloos said that her time at Hillel has been marked by creating meaningful connections with students through initiatives such as coffee chats.
“I counted at one point my number of coffee chats, and it was, like, over 800 different Penn students [over three years],” Sorgeloos said. “The thing I’m going to miss the most is really the students. It’s why I took the job, and it’s been such an honor and a privilege to have met so many amazing people.”
For some Penn students, their first exposure to Hillel was meeting Sorgeloos.
“Allison was one of the first staff members [I met] and that I formed a connection with when I was in my first year doing everything online," College sophomore and Co-President of Penn Hillel Lilah Katz said. “Ever since we met, she’s always been a huge part of my Hillel experience."
Students said that Sorgeloos was dedicated to supporting the Hillel community, willing to speak to students about Judaism, academics, or whatever was on their minds.
“Allison is very, very supportive. I meet with her every Thursday, and it is really nice to just sit and relax with her and talk about classes and other stuff,” College sophomore and Penn Hillel Vice-President of Social Affairs Brianna Fisher said.
College senior and J-Bagel Co-President Gregory Levy said he believes that Sorgeloos is the reason why he became fully immersed in Hillel’s community.
“Allison really encouraged me to engage more with the Jewish community at Penn and assured me that I do have a place at Hillel beyond my little corner in J-Bagel. Before Allison, I didn’t really consider Hillel to be a second home, but now I absolutely do,” Levy said in a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian on Wednesday.
Sorgeloos said she is proud of leading the Jewish Learning Fellowship and the Pincus Fellowship, where she has created close relationships with many Penn students.
“In the Jewish Learning Fellowship, we take all of the topics you learn in Hebrew School and find ways to make it accessible and meaningful to young adults,” Sorgeloos said.
After taking a Jewish Learning Fellowship with Sorgeloos, Katz said she became interested in learning how to wrap tefillin — straps worn during prayers traditionally by men. In response, Sorgeloos helped organize a time for Katz and her peers to learn.
“Myself and [Allison] and a couple of other women started wrapping tefillin together every week and then it ended kind of petering out in the group, but Allison and I would wrap tefillin weekly together for a while which was a really awesome experience,” Katz said.
Students said that Hillel and the greater Penn community have been greatly impacted by Sorgeloos’ presence, dedication, and engagement.
“The effort and attention Allison puts towards everything she does is why she’s been able to successfully be a core part of Penn Hillel and spread joy to the wider Penn community,” Levy wrote. “Allison is frankly leaving behind some massive shoes to fill.”