Penn State Hillel won the Phillip H. Cohen and Susan Rudd Cohen Campus of Excellence Award, which honors local Hillels and their achievements in empowering student leadership, engagement and education, according to a press release issued by Hillel.
The award is granted to a large campus group each year. Penn State Hillel is a group dedicated to fostering cohesion for more than 6,000 Jewish students that attend the university.
Aaron Kaufman, Hillel Executive Director, said he was thrilled that the group got national recognition, and it is an incredible dynamic for Jewish life at Penn State.
“The national office its been impressed with our student leadership. Students control everything. It’s a student-centered institution,” Kaufman said.
Besides winning for student leadership, Jenna Heffler, Hillel’s president-elect, said Hillel won the award because they have a strong board and staff.
“We are very passionate, responsible, mature of what we do, and that’s who we are, so that’s definitely how we run a successful organization,” Heffler (junior-actuarial science) said. “I hope we get the award next year, and no doubt that we will,” she said.
Usually each Hillel applies to be considered for the award, but this year the group did not apply. They were surprised that they won, Kaufman said.
Hillel has been at Penn State since the 1930s, but in the last five years they have grown dramatically, Kaufman said.
A few years ago, the events had 10 attendees, but now they have almost 400 students attending Hillel events.
Hillel’s goal is to support and foster Jewish life for the Penn State community and provide support for students to find their own identity, said Ryan Gianola (senior-hotel restaurant institutional management), Hillel’s outgoing president. He hopes that Hillel becomes more prominent.
The award was given at a ceremony in Baltimore at the 2012 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly. Johns Hopkins Hillel also won the Campus of Excellence Award.