Last week, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life held its second annual Hillel Institute, a conference for Hillel professionals throughout North America and beyond (it also held an Engagement Institute on the heels of the aforementioned conference for student engagement interns).  

Wayne Firestone turning in another Steve Jobs-like performance in his plenary address at the second annual Hillel Institute

Just like last year, Wayne Firestone, the President of Hillel, gave an address to the hundreds of professionals in attendance, in which he spoke on topics such as four pillars for engagement, creating an enduring commitment to Jewish life, and comparing Hillel to Facebook (you can see the entirety of his 40-minute speech which I recorded here (you can also catch the expanded version that Hillel recorded)).

As I wrote here last year, I put forth the suggestion that Firestone may be the Jewish Steve Jobs due to his impressive speaking performance in his plenary speech at the Hillel Institute.  My expectation that he would give another laudatory performance was happily matched.  The funny thing was – amongst the most active Tweeting session the whole conference – that it was suggested (and seconded) that Firestone was giving a Steve Jobs-like performance (or “channelling Steve Jobs”).  I’m glad it’s not just me 🙂

Wayne Firestone comparing Hillel to Facebook in his plenary speech at Hillel Institute 2011, saying that Hillel is "the living, tangible Facebook of the Jewish people"

For me, one of the key segments of his speech was

As I look at our movement over the past decade, it is clear that we have made a very dramatic shift; not just in the way we convene, the way we celebrate and how we learn together.  Those are significant and we celebrate those things here, we acknowledge them and we help build them. But even more so, we know as our community is struggling with the issues of affiliation and of membership and of the like, we have made a very significant shift in our thinking: that instead of thinking merely of counting tuchuses and how you think about affiliation in very narrow terms, we made a significant leap in saying meaningful Jewish experiences were something that could be nurtured, but ultimately had to be owned by students themselves.  And that we needed to begin that process with young adults, teaching them this, giving them the nurturing in this direction, but also giving them the self-confidence so that when they leave college, they have the ability to create an enduring commitment to Jewish life.

I’m looking forward to another great performance next year….

About the author


Having begun blogging in the summer of 2005, Drew joined the Jewlicious mega-Jewblog after Jewlicious Festival 6.0 in February 2010. Drew is committed to serving the Jewish people, and is one of a small number of rabbis who were bloggers whilst in rabbinical school. He's thrilled to be a part of Jewlicious: The Blog and aims to spread his views, thoughts, and ideas amongst the masses.


  • This reminds me of the old quip that my friends who went to Duke University used to say: “Duke is the Harvard of the South.” Funny: I always thought that Harvard was the Harvard of the South!