Middlebury's Hillel to participate in national program to enhance Jewish life on campus

August 15, 2008

Middlebury, Vt. - Middlebury College Hillel, the Jewish student life group, has been selected by the national Hillel organization to be part of a pilot program to enhance Jewish life on smaller college campuses. Organized and funded by the Soref Initiative for Emerging Campuses, the program will include six other small colleges in addition to Middlebury: Colgate University, Franklin and Marshall College, Lehigh University, Williams College, Washington and Lee University and Hamilton College.

The Soref Initiative's purpose is to enhance the Jewish campus experience for students at small schools with limited resources for Jewish life. There are currently 190 campuses in North America representing about 30,000 Jewish students affiliated with the Soref Initiative, according to Hillel.

"We want to ensure that despite the small population, Jewish students feel engaged in Jewish life and have access to the same opportunities as do campuses with large Jewish student populations," said Deb Geiger, assistant director of the Soref Initiative.

At Middlebury and the six other colleges in the Soref pilot program, Hillel plans to increase student engagement by 30 percent and double the number of Jewish students participating in immersion experiences such as alternative spring break projects and trips to Israel, according to Geiger.

"Hillel at Middlebury is an example of how a small college can provide great opportunities for Jewish life on campus with limited resources compared to bigger schools, which is one of the reasons that Middlebury was selected to participate in this initiative," said Associate Chaplain and Hillel Adviser Rabbi Ira Schiffer. "Our involvement also means that Hillel may receive grant money to support our alternative spring break projects."

Approximately 12 percent of Middlebury's student body is Jewish, and members of Hillel have included students from all denominations of Judaism. Hillel-organized events include Shabbat services and home-cooked dinners, academic forums, holiday celebrations, and spring break service trips to Honduras and El Salvador.

The largest Jewish campus organization in the world, Hillel provides opportunities for Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities to explore and celebrate their Jewish identity through its global network of regional centers, campus foundations and Hillel student organizations.

More information about Hillel at Middlebury is available at

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