UConn and UHart Hillel Serve as Jewish Community Hubs, On and Off Campus

For nearly a century, Hillel’s network of dedicated student leaders, professionals, and volunteers have encouraged generations of young adults to celebrate Jewish learning and living, pursue social justice, and connect to their peers and the global Jewish people. Both the University of Hartford and the University of Connecticut maintain vibrant Jewish communities centered around Hillel. Below, the directors of each program provide a snapshot of their recent programming. Federation is proud to support this essential resource for the Jewish young adults in Greater Hartford's academic community. 

University of Hartford Hillel Keeps Students and Alumni Connected and Engaged

Lisa Langsner serves as both director of Jewish Life and director of Hillel at University of Hartford. In concert with Hillel's student leaders, Lisa helps students celebrate Jewish life, pursue social justice, and connect with their peers and the Jewish people globally. Below, she shares several of Hillel's recent initiatives — and ways that UHart alumni can get involved.

University of Hartford students were eager to return to campus this fall — and our staff and student leaders at Hillel provided many ways for them to connect with the community. Our students organized three off-campus trips that connected us with the best of autumn in New England, including apple picking in September and pumpkin picking and a corn maze in October. Hillel students also partnered with the Outdoors Club for a skiing day trip to Berkshire East. 

Fall semester saw the return of "Tuesday Schmoozeday," our popular weekly bagel brunch at the Hillel Campus Center. Each Wednesday, we opened our doors (and our refrigerator) for students to stop by for bagels, schmear, lox, and great conversation. Students used this time to decompress, make new friends, create art projects, listen to music, discuss current events, and relax on our comfortable couches.

We recently held our first in-person Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) program, an initiative we launched during the pandemic's period of remote learning. This program is helpful for students who want Judaism to inform their daily lives in meaningful ways. Through JLF, students in search of meaning and purpose had the opportunity to discuss texts with Hillel staff, both within a peer discussion group and in less formal settings across campus. Students and staff dove deep into relevant topics, such as "Life’s Big Questions," "Judaism as Art," and "Sex, Love, and Romance." Nearly all of our new 2022 Hillel Student Board members are JLF alumni or current participants.

In partnership with the University of Hartford Alumni Engagement team, we have also created a new alumni group: the Hillel Jewish Affinity alumni group. Whether you were active in the pre-Hillel days of the Menorah Club, ATID, or the Jewish Culture Club, or more recently at Hillel locations in GSU, B-Comp, or Park River, Jewish alumni are increasingly interested in connecting with each other and keeping in touch with what’s happening here. By participating in the Hillel Jewish Affinity group, our alumni can help ensure that Jewish students maintain strong connections even after graduation while also building professional and social networks. Plans for future in-person alumni activities are in motion — stay tuned! 

Stay up to date with us on social media at the Hillel Alumni Network Facebook group, the University of Hartford Hillel Facebook page, and our LinkedIn page. To learn how to join our alumni group, email Lisa Langsner, director of Jewish Student Life.

UConn Hillel Keeps Students De-Stressed and Plugged-In

Edina Oestreicher serves as executive director of the UConn Hillel House, leading Jewish programming for UConn's undergraduate and graduate populations. Below, she details several of Hillel House's successful winter programs, as well as exciting opportunities being offered in the spring semester. 

UConn Hillel continues to create innovative programming to keep our students engaged with each other and their community. We kicked off our spring semester with a student-leadership retreat, preparing our board and interns for a strong semester ahead. A highlight of our retreat was the opportunity for students to create their own “leadership credos” in a session led by UConn alum and communications guru Myles Martel ’65. As all our programming is student-initiated and student-led, the retreat offered attendees the opportunity to learn how to design successful programs, navigate challenging situations, and build campus partnerships.

With support from a Hillel International Micro Grant, we hosted a well-attended HillelWell Fair in February, to help students de-stress as they prepared for midterm exams. It featured giveaways, hands-on self-care stations, and a visit from Officer Tildy (the UConn Police Department's very popular facility dog).

Our learning fellowships have also proven popular this semester. The Jewish Learning Fellowship is a 10-week course of intellectual and experiential learning for students looking to deepen their understanding of Judaism. Courses like “Life’s Big Questions, or How to Get More Out of College” give students an opportunity to explore Judaism in a safe space, on their own terms. And our six-week Israel Learning Fellowship, “Kol Yisrael: Ethnic Minorities,” explores how ethnic minorities in Israel balance "becoming Israeli" with the need to maintain an identity rooted in their historical narrative. 

A highlight of our week is our themed Shabbat, which features student-led services and a free kosher dinner in partnership with UConn Kosher Dining. We recently hosted an Olympics Shabbat that enhanced awareness of Jewish Olympians through the decades. 

Our upcoming events include a screening of the Menachem Begin documentary “Upheaval” featuring a Q & A with the film’s producer, a stand-up comedy show with Israeli comedian Modi, and "Good Deeds Day," which will showcase more than 15 community service initiatives for the campus and broader community. 

We are also thrilled to announce that we have a full bus for our Birthright trip scheduled for this May. These trips were canceled for the past two years due to COVID, and we can’t wait to bring more than 30 UConn Huskies to our Jewish homeland. 

Click here to learn more about UConn Hillel's mission, staff, and upcoming events.

Above, from left: UHart Hillel students celebrate Hanukkah at the Mandell JCC, and UConn Hillel students pose with K-9 Officer Tildy at the HillelWell Fair.