Agency Column: Oregon Hillel – Focus on students during pandemic

PHOTO: Oregon Hillel prepares Shabbat dinner at the University of Oregon.

The Jewish Review has offered the 18 organizations that receive allocations from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland the opportunity to write a column during the coming year. The following column is from Oregon Hillel.

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of 2021! To say that this has been one of the most wonderfully exhausting and challenging years in life and on campus is truly an understatement. 
We have all experienced a range of emotions, from loneliness and anxiety to excitement, as we continue to re-enter the new normalcy of daily life. Through all of this uncertainty, there is one thing that our students at both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon have been able to count on – Oregon Hillel. Our staff have focused on the well-being of each and every individual student, listening intently to understand what they need most in this moment and how we can support them best with love, Jewish values, care, empathy and compassion.
In short, we have focused our time and energy on supporting students rather than on one-off programs and events. This approach has enabled us to learn more about what our students are most passionate about and what they are missing from their lives, so that we can work to create the Jewish community they envision and connect with.
I can say with confidence that this is the right team of committed and dedicated staff, board members and student leaders – each and every one of them leaned into the challenges that our students and community have faced (and continue to experience) and have said “Hineini” (Here I Am).  I could not be more proud of our student leaders and staff for their tireless dedication to the important work that Oregon Hillel continues to do to support ALL students at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. 
Thanks to our student-centric approach, Oregon Hillel has provided meaningful Jewish connections, mentorship and experiences for 660 Ducks and Beavers (570 who identify as Jewish undergraduate or graduate students).
It has been amazing to connect hundreds of students with the Jewish community each year. But even if a student never “sets foot in Hillel” or joins us for High Holy Days, enjoys one of Hillel’s Shabbat dinners, orders free matzo ball soup from the Min Zidell Matzo Ball Soup Hotline delivered to their door, or takes part in one of the many opportunities to learn, engage or grow their Jewish identity, Oregon Hillel will always be there for every student in any and every way possible. We are here to elevate their voices, to listen to what they need most from their community and ensure that they have an advocate for the support they need.
None of this is possible without the generous support of our parents, alumni, community members and community partners. Thanks to you, we continue to lead in building our Jewish student communities on our campuses, investing in future Jewish leaders, and helping students to feel safe and connected during this time when they have needed community more than ever.
Andy Gitelson is Executive Director of Oregon Hillel ( at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. For more information about Hillel at UO or OSU or to learn more about how you can support Jewish campus life, email


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