Hillel the Patient became head of the Sanhedrin through his devotion to learning. We continue his tradition at Rennselaer Polytechnic every day in our classes. However, the education he valued is not only taught by our calculus teachers and finite element professors. A far more integral knowledge - that of ourselves, is what he valued. To be lenient takes strength, and we must be so with many things, he implicitly teaches in every opposition to Shammai who sat by him in the Sanhedrin.
"Why not change the world?" asks every poster around campus. So why won't we? Didn't Hillel himself ask before his journey to Jerusalem: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? Thus we must see problems in our world and strive to fix them. Environmental, economics, social, industrial - to make a real positive change in the world.
What we envision and strive for every week in Hillel is a place where we all can work together to better ourselves. In the Jewish world today, there are many denominations - in my experience, the Reform have a better sense of community and inclusion, the Conservative are wonderful at singing together, and the minds of the Orthodox have laws passed down through the ages on their minds. Outside these narrow and misleading bounds, without the discussion of every type of person together, without inclusion, we cannot grow to our full potential.
At RPI and most schools, we train minds explicitly but not hearts. I hope to learn much from you all in the coming year, and I hope you learn much from each other.
-Nathan Pankowsky, Alumni '13
Into the Past...
The RPI-Sage Hillel is a chapter of the national Hillel Foundation, which has an interesting history. It grew from a small handful
of students to become a
home away from home for many Jewish students. Hillel is a center for student development and is
a Jewish renaissance..
In the Beginning...
Hillel was founded in 1923 by Rabbi Benjamin Frankel who served as a rabbinic intern at Temple Sinai in Champaign, Illinois. He became familiar with the Jewish students at the University of Illinois and saw them as a generation of young Jews struggling to come to terms with America and their Jewishness. He decided to start Hillel with the goal of conveying Jewish civilization to a new generation. Hillels opened at Wisconsin in 1924, at Ohio State in 1925, and at the University of Michigan in 1926. By 1935, the organization boasted 11 foundations. Hillel quickly grew from just a handful of students to a worldwide organization.
Home Away From Home
The organization has helped the Jewish community to thrive through many difficulties. It has helped children of immigrants find a place
in the American Jewish community as well as nurture young scholars by providing Jewish education for those with little background. It has
also helped Jewish students overcome open discrimination on their campuses. Many Jewish students have described Hillel as a
home away from
home, a place where they could share their fears and successes, where they could feel the comfort of a family while asserting their independence
from it, a place where they could grow as individuals and as Jews.
A Jewish Renaissance
Hillels were being created that were not only religious and social centers, but were also centers of Jewish learning. In an era when Jewish studies were rarely offered in an academic setting, Hillel provided them. Hillel not only earned the respect of students, it earned the respect of academia at a time when Jews were sometimes accepted grudgingly. Hillel took pride in the fact that non-Jewish students attended these classes, fostering understanding and good relations with future American leaders of all faiths. By creating a valuable, thriving community on campus, and serving as a center for student leadership and development, Hillel helped provoke a "Jewish renaissance" and a nurturing home for Jewish engagement.
Are you the one we seek...
Membership is open to all members of the RPI and Russell Sage communities, regardless of religion or other demographic characteristics. Jewish students who are a part of either community are automatically considered members. Any student can withdraw their membership at anytime. Non-members of either community may also become members of Hillel with approval of the Hillel Executive Board.
Members do not have to pay any dues to be active.
General Membership Meetings
General body meetings will be at 8:30 every Wednesday of the semester in room 3511 of the Student Union. All meetings are open to the entire membership and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. However, meetings are usually more business oriented than normal events and we usually do not recommend meetings as a first event for interested students.