Organizations / Hillel Foundation of Buffalo
Hillel of Buffalo at the University of Buffalo is a campus student organization that serves Jewish student communities in Greater Buffalo. In 1946, it was founded as a part-time Councillorship supported by the local B’nai Brith, Montefiore Lodge, #70. In the intervening years, as a Campus for Jewish Life, Hillel of Buffalo has emerged as a central address for Jewish student college life.
Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. Founded in 1923 at University of Illinois, Champaign by Rabbi Benjamin Frankel, it was initially funded by B’nai B’rith. From this first Hillel, to the 550 local Hillel that are active today, Hillel campus units receive funding from several sources including Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, local Jewish Federations, private donations and from direct fundraising. Each local organization runs its own events and programs to connect students with Jewish traditions, social action, local Jewish communities and Israel. As a local Hillel group, Hillel of Buffalo in 2021, primarily serves the student communities of the University at Buffalo located on the North Campus at the University of Buffalo.
In its initial establishment over the summer of 1946, B’nai B’rith as a Hillel Councillorship, its expressed purpose was to support, “the stimulation and advancement of cultural, social and religious activity in regard to Judaism, to preserve the priceless Jewish heritage of history and culture that is ours [and] to promote philanthropic and educational endeavors.” The organization was supported by the local chapter of B’nai B’rith, Montefiore Lodge, #70, under the leadership of Arthur I. Goldberg and Dorothy Goldberg. A leader in B’nai Brith Women, Dorothy Goldberg compiled an archive relating to the early years of Hillel through to the 1970s, and these were donated to Dr. Selig Adler for a community archives in 1984. In 2006, these records were transferred to the University at Buffalo under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education.
The part-time Councillorship active from September 1946 served both the University of Buffalo and State Teachers College, now the Buffalo State College. After a few months of opening, in 1947, this two-center organization began a newsletter: the Hillel Review. The early form of Hillel of Buffalo activity took shape. Students attended forums about Hebrew language, Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Art. Many of these enrichment classes were given by professors associated with the college and university, as well as rabbis and other Jewish community members. Social action was also an early hallmark of activities, beginning with participation in Supplies for Overseas Survivors, a program organized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, known as the Joint or the JDC to collect clothes and canned food for survivors who settled in the Yishuv (pre-state Israel) after WWII.
The Counsellorship part-time staff met students on campus in rented rooms and in Jewish organizational spaces including Temple Beth Zion for two years. Local community support increased over these years as growing numbers of students joined the student organization. With this support, as well as independent local donations, Hillel of Buffalo hired Rabbi Justin Hofmann in 1948 as a full time Rabbi-administrator. Initially Rabbi Hoffman had responsibilities for students in Rochester as well as at Buffalo State Teachers College, and the University of Buffalo, but began a sole focus on Buffalo students with the increasing popularity of Hillel, and a growing postwar Jewish student cohort. Supported by the Hillel Foundation, the Buffalo Jewish Federation, and a significant local fundraising campaign, Hillel of Buffalo opened the Arthur I. Goldberg Hillel House at 40 Capen Boulevard in 1960. A decade later, a second Hillel House was dedicated at Buffalo State College in 1971. Rabbi Hofmann served as director of Hillel of Buffalo for almost thirty years with increasing programming and support staff. In 1977, he was succeeded by Rabbi Shabtai Wolf, followed by Rabbi Paul Golomb in 1979.
Under the leadership of Rabbi Paul Golomb, the governance of Hillel of Buffalo changed. Transitioning from a B’nai B’rith advisory committee to a community board under the Buffalo Jewish Federation, Hillel’s local geographic reach and center also changed. With the completion of the North Campus of the University at Buffalo, Hillel of Buffalo added another location for student connection that would eventually become its main campus home. Rabbi Golumb divided his time between the Jewish Student Association and the Campus Ministry offices at North Campus, the Hillel House at 40 Capen Boulevard, and Buffalo State College. Additional support staff included Adele Gudovitz, Margery Post and Peggy Kulick.
In 1986, Rabbi Shay Mintz was appointed the organization’s fourth Director. Rabbi Mintz originally from Israel, had decades of connections to Buffalo and local Jewish students having served in multiple capacities at director level at a community High School and Temple Shaarey Zedek. Under Rabbi Mintz, Hillel activities expanded to include missions to Israel, internships with Weinberg Campus, and intergroup connections with other student groups, as well as an annual Wasserman conference series. On the national level, Hillel evolved into Hillel: Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (FJCL), and in 1996, Hillel of Buffalo at the University at Buffalo, North Campus became the Campus Center for Jewish Life through the fundraising efforts of “Friends of Hillel,” and the Buffalo Jewish Federation.
During the 2000s, and Rabbi Mintz’s retirement, the Campus Center for Jewish Life was led by a series of Executive Directors, including Susan Goldberg, Adeet Handel and Laura Hemlock. Over the years from its Campus Center, Hillel students in Buffalo have participated in social welfare projects, special event opportunities, internships, fellowships and an array of programs for shabbat, High Holy days and festivals. Since 2017, Hillel of Buffalo has expanded its staff base, hiring Rabbi Sara Rich. With a decade of Hillel experience, Rabbi Rich brings several Hillel International initiatives to Buffalo, including the Jewish Learning Fellowship and the Organizational Design Lab, a user-centric approach to student engagement. Hillel of Buffalo has appointed Macie Clawson as the Springboard Innovation Specialist for 2020. Logan Woodard, a University at Buffalo graduate, and previously active in Hillel leadership serves as the Director of Engagement. In 2020, Rabbi Sara Rich was elected to the Hillel International Directors Cabinet. This cabinet shares collaborative and best practices between Hillel campuses in the United States and the Schusterman International Center, Hillel International’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
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Hillel is seeking internal and external photographs, documents, film, mementos and written recollections relating to its history. If you have materials you’d like to make available for this purpose, please contact Hillel directly.