Open Hillel is launching a new initiative, Judaism On Our Own Terms (JOOOT), to support independent, student-run Jewish organizations on college campuses.

Since Open Hillel was founded in 2012, more and more students have been excluded from campus Hillels and other mainstream Jewish institutions due to our views on Israel/Palestine, our race or ethnicity, and our gender or sexuality.  Over the past few years, these students have started to come together to form independent Jewish communities -- student-led, democratic, inclusive spaces to provide an inclusive, spiritual home.

These communities are truly independent and local, not chapters of Open Hillel and not organized by the Open Hillel national team.  Yet as more of these communities have formed, we’ve seen a growing need for support. Unlike campus Hillels, which benefit from wealthy donors and dozens of paid staff, independent campus Jewish communities often lack financial and technical resources.

That’s why we’re launching JOOOT -- to fill in the gaps left by mainstream Jewish institutions that ignore our generation’s needs.  We’re excited by these new spaces for inclusive, pluralistic Jewish community.  Over the 2018-2019 academic year, the Open Hillel national team will work collaboratively with student leaders, both to support campuses that are looking to form independent, student-run Jewish communities and to strengthen existing ones.

We started by co-sponsoring a Shabbaton in August 2018, which brought together passionate student leaders from colleges across the United States.  We learned together, taught each other, shared resources, and built a network of mutual support that will help sustain our communities for years to come.

As the year progresses, we’ll provide learning opportunities ranging from anti-racism trainings to guidance on leading Shabbat services.  We’ll develop an online resource bank where students can share their event ideas and materials with each other. And, with enough funds, we hope to be able to provide small grants to support student-led initiatives that promote pluralism and inclusion in campus Jewish communities.

As always, we’ll continue to push Hillel, and other Jewish institutions, to make their policies more inclusive.  We’ll provide resources and support for local, student-initiated campaigns, and we’ll coordinate across campuses to fight restrictive institutional rules and programming.  And we’ll continue to foster leadership and amplify the voice of our generation -- a voice for pluralism, democracy, and equality.

Join us in supporting student-led, independent, truly pluralistic Jewish campus life:

  • Are you a student leading an independent Jewish campus group, or interested in forming one at your school?  Contact Eva, our national organizer, to tell us your needs and learn how we can support you!

  • Are you a professor or rabbi?  Consider joining our academic or rabbinical councils to help provide resources to students leading independent Jewish campus groups.

  • Are you an alum, parent, Jewish community member, or other supporter?  Consider becoming a monthly donor to support our work!  Your donation will help fund our infrastructure (including a fair wage for our sole paid national organizer) and provide grants to local student groups that lack other sources of financial support.