Dartmouth Hillel to become a nonprofit

by Caitlin McCarthy | 2/15/21 2:00am

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by Naomi Lam / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth College Hillel, one of the centers for the Jewish community on campus, has taken steps to become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 

The organization, which plans to transition to nonprofit status by July 1, will join the vast majority of existing affiliates of the international Hillel organization that already operate as independent 501(c)(3) organizations, according to Hillel International president and CEO Adam Lehman ’89. As an independent nonprofit, Dartmouth Hillel will have a higher degree of flexibility and adaptability in terms of hiring, budgeting and programming, as it will not have to conform to certain College standards, Lehman noted. 

“We just feel like there’s an opportunity to go even further in terms of the programs, services and experiences we’ll be able to offer with the independent structure,” Lehman said, adding that as a nonprofit, the organization will have a “greater ability to raise resources that are directly supporting the programs it’s offering,” such as educational opportunities, social events, religious celebrations and community service projects.

Dean of the College Kathryn Lively explained that being directly affiliated with the College meant that Dartmouth Hillel had to follow certain institutional measures, including budgeting and limits on growth. She noted that Dartmouth Hillel will also now have freedom to be more aligned with its national mission, which is, Lehman said, to “support, empower and inspire Jewish students,” as well as to “serve the broader campus communities.”

Dartmouth Hillel president Sam Lefkofsky ’21 noted that while the student experience in Hillel will remain the same, he hopes these changes might allow for future improvements.

"I think that we were limited in our ability to change and evolve when you're a part of the College, so I think that this new structural change could pave the way for greater impact, greater opportunities for students down the line," Lefkofsky said.

The topic of transitioning to a nonprofit came up after the previous executive director of Dartmouth Hillel, Rabbi Edward Boraz, left the College in 2018, according to president of Dartmouth Hillel’s Board of Directors Evan Konwiser ’03 Tu’08.

“Whenever you have somebody leave after 20 years, it gives you an opportunity to start thinking about where you want to go,” Konwiser said. He added that a task force between the Board of Overseers — now called the Board of Directors, students and the College was created in the fall of 2019 to look at what next steps for the organization could be. At the end of 2019, Konwiser said, the task force came forward with the recommendation to transition into a nonprofit organization.

The process was put on hold during the pandemic, but Konwiser said that late last summer, Hillel leadership decided to complete the process in the coming academic year.

Before July 1, the transition will involve "hundreds of hours of paperwork," according to Lively. This includes examining the lease of the Roth Center for Jewish Life, which currently houses Hillel and the Upper Valley Jewish Community, to make sure that no group would lose physical space.

In the transition to a nonprofit, the advisory Board of Overseers has shifted to become a Board of Directors with the power to hire staff. Previously, the staff reported directly to the Dean of the College’s office, Konwiser said. He added that independence will allow Hillel to "fully set up an independent budget outside of the College."

Currently, there are two staff members of Hillel, whom Konwiser said would become part of the new nonprofit. 

While noting that the organization may not need the same amount of staff as a larger university would, Konwiser said that the Dartmouth Hillel Board of Directors hopes to grow the staff over time. However, he said that it would likely be “at least a year” until the Board could work on hiring more staff members since much of their attention is focused on filling the executive director role, which has been empty since Rabbi Meir Goldstein vacated the position in 2019.

Konwiser emphasized the importance of student voices in this process, noting that students have participated in or interacted with the initial task force, the Board of Directors and the search committee for the new executive director. 

While Hillel is a part of the United Campus Ministry as a student organization, Konwiser said that the nonprofit entity is also applying to join the organization. Some other groups affiliated with the United Campus Ministry — such as the Aquinas House Catholic Student Center — are already separate from the College, Konwiser said. 

Lehman said that Dartmouth Hillel now will have increased opportunity to network with other Hillel affiliates. He added that Hillel International’s role in the transition is to offer technical and logistical assistance in the transition, such as providing resources to hire new staff, supporting Dartmouth Hillel programming and aiding in the recruitment of a new executive director. 

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