Hillel superstar’ Spiro plans to leave NU

Janette Neuwahl

While Ben Stein was Hillel Cultural Life’s featured performer Thursday night, one woman has directed the program – and many others – from behind the scenes.

Hillel’s assistant director Rachel Spiro spends hours planning programs, fixing details and promoting the organization. But in two weeks, she will leave her job at Hillel after three years to work at the Chicagoland Jewish High School in Morton Grove.

After bringing major events to Hillel – including speakers Jon Stewart and Dr. Drew Pinsky – and starting a Jewish Women’s Coalition, Spiro said the organization does not need her presence to continue its innovative programming.

“I’m leaving at a time when Hillel is in a very healthy state and the students are going to do things that will continue to bring greatness to campus,” Spiro said. “I can leave because I know that Hillel is being led by (Rabbi) Michael Mishkin and he will take Hillel to new heights.”

Mishkin, who became Hillel’s director last summer, said Spiro’s absence won’t go unnoticed. He described her as a “Hillel superstar.”

“Rachel brings her entire self to the job,” Mishkin said. “She cares deeply for the students and what’s going on in their lives, including how successful they are in the classroom and in the programs they run.”

Since she came to NU’s Hillel more than three years ago from Ohio State University, Spiro has collaborated with students on more than 200 programs per year.

“Working with students has been tremendously fulfilling for me,” Spiro said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve had a terrific staff and student leaders to work with who really care.”

Spiro, a native of Louisville, Ky., got involved with Hillel more than five years ago. After she graduated from Brandeis University with a master’s degree in Jewish Communal Service, Spiro worked at a Jewish Community Center in Columbus, Ohio, and eventually was offered a position at Ohio State’s Hillel.

Spiro met her husband, Chicago resident Howard Spiro, when he was visiting a mutual friend in Ohio. In 1998, they were married and Spiro moved to Chicago. When she heard of an opening at NU’s Hillel, Spiro applied for and was offered the job.

“The biggest thing I’ve gained by working here is the ability to work with a variety of people,” Spiro said. “To work as a team together has given me lessons in how to work with people and see their different ideas and visions bridged together.”

Spiro decided to leave Hillel so she could spend more time with her husband and a new son.

“To do Hillel properly, you have to give 100 percent,” Spiro said. “I needed to slow down on work and it’s not fair to this institution for me to do that.”

Marissa Lifshen, the Doppelt Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow who works alongside Spiro, said she took her job after hearing about Spiro’s contributions to Hillel.

“In the past year and a half Rachel has been a great mentor for me both personally and professionally,” Lifshen said. “It’s time for her to move on to new challenges and I can appreciate and respect that.”