Rabbi Michael Mishkin announced his resignation last week as the executive director of Northwestern’s Fiedler Hillel Center, effective sometime before the end of the academic school year.
Why leave NU? “I’m looking for a job where I can just be a rabbi. Here I’m both a rabbi and an executive director. They’re both time-intensive and it’s difficult for me to do both,” Mishkin said.
Though Mishkin does not yet have a new position lined up, he said he is considering different options including working at a synagogue or Jewish camp, likely in the Chicago area.
In the meantime, Hillel’s rabbi for the past three years is helping ease the transition process by assisting an internal committee to find a replacement. The committee, which will include students, comprises faculty, community members and alumni and has already informally met once.
“It’s not a quick process because hopefully there are a lot of wonderful candidates out there,” Mishkin said. “And it’s really important for the top candidates to come to campus to meet all the important stakeholders — the students, the staff, the governing board.”
Mishkin started working at NU in 2001 after graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. As executive director and one of two rabbis on campus, his duties range from fund raising to program implementation to strengthening the relationship between Hillel and the rest of the university.
“There’s many, many pieces to the job,” he said. “As a director, I had less time to spend with students.”
Mishkin said he’s proud to have helped raise Hillel’s profile on campus within both the Jewish and larger NU communities, adding that Hillel’s community-building programs — such as Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups and a seder between black and Jewish students — “reflect the philosophy I was trying to encourage on campus.”
Many students said they were surprised and saddened to hear of Mishkin’s decision to leave NU. Jonathan Powell, president of the new Hillel umbrella organization Kol, said Mishkin has given Hillel greater visibility both on and off campus.
“We’ve built a good relationship over the last three years,” said Powell, a Weinberg senior. “He’s been a great friend and acted as somewhat of a mentor to me as a Jewish leader on campus. It’s sad to see him leave but at the same time I realize that’s his decision and it’s time for us to move forward and to continue to build a vibrant and successful Jewish community on campus.”
Mishkin’s resignation comes only a few months after David Newman left his position as Hillel program director over the summer to move to New York.
“There’s been a lot of turnover in the Hillel staff,” Mishkin said. “Hillel generally attracts, for many positions, younger people. And younger people by nature are in an earlier stage of their career. They want to contribute to a college campus community but after a number of years are often looking to do something else.”
Hillel Cultural Life president Zach Galin said that despite losing two of the top Jewish leaders on campus in such a short period of time, he remains optimistic about the program’s future.
“It’s difficult with the transitions but hopefully after everyone clicks, we can make a better Hillel for everyone,” said Galin, a Weinberg sophomore. “Definitely in a transition period you’re not going to have as much progress as you hoped for.”
Powell agreed with Galin, calling Mishkin’s resignation “bittersweet.”
“Obviously we’re not happy to lose David Newman or Mishkin, but I think we also understand both as student leaders and Jewish students on campus that the new staff is excited and has new ideas,” he said. “Although there are a lot of transitions, we all know that the most important thing is that we have a successful Hillel, that we have a comfortable place for Jewish students on campus.”
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