Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Hillel’s new nuts-and-bolts man

Selling nuts, bolts and tools for an industrial supply company is an unlikely step in becoming the executive director of Hillel Cultural Life at Northwestern. But for 30-year-old Adam SiMonday, one led directly into another.

SiMonday, an Iowa City native, was named the new executive director of Hillel after Rabbi Michael Mishkin — who served as both executive director and rabbi — announced his resignation in October.

After Mishkin’s announcement, Hillel officials decided to restructure the organization. They will be separating the positions of executive director and head rabbi because Mishkin cited one reason for his departure as the difficulty of simultaneously completing administrative tasks and acting as rabbi.

Before coming to Hillel, Simon worked at McMaster-Carr Supply Company in Elmhurst, Ill. He considered his interview at the company “practice,” but ended up becoming warehouse manager anyway. Simon said the job strengthened his management skills even though he didn’t expect it to.

“It was a place that wasn’t willing to settle. They had high standards, and they were always asking questions, always challenging things,” he said.

As an undergraduate theater major at Washington University in St. Louis, Simon said he was heavily involved in community service. After serving as the assistant director for Wash U’s Hillel center, Simon attended graduate school there and earned his master’s degree in business.

When Simon got a phone call about the Hillel job opening at NU, he said he was very enthusiastic about the opportunity. Not only did he like the work, but the job would also allow him to focus on his religion.

“Judaism has always been very important to me,” Simon said. “It, like any religion, is a useful lens to interpret a world that’s pretty complex, and it provides a sense of community. This job allows me to get both of those.”

Because Simon’s position as executive director is one that has traditionally been held by the head rabbi, Simon will search for a new rabbi who can start working in the fall.

In addition to running the institution itself through fund raising and other initiatives, Simon said he wants to expand the Jewish community at NU and address different issues, questions and social spheres.

“I don’t think a student should have to walk to Hillel to have a Jewish life on campus,” Simon said.

Simon outlined what he calls the “three layers” of the center’s responsibilities: celebration, service and sanctification, or basic religious practices.

“This is about students’ lives,” Simon said. “It’s their home, and I am honored to be invited into their home.”

Toba Strauss, a campus service fellow at Hillel, said Simon’s management experience will help Hillel build more effective programs through fund raising.

“This is a great step,” Strauss said. “He really has a lot to offer — great ideas, passion and drive.”

As part of his interview process earlier this quarter, Simon met with several students individually.

Weinberg sophomore Zach Galin, a member of the search committee, said Simon’s vision stood above the other candidates.

“He had a vision for Hillel,” Galin said. “He seemed excited and he connected very well with the students that he met.”

Galin also said he hopes Simon’s arrival will revive NU’s Jewish community.

“I hope that it sparks peoples’ interest in Hillel,” Galin said. “I hope it makes people want to come meet him, come talk to him and get involved.”

Reach Kristyn Schiavone at [email protected].

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Hillel’s new nuts-and-bolts man