Hillel executive director to leave Northwestern

Nathalie Tadena

Fiedler Hillel Center’s executive director announced he will leave Northwestern at the end of the academic year to join a major philanthropic foundation. Adam Simon has accepted a position as Director of Jewish Programs at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

“The past three years have been important and exciting for (NU Hillel),” Simon wrote in an e-mail to Hillel students. “The breadth of opportunities and numbers of students having meaningful experiences has grown exponentially and being a part of that success has been my most rewarding professional experience to date.”

Simon was honored in December as one of six recipients of the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence, an award given by Hillel’s international headquarters.

“Adam has totally transformed Hillel as an organization,” Rabbi Josh Feigelson said. “He’s created opportunities for students to be involved in life on campus and Jewish life that don’t exist anywhere.”

Since joining NU Hillel as executive director in 2005, Simon has increased the organization’s fundraising efforts, more than doubling the budget from $200,000 to $700,000 a year. He helped create Schmooze, Hillel’s quarterly magazine, and the Ask Big Questions program, as well as increased student involvement in performing arts groups, Friday night dinners and Birthright Hillel trips.

“He is highly revered by students,” said Cydney Topaz, director of student life and community initiatives. Simon sees a “constant flow of students on a daily basis,” she said.

Samantha Beerman said she joined Hillel after receiving a personal e-mail from Simon.

“He’s definitely the reason why so many people get involved,” the Medill senior said. “He does a lot to bring in people who wouldn’t be involved in Hillel.”

When Simon first came to NU, he said that Hillel was perceived as a “clique-y youth group synagogue” with only 8 percent of Jewish students involved. Today, about 40 percent of Jewish students are involved, Simon said.

“We are a synagogue, but we are 40 other things as well,” he said. “By creating multiple communities as opposed to one Jewish community, you don’t have to leave your friends or comfort zones to do something Jewish.”

Simon was recruited in December to work for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting and furthering Jewish life. Though he has been “inspired and positively challenged” by the NU community, Simon said he is honored to work for the foundation.

“Sometimes in life you have to go for the dream even if what you have already is great,” he said.

Rabbi Feigelson said the search for a new executive director will begin in a few weeks.

“The test of any good leader is if you can build an institution that can survive after your departure,” he said. “We’re all very confident that Adam is a great leader in that respect and he’s built an institution that will thrive.”

Reach Nathalie Tadena at [email protected]