Harvard Hillel's Mission

Harvard Hillel is the catalyst for Jewish life, community and personal exploration at this great university. Our pressing challenge is centered on students' active and self-conscious choice to be Jewish, to explore the relevance of Jewish tradition to their own lives, to become active participants in a vital and dynamic culture, and to contribute with force and vision both to the Jewish community and the world at large. Inherent in this challenge is the opportunity for Hillel to contribute to a renaissance of Jewish life in America and beyond.

Harvard Hillel considers every Jewish student as an actor in and author of the on-going story of the Jewish people from ancient days until the present. Our mission, therefore, is to provide every Jewish Harvard student—without regard to ideological commitment or background—appropriate grounding for making meaningful Jewish choices in a complex and changing world. We are guided in this endeavor by four tenets:

  • The Centrality of Education. Choosing to be Jewish depends on Jewish education that challenges the mind and speaks to the heart. At Harvard Hillel, Jewish education takes place in different contexts and is woven into a variety of activities. In each context it strives to be substantive, passionate, engaging, and joyful.
  • Pluralism. Harvard Hillel believes that continuity and creativity in Jewish life develop from interaction among diverse Jews, their traditions and beliefs. Pluralism at Harvard Hillel means respecting the spiritual dignity and lifestyle of every Jew; providing support for the expression of distinctive versions of Judaism each in its own terms; and fostering friendship between different kinds of Jews.
  • The Development of Leaders. Harvard Hillel will equip young people to pursue social justice, to respond to the needs of others, to exert a constructive influence on their communities, and to serve as effective leaders. Our approach to leadership education integrates the vital contents of Jewish tradition, the existential and developmental concerns of young people, and practical issues of leadership.
  • Dialogue with Israel. Harvard Hillel will foster dialogue with Israel to define the Jewish future. Together Israel and the Diaspora write the Jewish story of the next century. Who are we? How do we interpret our history? What is our future? In Cambridge as well as in Jerusalem, dialogue between tradition and modernity, the secular and the religious, stimulates, challenges, and enriches the search for self-understanding and collective identity. Harvard Hillel enables and encourages all students to be actively engaged in this dialogue.