From Wash. U. undergrad to director of Hillel

By Kate Gaertner, Jewish Light Staff

As a Washington University undergraduate, Jacqueline “Jackie” Levey was the president of Student Union, the founder of Black Women/Jewish Women-and an active member of St. Louis Hillel.

“When I was here as an undergraduate, Hillel really gave me the resources and the leadership skills that helped me give back to my community,” says Levey, 34.

After law school at Wash. U. and a career as a successful trial attorney, Levey returned to Hillel in the fall of 2009 to serve as its executive director. Previously, Levey had been a lay leader on the board of St. Louis Hillel.

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“Since I first came to Wash. U., I’ve been passionate about this organization. I want to be able to inspire the next generation of students to inspire those who will come after them,” Levey says.

On a day-to-day basis, Levey juggles a variety of responsibilities-from creating a vision for St. Louis Hillel to ensuring that the University sees value in its services; from listening to the input of the local board to raising the funds that enable Hillel’s professional staff to succeed in its mission of enriching the lives of undergraduate and graduate students at Wash. U. so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.

“Life is a balancing act, and being executive director at Hillel is also a balancing act,” says Levey. “You want to be able to cultivate all sorts of meaningful and important relationships-within the organization, with the community that surrounds it-and so you’re balancing all different types of needs and interests.”

Years of courtrooms have helped Levey with this balancing act, which she characterizes as one of advocacy.

“I think being a lawyer helps you learn how to manage multiple tasks, and it also gives you the ability to be an advocate for something. Now, I can be an advocate for students, and I can be an advocate for Hillel,” Levey says.

With strong ties to the organization, Levey is ambitious about the future of Hillel at Wash. U. Her goals are threefold: To ensure that St. Louis Hillel is one of the top Hillel chapters in the country in fulfilling its purpose, to cultivate a natural leadership framework that will help the organization achieve its goals by tapping into the resources of parents and alumni, and to assess the current Hillel’s physical presence: its building, space, image, resources and facilities.

Levey characterizes Hillel as an “open tent”-a place where all Jewish students are welcome, no matter the degree of their faith or how they choose to practice it. After 10 months, Levey says that seeing these individual adaptations of Hillel’s broader mission has been the most rewarding aspect of her job.

“I love watching the students and seeing them inspired, seeing them turned on,” Levey says. “For example, I love when they come back from Israel and I can see how meaningful that experience was, how it’s made a difference in their lives, how they’ll carry that with them for a long time.”

To contact Hillel Executive Director Jacqueline Levey, call 314-935-9042 or email [email protected]