Hillel names new executive director


When Jill Carnaghi first arrived at Washington University as a job applicant in 1997, she got a memorable introduction to the school. It came in the form of a campus tour by an enthusiastic young student union president.

“She’s terrific,” said Carnaghi, who now serves as associate vice chancellor for students and dean of campus life. “She’s the first student I ever met when I came to Washington University for my interview.”

The warm welcome Carnaghi experienced more than a decade ago will soon become a reality for today’s incoming Jewish freshmen at Washington University with the naming of that former student leader Jacqueline “Jackie” Ulin Levey to head the campus’s branch of Hillel.

“I can think of no better person to fill that role,” Carnaghi said. “She’s incredibly bright, a good critical thinker, understands students and what it takes to have a great student experience. I think she’ll contribute much to students, the Hillel organization and to the campus.”

Levey replaces Michael Landy, who resigned on Sept. 14 from his position as executive director of the campus Hillel after only a year in the job.

Nada Fremder-Krauss, vice president of personnel for the Hillel board, said it was a pivotal moment for the organization since Hillel is just beginning a strategic planning process expected to be underway by November. She noted that Levey, who has a long association with Hillel and solid track record of ability and vision in the Jewish community, was the natural choice for the executive director slot.

“We are looking for a very strong leader with the ability to connect with all of our stakeholders at Washington University and the St. Louis community including parents, students and alumni,” Fremder-Krauss said. “We think she has the skills to do that.”

In a release issued by Hillel, board president Alan Bornstein also welcomed Levey to the job.

“Jackie represents the best and the brightest in young leadership in the St. Louis Jewish community,” he said. “We are very excited to have her in this position.”

Levey outlined an array of priorities for the future of Hillel saying that she wanted to make an already “incredible organization” even stronger.

“My goal is really to revitalize the organization and re-establish it as one of the premiere Hillels in the United States, reflecting its association with two of the top universities in the country, Washington University and St. Louis University, and the high caliber of students at both institutions,” she said. “That’s really my overarching goal and that will influence everything that we try to accomplish.”

Levey said one important priority is to hire a rabbi, noting that the search process has already begun. Of late the organization has had to rely on arrangements with local rabbis for everything from counseling to Shabbat and High Holiday service preparations.

“As a service to our students, we really need to make sure that we have that type of rabbinical presence at our St. Louis Hillel,” Levey said.

Another area of focus is building strategic relationships. Levey said that she will work hard to communicate with former students and build bridges to connect with parents. Fortunately, she feels that the infrastructure to support the effort is already in place.

“Especially due to our affiliation with Washington University, we have alumni all over the country who love their alma mater and love St. Louis Hillel,” she said. “We really just need to tap into that network.”

Levey said she hopes to double the number of Jewish students involved and inspired by Hillel over the next few years. She feels Hillel can do that by building an engagement model that aims towards its mission statement of enriching the lives of Jewish students so they can enrich the world.

“That does not necessarily mean pushing students to come to the Hillel building to have their Jewish experiences,” she said. “One of our main objectives is to engage students wherever they are and to teach them that what they do every day has a Jewish impact. Jewish values touch everything that they do.”

For Levey, that highlights the biggest part of the job — working with students, a task she calls “inspiring.”

“I was like them at one point in my life and I know the difference that Hillel and Washington University made with me,” she said. “I’m hopeful that I will be able to inspire these students in the same way that the Hillel staff did for me.”

Levey, 34, is a native of Williamsville, N.Y., who has mostly resided in St. Louis since 1993. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree, both from Washington University. An attorney at the firm of Armstrong Teasdale LLP since 2001, she also has a history of involvement at Hillel where she has served on both the board and the executive committee. Earlier this year, the Jewish Federation honored her with the David N. and Roselin Grosberg Award. She and her husband, Jim, 38, gave birth to their first child, Asher, in April. The family resides in Richmond Heights.

Levey said she hopes to assume her duties by Oct. 19.