Hillel Colorado Memo on Covid-19

To: Hillel of Colorado Leadership and Supporters
From: Hillel Staff and Board

As of March 11, 2020, all of our Hillel universities have cancelled in-person classes and have set up remote-learning opportunities for students. This is a fluid situation, and as of now, university facilities, offices and buildings remain open. Our campus Hillel Houses also remain open – see below for details.

Our prime concern is for the safety of our students! Along with all of you, Hillel’s staff, interns and student leaders have been preparing for the Coronavirus outbreak and its disruptive nature as best as possible while keeping in very close touch with our universities and with hundreds of other Hillel campuses nationwide.

Jews have historically been at our best when we come together to address challenges; the Megillat Esther story we read this week for Purim is but one example. Please know that:
– we will continue to do everything we can to assure our students’ safety.
– our Hillel Houses will remain open; we will be here for our students.
– Hillel programming will continue – albeit modified.
See below for more details.

While most of us have never experienced anything like this before, our Jewish tradition teaches us to be thoughtful, resourceful, and calm in the face of challenges both great and small – providing us a template for how to serve each other, our community, and the wider community best during challenging times. Hillel is here to help our 2,000+ metro-Denver and northern-Colorado college students process their thoughts & feelings and discover their best selves – especially now. In addition, rest assured that:

We actively communicate with our students.
a. The safety and well-being of our participants is always our primary concern; we have communicated to all the common-sense behavioral safety protocols we have employed.
a. We have posted signs on the entry door of each Hillel House with those safety protocols.
b. Our campus directors have communicated with our students closely through social media and will continue to do so.
c. We continue to operate as the uber-inclusive student community we are – where all are welcome to enjoy our space, share in our fellowship, and attend our programs.

Hillel remains open to serve you.
a. While university classes will be online for now, and we all need to be vigilant in preventing the spread of any unwanted germs in light of Coronavirus awareness, we are also deeply aware of our role to ensure Hillel remains a supportive, safe and welcoming place.
b. Some Hillel programming will be modified, and some programs may be cancelled. Meanwhile, the challenge we all face will become an opportunity for Hillel students and staff to create innovative virtual and lower-or-no-contact programs; stay tuned.
c. Our House is open, and our staff is here to serve you as we continue to monitor directives from the University of Denver and Colorado State University, the City and County of Denver and the City of Ft. Collins, and State of Colorado infectious diseases professionals.
d. Finally, as you consider alternative no-touch greetings, consider Jewish tradition’s Priestly Benediction, the spread-fingers salutation made famous by Leonard Nimoy. Spock’s Vulcan “live long & prosper” greeting seems fitting!

Our community can rise above.
a. We are all learning – even more than before – to take ownership of our Hillel. We provide and use disinfectant wipes & gloves several times daily keep surfaces, doorknobs, counters, and restrooms cleaned and renewed: everybody pitches in, nobody needs to be asked.
b. Bombarded hourly with media reports of illness and fear, we renew our spiritual grounding in Jewish values. While we no longer break challah by hand or kiss mezuzot, siddurim, chumashim, or our Torah scroll, we are more focused than ever on the human connection simple Jewish rituals can provide, the blessing and mitzvot these rituals embody.
c. We have begun to examine what programming could look like in this new reality: modified programming doesn’t mean no programming. More than ever we are committed to developing small-group, virtual and low-contact ways to maintain our spirits, community, Jewish learning, and students’ connection to each other.

One day at a time.
a. You know that things are changing rapidly, and none of us truly know what tomorrow will bring. Hillel is committed to returning to normal programming as soon as possible. Our campus leaders, Mariah DeGear at CSU in Ft. Collins and Noam Dahary at DU in Denver continue to be in close touch daily with our staff at Hillel of Colorado headquarters.
b. With Passover just around the corner – our largest single program year after year attracting nearly 300 students to Seders system-wide and serving thousands of Kosher-for-Passover meals – we shall see. Staff is already discussing alternatives to assure that students will not miss this meaningful annual passage. The theme of our People’s journey from slavery to freedom seems as timely today as it did 3,300 years ago…
c. Student leaders will be excited to return to “normal days” when – in addition to:
– weekly leadership training sessions at each campus
– worship services or study sessions at larger Friday night gatherings
– matzah ball soup hotline and parent circle baskets
– and the many students who socialize and “hang out” at our Houses weekly

Hillel can return to its amazing, robust programming which, over the last six weeks, has included:

CSU Hillel:
1/24: Jewish Unity Shabbat
1/28: Tuesday Shmoozeday discussion (a weekly event)
1/31: Israel-themed Shabbat
2/14: “Lonely Hearts” Valentine Shabbat
2/21: Avi Shafer Shabbat in collaboration with the Multi-Faith Partners Council
2/27: Black History Shabbat in Collaboration with Black African American Center
3/2: CSU Hillel and PRISM, CSU’s LGBTQ Student Organization: Invisible Identities
3/8: ADL Words to Action anti-Semitism training (w/SAEpi and No. CO Chabad)
3/9: Purim Party at Pin Ball Jones with Northern Colorado Chabad, SAEpi and AEpi
3/10: Diversity Discussions with CSU Health Network and Counseling Department on how to address anti-Semitism on Campus
Ongoing: work to assure CSU acts on its promise to consider policy changes to address bigotry, anti-Semitism, and acts of racism; link of public letter with student demands regarding the initiative: STUDENT LETTER TO CSU ADMINISTRATION

DU Hillel:
1/24: Multicultural Shabbat at Hillel in collaboration with DU Cultural Center and the Black, Muslim, Latin, African and Queer Student associations
1/31: Israel Shabbat with our DU Shinshinim, JCO’s young Israel community emissaries
2/14: Tu B’shvat Shabbat and Sustainability program supported by Hazon
2/18: Special screening of “Golda” in collaboration with DU Center for Judaic Studies, and the Denver JCC Jewish Film Festival – with follow-up discussion with the directors
2/20: Mentorship program: DU Hillel students with Hebrew Educational Alliance Chai School (High School) students
2/21: pre-midterm “De-stress” Shabbat
2/28: Special once-in-four-years Shabbat Leap Year Party
3/6: Purim Shabbat Party
3/11: Hillel outing to the Avalanche Game: cancelled