In its year-end issue, the Connecticut Jewish Ledger named Lisa Kassow, director of the Zachs Hillel House at Trinity, to its annual list of Movers and Shakers or those Connecticut residents who have made a difference in the social, cultural and religious life of their communities.
The compilation of accomplished Jewish leaders by the Jewish Ledger, an independent newspaper since 1929, has become a yearly event. The 2013 list of 18 men and women includes state and local elected officials, rabbis, a college student, community activists, a physician and college professors. Kassow, who has been at Trinity since 2001, was the only director of a campus Hillel cited by the Ledger.
Kassow has proven to be a dynamic leader, having created new and innovative programs such as the Pink Shabbat for breast cancer awareness; leading student groups on educational and cultural trips to overseas Jewish communities in Uganda and Trinidad; actively engaging in the spiritual life of the College; and helping to establish an on-campus kosher eatery in 2012. It was named in honor of Kassow and her husband, Samuel D. Kassow, Charles H. Northam Professor of History at Trinity.
Last year, in its annual “Insider’s Guide to College Life Admissions,” Reform Judaism magazine named Trinity one of the “Top 20 Small & Mighty Campuses of Excellence,” as chosen by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Although Trinity was founded in 1823 and was affiliated with the Episcopal Church, it has been an independent, nonsectarian college since the late 19th century, and accepts students of all backgrounds, ethnicities and faiths.
In choosing which schools made the Top 20 list, Hillel used the following criteria: innovative Jewish programming; a growing Jewish enrollment; a dedicated professional leader; demonstrated support by the college; and a commitment to serve Jews of all backgrounds. Kassow called Trinity’s inclusion “fabulous” and an acknowledgement that Hillel at Trinity “is really first-class and of high quality. It’s really a gem of an experience for a motivated student.”
Kassow arrived at Trinity after directing adult education and arts programs at the Greater Hartford Jewish Community Center (now the Mandell Jewish Community Center of Greater Hartford) and working as an award-winning photojournalist in Jerusalem.
Trinity Chaplain Allison Read lauded the selection of Kassow by the Ledger, saying, “Her job is to be the public leader for the Jewish community on campus and she does it with extraordinary competence, creativity, hospitality and collaboration. Those are the hallmarks of Lisa’s work.”
In addition, Read noted that Kassow is very effective in “promoting and educating the campus community about Jewish life. We could not have a more positive figure.”
In its article about Kassow, the Ledger quoted Hillel President Sophie Katzman ’14, as saying, “Many students on campus call Lisa their Jewish mother away from home. This is exactly what she is, because like a Jewish mother, she encompasses so many different talents. Lisa is a warm presence at Hillel and beyond on Trinity’s campus.”
Calling Kassow a mentor and “a very special person,” Katzman went on to say, “She is there for us in the small and big moments when we need her. She is passionate about people – especially students – and this enthusiasm rubs off on everyone around her. Lisa maintains Hillel as a warm, welcoming, and fun place to be – not just on Friday night at Shabbat dinner, but every day of the week.”
Photo: Courtesy of the Jewish Ledger.