Hillel International Honors Trinity’s Lisa Kassow as ‘Exemplar of Excellence’

Trinity Hillel Also Receives Major Gift As It Celebrates 70 Years as Center of Jewish Life on Campus

Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut​ congratulates Trinity Hillel Director Lisa Kassow
at Hillel International's Global Assembly.
Hartford, Connecticut, February 22, 2018 – Trinity College Hillel Director Lisa Kassow has been honored by Hillel International for her outstanding commitment to fulfilling Hillel’s mission of service to Jewish students around the globe. Kassow was one of five recipients of the 2017 Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award, presented in December at Hillel International’s Global Assembly in Denver, Colorado, attended by more than 1,100 Hillel professionals and partners from college campuses around the world.

The award, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of Hillel at Trinity, was a surprise for Kassow. She was in the audience at the annual gathering when she realized that the description of the next award recipient sounded a lot like her. Then, she realized, Trinity Hillel Program Manager Amy Zylberman was heading up on stage to join the CEO of Hillel International, Eric Fingerhut—and they were inviting Kassow to come forward to receive her award.

In presenting the award, Fingerhut highlighted Kassow’s “Big Tent” approach in leading Trinity College Hillel since 2001. “She has welcomed thousands of students to the table, literally and figuratively, through the kosher kitchen she helped bring to campus, her insightful d’vrei Torah [weekly talks that relate current events to the Torah portion of the week], her international themed Shabbats, cross-cultural programming, and Jewish cooking classes,” said Fingerhut. “Her Hillel is a place where truly everyone feels welcome.”

In co-presenting the award, Zylberman shared the following tribute from one of Kassow’s former students, Rabbi Sara Luria, Trinity Class of 2004: “‘There is no one in my life like Lisa. She was a nurturing, loving, thoughtful person I spent a lot of time with at a formative time in my life. She knew how to ask the right questions to push me to become the person I aspire to be.’”

Kassow said, “It is really gratifying to be recognized for impacting students’ lives in a positive way. I always think of Hillel as a living laboratory; there is a lot of freedom to be creative and our programs change to reflect the interests of students. But what is always constant is the sense of building community and sharing strong Jewish values.”

​Trinity Hillel 2017-18 student leadership and active
members, photographed at the Zachs Hillel House
(Photo by Lisa Kassow)
Kassow encourages students from all backgrounds and other members of the Trinity community to form personal connections to Jewish life through a variety of activities and programs. In addition to the examples Fingerhut mentioned, Kassow has established a welcoming weekly Shabbat dinner for all to attend in the Zachs Hillel House on campus; has taken students on international trips, including to Uganda, Trinidad, and Uruguay; led a trip of Hillel students and colleagues to experience Jewish life in Poland; and was instrumental in helping establish the first Hillel in Poland—Hillel Warsaw.

In addition to the Hillel International award she received, Kassow said she and Trinity Hillel are excited about having recently received a generous $1 million endowed gift from a donor family. “This is a major gift that will endow the Trinity Hillel director’s salary in perpetuity,” said Kassow.

In honor of Trinity Hillel’s 70th anniversary, in New York City on March 27, a celebration will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, overlooking New York Harbor. For more information, or to register to attend, click here. The event is chaired by Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Trinity Class of 1973, who serves as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, representing two million Jews and 1,200 synagogues in 40 countries around the globe.