Hillel of Colorado’s executive director, Daniel Bennett, has a long history of being involved in the Jewish community.
Before Hillel of Colorado, Bennett has worked in synagogues, Jewish day schools, Sunday schools. He was active in NFTY, lived in Israel for a year, and lobbied for the Soviet Jewry. He was also the President and CEO of the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE) for 12 years, during which he led about 10 trips to Israel through CAJE’s Israel Study Tours (IST).
Right before he came to Hillel, Bennett had his own private consulting for eight years called SeaChange, which is how he originally got connected to Hillel of Colorado. He didn’t really know much about Hillel of Colorado until the Board President, Michelle Brunschwig, contacted him and asked if he could help them raise more funds for students on campus. He became a consultant for Hillel of Colorado in November of 2014. One thing led to another and in May of 2016, Bennett became the executive director of Hillel of Colorado.
“I said no the first two times because I didn’t want to leave the consulting firm,” explained Bennett about when he was first asked to be executive director. Of course after a little bit of thinking, he said yes. “The mission of Hillel is so dear to my heart and when I finally said yes was because of the students,” he said. He believes the students are the future and he wants to help them learn how to focus and bring their greatness into the world. “I care about the Jewish future,” said Bennett.
Ironically, Bennett was not involved in Hillel when he was in college when he went to The Ohio State University. He decided it wasn’t for him. “I think it was because I was older and had run all of these Jewish organizations and I felt the students were just learning,” explained Bennett, who said that he couldn’t connect with the director and the facility use to be in bad shape. Instead, he got his Jewish connection from the community.
He believes that if students today at CU, DU or CSU experience Hillel the way he did in college, he failed. Ohio State’s Hillel was run by adults and he didn’t consider them role models. He wants to make sure there schools in Colorado have directors that are cool and the students can connect with. He also wants to make sure students feel empowered to put on their own programs and the houses need to be decent. “Everyone needs to be and feel welcome,” Bennett mentioned.
Bennett doesn’t feel any specific student needs to be involved in Hillel. “It’s fine if they’re Jewish and not involved, but it would be tragic if a Jewish student’s doesn’t know what Hillel can provide for them,” explained Bennett, who wants to make sure that students understand that they are able to make programming what they want to be. “Know that we’re cool and here and you can come back,” said Bennett.
Hillel strives to create Jewish leaders of the future and Bennett wants to create better leadership programs. He wants to help them find their purpose in the world. “People who discover their purpose and values and then live their lives to discover their purpose and values are happy,” said Bennett. “Part of life’s purpose is helping others live their purpose.” Bennett thinks that students and young leaders are more open to learning, and he wants to help them learn to be leaders in their community now so they can be leaders in the Jewish community in the future.
“We know that if we are doing our job, we’re helping you,” said Bennett. “If we’re really lucky, you’ll let us be there for your glories and your scraped knees.”