New Hillel fellow invigorating students’ lives

Izzy Kornman

Relocating from Atlanta in the midst of Tucson’s hottest summer on record wasn’t Izzy Kornman’s greatest challenge. She’d already met one big challenge, being chosen as one of 25 national recipients of the Hillel International Springboard Fellowship. She also had to adjust to the Southwest vibe. “That’s a really big change coming from the East Coast,” she chuckles. Originally from Connecticut, Kornman graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in May 2017, with a double major in comparative literature and Jewish Studies.

The Springboard Fellowship puts recent college graduates on campuses across the country to enrich Jewish students’ lives. The two-year fellowship provides hands-on mentorship and professional development opportunities from local and national Hillel staff, and experts from across the corporate and nonprofit worlds. Kornman is among the second cohort focusing on innovation or social justice, while the previous cohort had 19 fellows. This program is a successor to the Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellowship, which Hillel ran from 1994 to 2008.

As an innovation specialist, Kornman tackles Hillel’s ambitious goals to strengthen the Jewish talent pipeline, developing young Jewish leaders at the University of Arizona. To do this, she will work with six University of Arizona interns this calendar year, developing bottom-up programming that most meets their needs, or “turning their concerns into useful programming,” says Kornman.

In the first weeks of the fall semester, Kornman attended conferences to learn about the fellowship and how to best apply its concept of innovation at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation. Training included tutorials in design thinking, creative problem-solving, case studies, and working with students and staff to accomplish joint goals and innovate activities on campus.

Armed with this intensive skill-building knowledge and backed by the cohort fellows nationwide, Kornman returned to campus, where she instituted a weekly women’s discussion group and revamped Hillel’s student internship program. Other programs included an alternative Yom Kippur meditation service and Jewish cultural events in the dorms.

Getting to know the students, what they want to change, and what they aspire to within the Hillel sphere was especially important in the first semester. “It helps being close to their age as a recent graduate,” says Kornman. “I really want to get students to care here.”

Kornman brings with her past experience as the special programs director for TEDxEmory, a TEDTalk-like organization. She has also interned at the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, Artis Contemporary Israeli Art Fund and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

“One of Hillel’s key roles is to build and grow the next generation of Jewish talent, both for our own movement and the broader Jewish world,” says Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International. “Through the Springboard Fellowship, we can build on the relationships we develop with young Jews on campuses across the country and around the world to provide college graduates with innovative education and skills training while serving our communities.”

The UA is among only three campuses in the West hosting Springboard Fellows. Kornman’s fellowship is made possible by the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and Hillel International, “both of which value experimentation and support young Jewish entrepreneurial spirit in Jewish communal life,” says Kornman.