Sep 2011

Listen to Them!

Rabbi Any Doren is a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumnus of Class I.  He currently serves as Assistant Rabbi and Director of Religious Education at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He previously worked as Program Associate for the Wexner Foundation from 1995 to 1998. He can be reached at

It was the fall of 1993 and I was starting my career as a Rabbi.  I was working as the Director of North Carolina Hillel.  I knew Hillel well as I had been a campus activist and had interned for a local Hillel for two years during Rabbinical school.

I got a call from the student President.  “We want to meet with you to talk over some issues of concern.”  I could tell by the tone of the conversation that this was not about issues in the Middle East or some broader topic.  This was about how Hillel was running.  This was going to be personal.

I called my college Hillel Rabbi, a dear and trusted guide.  I was now his colleague.  I needed advice. 

“What do I do?” was my question.  “I’m the Rabbi.  Do I tell them to take a hike?  Do I meet with them?” 

He told me how he had just hired a consultant to speak with students about their impressions of Hillel.  They were holding focus groups and employing all of the latest techniques.  The price tag was thousands of dollars.  Then he said to me, “Do you realize how lucky you are?  Your students are willing to tell you, face-to-face, what their concerns are.  Moreover, they are willing to do it for free.”

His advice: “Listen to them, with everything you’ve got.  They will be your teachers.  And you will grow from this.” 

And he was right.