Reprinted with thanks to eJewish Philanthropy

In my early days of working at Hillel, I remember having a conversation with a campus professional about how to find the Jews on campus.  “You want to know who’s Jewish?” he asked, “Put up a sukkah on one side of the street and see who crosses to the other side to avoid you.  That’s how you’ll know who is Jewish.”  It was a cynical response of course, but one that has clearly stayed with me and has a pearl of truth to it.

In my role as a Jewish leader, I think a lot about the student who crosses the street.  I want to reach that student and know that student because I was that student.  I was the person who wouldn’t step foot in my Hillel.

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Tilly Shames, WGF Fellow (Class 28), is the Executive Director of University of Michigan Hillel.  Tilly brings to Michigan, along with her Canadian accent, a passion for Jewish life, community-building and social justice.  She has a Masters degree in International Affairs with a focus on development studies from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, Ottawa.  She graduated summa cum laude from York University with a double major in Environmental Studies and Political Science.  Tilly previously taught at Holy Blossom Temple’s high school in Toronto, and worked at the Canada-Israel Committee and United Nations Environment Programme.  She loves art, traveling, yoga, anything food related, and diving into a conversation about our Jewish future.  Tilly can be reached at