Rhodes College has a new Hillel chapter, which will be led by campus director Rabbi Jeremy Simons. Jewish Community Partners recently hired him to oversee chapters at Rhodes and The University of Memphis. Although Rhodes has had an organized Jewish presence on campus for 20 years, Simons’ appointment marks the college’s formal affiliation with Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world.
Robert Shankman, assistant director of athletics for Rhodes, has been involved since the late 1990s in a volunteer capacity, managing the group that until recently was known as the Jewish Student Organization (JSO). “I’ve always felt that if we can just help a few kids and make them feel more comfortable on campus, then we’ve done something good and worthwhile,” he says.
Simons comes from the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, MS, where he worked as the director of rabbinic services for more than 40 synagogues in 13 states. In his role as campus director, he will facilitate programming, recruit student leaders, serve as a liaison to campus administration and Jewish faculty, promote a welcoming and lively pluralistic Jewish community, and be the point person to engage potential Jewish students and their families. He was selected by a search committee that included Rhodes community members. “I’m so excited to play a part in establishing a Hillel on campus and building on the legacy of the JSO,” says Simons. “It’s wonderful to have such strong support from the administration.”
Rhodes’ Jewish Community Fellowship, first awarded in 2016, also makes available five merit-based scholarships, each renewable for three years. Students are required to submit a cover letter, resume, and 500-word essay on how their involvement in Jewish life ties in with accomplishing Rhodes’ vision of “graduating students with a life-long passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.” Fellowship awardees are expected to become active in Jewish life at Rhodes and assume a leadership role in the Hillel chapter at Rhodes.
Rhodes sophomore Yanay Almalem is the inaugural recipient of the fellowship. New recipients are first-year students Emma Figarsky, Sofia Karabell, and Marisa Moore (l-r).