History of the Big Ten Hillel Network

In the Spring of 2012, a number of students were sitting in the University of Iowa Shulman Hillel discussing the future of their Hillel and their love for their school. After the discussion of creating a connection amongst the Jewish college students across Iowa, board members Sammie Marks (2014) and Chloe Goodman (2015) started thinking outside the box and thought maybe, there was a way to enhance the Jewish connection in our conference, the Big Ten. With a conference as large as the Big Ten, Goodman and Marks were surprised that no connection between the large populations of Jewish students already existed. 

During the summer, newly elected Iowa co-president Marks decided to kick-start that connection by contacting Hillel houses across the Big Ten. At first, many Hillel professionals were very skeptical about the idea and hesitant to jump on board. After creating a connection with Ryan Gianola, the president emeritus of Penn State’s Hillel, and Leo Katsman, the current Ohio State Hillel president, the team of three set out to contact and involve more of the Big Ten. 

In August 2012, Marks, Gianola and Katsman created the Big Ten Hillel Network, a network enabling students from Penn State, Illinois, Iowa, the Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin to share their ideas, their events, and most importantly their involvement in Jewish life on campus.

Shortly after gaining the overwhelming support from the students and staff at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Marks & Gianola attended the Jewish Federation of America’s General Assembly and began connecting the dots with Jewish students they met from schools like Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Today, Big Ten Hillel student leaders, various staff members and Hillel attendees are working hard to build and develop the Big Ten Hillel Network. We always look forward to meeting students from all of our friends in the Big Ten Hillel Network!! 


The following is a message from Big Ten Hillel Co-Founder Sammie Marks: 

The purpose of the Big Ten Hillel Network is to facilitate a relationship among Hillel student leaders and participants in the Big Ten. The Big Ten shares a sense of pride within its academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Filtering that 'Big Ten pride' through Hillel is incredibly important for the Jewish students across the various campuses. Hillel houses around the nation provide for an excellent source of Jewish programming. By sharing ideas, programming and events, and facilitating discussions and even debates through the Big Ten Hillel medium, we aim to build an even stronger college-aged Jewish community. I mean, what's wrong with adding a few extra people to a game of Jewish Geography?