After a grueling five-month search, Sam Friedman was named the new assistant director of Central Florida Hillel on Monday.
The Jewish center for student life first welcomed Friedman as the director of community relations in October 2014. His passion for student engagement and community development, as put by Hillel executive director Aaron Weil, made him a stellar candidate for the position of assistant director.
“Sam’s vision and dynamic leadership have helped us create indispensable partnerships with UCF and the wider community,” Weil said. “We’re fortunate to have him on our team.”
Located at the $60 million NorthView apartment complex, Hillel spans 20,000 square-feet of the 600,000-square-foot-facility. The center opened its doors in fall 2013 to cater to UCF’s collegiate population of more than 6,000 Jews.
UCF alumna Peri Chajet not only found her niche at Hillel, but a mentor who provided guidance and support during her two years as a Hillel student leader.
“Sam always went a step beyond his job description,” Chajet said. “He became a leader, friend and teacher to everyone he worked with. I can’t think of a more qualified person to help Hillel continue to grow.”
As opposed to Friedman’s former role, which was geared toward relationship building off campus, he will now be working to create longstanding connections on campus. In the coming months, Friedman will interact with organizations such as the Office of Student Involvement and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life in an attempt to strengthen the bonds between Hillel and the UCF community.
“There’s an incredible opportunity for dialogue and growth at UCF,” Friedman said. “Building those connections and bridges will help us be the best Hillel that we can be and the Hillel that UCF deserves.”
Along with a staff of seven Hillel professionals, Friedman will strive to enrich the lives of students by implementing new programs, such as Salaam-Shalom. This up-and-coming dialogue group aims to connect Muslim and Jewish student leaders at UCF. Friedman said these types of Hillel initiatives highlight the importance of community, one of five tenets of the UCF Creed.
Home to more than 600 student-run orgnizations, with at least 54 religious and cultural groups, UCF is committed to diversity and inclusion, he added. The assistant director said the key to better understanding a person’s heritage and identity stems from acceptance, not tolerance.
“We’re better together when we know about each other,” Friedman said. “We like to say that America is a melting pot. I’d like to think we’re more like a salad bowl. The ingredients are mixed together, but like people, they still have unique features and identities.”
Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org