Stetson Hillel’s New National Voice
Growing up, Lana Kolchinsky ’22 characteristically assumed leadership roles in an assortment of Jewish communities.
Hailing from Moorestown, New Jersey, she spent seven summers as part of Camp Harlam in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania, including a year as a staff member. The popular camp is designed to enrich and strengthen Reform Jewish identities and values while cultivating lifelong friendships.
In high school, she was heavily involved in her youth group, NFTY, where she served as the regional ritual and cultural vice president after returning from a semester abroad in Jerusalem. The organization fosters the youth movement of Reform Judaism in North America.
Also, even before her official arrival as a student at Stetson, she began to make an impact on campus. On a tour of the university as a high school junior, she met people who now are close friends. Much of that visit involved Stetson University Hillel, where she has served as president for two years.
So, Kolchinsky’s most recent ascension as a Jewish leader should come as no surprise. In late May, Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, announced the 20 new members of the 2021-2022 Hillel International Student Cabinet. And Kolchinsky was among them.
Hillel operates on more than 550 college campuses and in 17 countries. Serving a one-year term, cabinet members share advice, opinions and perspectives with Hillel International’s leadership to help Hillels engage Jewish college students everywhere.
The members, selected through a highly competitive process, comprise a diverse cohort and were selected to represent a wide range of Jewish backgrounds and interests. They come from colleges and universities of varying sizes and are engaged in many different areas of study. The new members represent the United States, Canada and Israel.
Speaking about those members, Hillel International President and CEO Adam Lehman said each “embodies everything that the Hillel movement strives to be.”
Kolchinsky fits the description.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that she’s done,” commented Stetson Hillel Director Sam Friedman. “It’s so fulfilling to see somebody who has done so much for Stetson Hillel be recognized on a larger platform.
“For Stetson, this is huge because it’s a recognition that Stetson is a place where you can come get quality leadership experience within the Jewish community. It’s also an acknowledgement from the national organization that Lana really is an exceptional leader, and that Stetson really is lucky to have her.”
Friedman, citing one example of her achievements, noted that as a sophomore Kolchinsky was able to raise $1,000 from a family she didn’t know.
“She’s a champion,” he added.
Kolchinsky, who also is Stetson’s Student Government Association president, says she is simply eager to help.
“The role of a student cabinet member is to serve as a ‘voice for students’ on various committees and other effort as they relate to Jewish life on campus,” she said. “I am excited about the opportunity!”
In turn, she hopes her efforts might also reap career rewards. She is majoring in political science with a minor in management while also a lead career peer in Stetson’s Office of Career and Professional Development.
“The experience this coming year on the cabinet will really inform me of my strengths and my passions within larger nonprofits, Jewish nonprofits and working for the Jewish community as a whole,” she explained.
“This is totally a personal passion. But also, I definitely am looking into various career opportunities, keeping my options open as I inch toward graduation day next May.”
Kolchinsky wound up at Stetson partly by virtue of research and partly on sort of a whim. During her college-search journey, her parents allowed for one plane trip to look at schools outside of her region. Attracted by the state’s sunshine and receiving timely communications from Stetson, she added DeLand to her college stops in Florida.
“It seemed like a really awesome place to be. So, I wanted to visit it,” she recalled. “And I had a really wonderful experience. … In the end, I’m so glad that I chose it.”
The same can be said by her university, where Kolchinsky has shined especially bright in the doorway of the Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Hillel House, which opened on campus in 2019. She is co-vice president of Stetson University Hillel.
Since its opening, Kolchinsky’s goal has been to make the Ginsburg Hillel House a home.
“I think that having this house means a lot for continuity purposes, and having that place on campus that not only houses amazing programs and religious and spiritual experiences for students, but it’s also a statement and a place where memories can be held of the past Jewish students, the current Jewish students and the future Jewish students,” she said. “ … And it can be a place where everyone feels comfortable.”
Now, with her new national voice, she can’t wait to advance that inclusive theme.
“I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a while. So, I’m glad that I can finally see that through,” she said.