June 19, 2024
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June 19, 2024
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Long-Serving Rutgers Hillel Director to Step Down

Andrew Getraer of Highland Park has established an enviable record as a well-respected, caring and effective leader during his two decades at the helm of Rutgers Hillel. So it was with surprise and a bit of sadness that the Jewish community received the news that Getraer had informed the Rutgers Hillel board of directors of his decision to step down from the role of executive director, effective July 1.

A press release from Rutgers Hillel on June 17 announced Getraer’s decision and his reasons for leaving the position he has held for 20 years, which included the difficulties of the past year, in terms of both the professional limitations of COVID and the sudden, unexpected loss of his mother. “With the losses of the past year and our youngest child graduating high school, this is a true inflection point for our family, a time to reflect and refresh. After 20 years, now is the right time for this change,” Getraer said.

The release offered a view of his remarkable impact on Rutgers Hillel: “Joining Rutgers Hillel in 2001, Getraer reimagined its mission, program, facilities, and governance, and brought to reality a long-held dream to build a world-class, flagship Hillel in the heart of the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus. The 40,000 square foot Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House on the Wilf Family Campus, which opened in 2017, is now one of the preeminent Jewish campus facilities in the country and a source of great pride for both the New Jersey Jewish community and Rutgers University.”

Getraer noted, in a speech at a Rutgers Hillel gala dinner in spring 2015, that according to national statistics at the time, the university had the largest Jewish undergraduate population of any college in the country, with 6,400 Jewish undergraduates and 1,000 Jewish graduate students. In a speech at the 2018 Rutgers Hillel gala dinner, Getraer shared that over half of the Jewish college students in New Jersey were served by Rutgers Hillel.

Rabbi Esther Reed, senior associate director of Rutgers Hillel, stated in the release: “Andrew and I began at Rutgers together on the same day, 20 years ago. His vision and drive transformed our Hillel from a $400,000-a-year organization renting a dilapidated house into a $2 million annual operation in a magnificent 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility.”

Reaction to the news of Getraer’s imminent departure from Rutgers Hillel and his impact there came from many corners, with praise from national leaders like Mark Wilf, chair of the Board of Trustees of Jewish Federations of North America and a member of the Hillel International Board of Governors; Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Jewish Federations of North America; and Adam Lehman, president and CEO of Hillel International.

Perhaps the most moving testimonials, though, were from Rutgers graduates from the past 10-15 years, who spent quality time at Rutgers Hillel.

“Andrew truly believed in every student that walked through Hillel’s doors; no idea was a bad idea, and he did everything he could to make those ideas happen and work,” said Samantha Sinoff of New York City, a Rutgers College 2017 graduate and student president of Rutgers Hillel, 2016-2017. “Without him, we wouldn’t have the beautiful new building or so many fond memories in there (or truthfully in any of our many buildings before).”

“While at Rutgers, I was president of Kol Halyla, RU’s premier Jewish a cappella group,” said Daniel Moritz of Highland Park, class of 2014. “We utilized Hillel’s facilities for weekly practices, hosting shabbatons with other groups across the country, and performing at Hillel events in kind. The relationship between Hillel and Kol Halayla, as well as other Hillel-adjacent Rutgers groups, was beautifully symbiotic. Andrew was a big part of making Jewish students and groups incredibly successful. His support, influence and generosity extended beyond the walls of Hillel and across the entire Rutgers Jewish community.”

“Andrew was always there for students and his door was almost always open,” said Laura Silverman Weiss of Highland Park, a 2011 graduate. “At night you could see the light on in his office from the street. Andrew has undoubtedly had an impact on hundreds of students. I know he has impacted me.”

“Andrew always simultaneously gave us advice and guided us,” said Liran Kapoano of East Brunswick, a 2011 graduate who now serves on the board of directors of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. “What made him such a successful leader is that he allowed students to take the lead. He was there to supply the gas, but he let students drive the bus.”

Rutgers-Hillel’s board of directors will work with Hillel International and Rabbi Reed to handle the leadership transition and conduct a national search for a new executive director.

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