Hillel announces departure of Rabbi Yonah Schiller

By ALAN SMASON

Rabbi Yonah Schiller, the executive director of Tulane Hillel since 2008, will be leaving the university at the end of the current fiscal year at the end of June, according to a letter from Steve Stern, the chairman of the Tulane Hillel Board of Directors.

Rabbi Yonah Schiller of Tulane Hillel. (Photo courtesy of Rabbi Yonah Schiller)

Schiller will be taking over as the new chief research and development officer for the Jim Joseph Foundation, an organization with a focus on Jewish education that has given out grants of $500 million since 2006.

During his tenure, Schiller oversaw a nationwide capital campaign of $4.3 million that resulted in the construction of the Morris and Goldie Mintz Center for Jewish Life, the building which is also used as an academic building for regular course work at Tulane.

In the letter announcing Schiller’s departure, Stern cited his leadership within “the nation’s fastest growing Hillel.”

“Through his hard work and ambitious vision, we have experienced and witnessed spectacular change, transformation and impact of an organization and community,” Stern wrote. “Under his direction, Tulane Hillel has clearly become the gold standard for Hillel worldwide.”

A native of the Boston area, Schiller is a graduate of Brown University with a degree in Studio Art and Art History. He was ordained with a rabbinic degree in Israel, with an emphasis on Mysticism and Law and, while at Tulane, received his MBA from the Freeman School of Business with a focus on Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

Under his tenure, Tulane Hillel’s budget doubled and attendance at weekly Friday night Shabbat dinners tripled. Hillel’s penetration into the Tulane Jewish community has risen to 90% and now reaches 30% of the entire student population through its inclusive programming.

Rabbi Yonah Schiller and his wife Allison. (Photo by Alan Smason)

A professional abstract mixed-media artist, Schiller was awarded the 2013 Mortar Board Excellence in Teaching Award for the most outstanding non-tenured professor at Tulane University and was given the Helen A. Mervis Jewish Community Professional Award from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana that same year.

More recently, In 2017, he was named to the Jewish Forward magazine’s annual list of 50 American Jewish leaders, who are honored for their accomplishments and influence. Schiller was cited by the Forward for having “revolutionized Jewish outreach using a model that is being examined and replicated across the nation.”

Rabbi Yonah Schiller in 2011. (Photo by Alan Smason)

He was the creator of the Jewish Design Platform (JDP), “an emerging national design incubator geared towards building scalable systems, models and initiatives for designing inclusive and high impact Jewish community.” Through the employment of Schiller’s modeling, Tulane University now has over 300 dedicated student leaders.

With his overwhelming success at Tulane Hillel, Schiller was also a consultant to several local and national organizations as well as a Special Projects Consultant at the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking and an adjunct lecturer at Tulane.

Stern announced a nationwide and international search to replace Schiller will commence in a few weeks led by former Tulane Hillel chairman Kevin Wilkins with the intent of hiring someone by May.

Schiller’s exit will leave Congregation Beth Israel administrator Rabbi David Posternock as the  last of the post-Katrina rabbis and community leaders who flocked to the city to aid in the rebuilding effort here.

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