It’s Maroon & Gold Shabbat week! Talor Blustin, a junior at the University of Minnesota and the marketing intern at Minnesota Hillel, tells us what to expect at the annual event, and also how he’s trying to innovate Hillel with data, and the Little League World Series, on this week’s Who The Folk Podcast.
Friday is the annual Maroon & Gold Shabbat event; what can people who haven’t been before expect to see?
It’s the best showcase of what Minnesota Hillel has to offer essentially. Hillel has a big emphasis on this the staff-student partnership and it’s a display of what we’ve done throughout the whole year. This year we year engaged absurd amount of people, we had a huge amount of initiatives and programs that happened in the building, and a lot of community building within the Jewish community that we haven’t had the past years. You’ll hear that talked about in the number of students speeches. You’ll see the Chai Notes performing the services. There’s some exciting announcements in some really cool things that are happening within the next few years at Hillel that could potentially change the course of Hillel in the future.
You’re the marketing intern at Hillel and a junior here at the U. what’s your role in getting the word out about the great programs and work in the community you were talking about?
I was doing more of the back end informing about the events. We have a system called Schwipe, which tracks attendance at each event, and then exporting that into different spreadsheets trying to figure out who comes to what events how we can get them to come to other similar events. Just kind of turning the knobs in the background so that we could get the people we thought would be most interested to our events. That’s a little bit ahead of where Hillel is. We don’t have the organizational capacity yet to do that; I need a couple more interns to work on it. And to be totally honest Hillel International isn’t there yet. They don’t have a structure yet that intuitively breaks up the things the way we wanted to do it.
Is it frustrating that there isn’t an infrastructure to do what you want?
I think it’s really fun in the sense that we’re thinking so far ahead. If I can look back in three years and see that they’re doing that and be like “well that started when I was there,” that’s kind of cool to me.
So you’re not reinventing the wheel so much as you’re creating it.
I think in terms of data tracking the nonprofit industry as a whole is always at a disadvantage because a lot of those intuitive programs are very expensive. So we were essentially reinventing the wheel but it wasn’t intuitive enough within the other programs to where we could have chosen which elements we wanted to use. Say I’ve been to every social-action event and I’ve been to every Shabbat, and then to take that information and have a computer pull my name out of a spreadsheet and then automatically invite me or have an intern input email addresses to an automatically generated spreadsheet saying these are the people that could be interested in your event. That was my vision, but it’s with a little ahead of things.
You are one of the few Minnesotans who, as a teenager, got to play in the Little League World Series. What was that experience like?
It was like being in the world’s greatest candy store and getting everything for free. Growing up, I would take 10 days of every summer and I’d put myself in front of the TV and watch Little League World Series. I’m an analytical person so I think through all the situations and just try to put myself in the game. And so when we got there and we had the opening ceremony, and we saw the dorms, and we got our equipment, it was the most unreal experience I’ve ever had. The coolest part is that Major Leaguers take time out of their days to watch us and come to the facility. A buddy of mine played ping pong with Nomar Garciaparra. Bobby Valentine came to talk to us before the game. I had participated in a home run contest led by Andre Dawson. you can’t replicate those experiences ever. It’s literally a candy store and everything is free.
Do you still have the gear?
My friends all make fun of me because when you walk into my living room there’s a shrine to me. It’s my cleats, the batting gloves they gave us, the helmet, I think the jersey is my closet but that’ll eventually make its way down.
Your friends are giving you a hard time but that’s because they’ve never done anything like that.
I mean, if we flip the roles I’d be jealous.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!