Minnesota Hillel Director Benjie Kaplan Stepping Down

After more than 10 years and rebuilding Minnesota Hillel both structurally and programmatically, Benjie Kaplan is stepping down from his role as executive director eto become the Campus Support Director with Hillel International. His last day in Dinkytown is July 28.

“The last 10 years at Minnesota Hillel is what happens when the community gets behind something,” he said. “And I’m grateful to have been able to be here for it and be part of it.”

In an email to the community, Kaplan said he’ll take what Minnesota Hillel has accomplished in his decade here and help other Hillel communities nationwide. 

It has been a privilege to help my hometown Hillel grow into one of the strongest in the Hillel movement and be part of so many students’ Jewish journeys along the way,” he said. “To be able to do this important work on a national scale will be a meaningful new opportunity and challenge.”

A nationwide search will be conducted by Hillel International to find Kaplan’s successor.

“[We] have had the privilege of partnering closely with Benjie and have been impressed by his strategic vision for Jewish campus life in Minnesota, community building on a personal level, and one of his most defining attributes, his calming leadership through periods of adversity,” Hillel Board President Phil Kibort and President-Elect Jen Robins said in a statement. “We are disappointed to see Benjie depart but thrilled for him as he engages in an ambitious new professional chapter that we know he will succeed in.”

One of the centerpieces of Kaplan’s tenure was the fundraising effort that allowed the Hillel building to be gutted and rebuilt as the Minnesota Hillel Johnson Center for Jewish Life. 

The project took a building on its last legs, where it was in discussion to be sold, and turned a vibrant, fully accessible spot for Jewish students on campus, as well as community events.

In 2017, Kaplan was awarded the “exemplar of excellence” at the Hillel International Global Assembly; the next year Minnesota Hillel won the Israel Education and Engagement Award and was recognized as one of the five most improved Hillels out of 550 in the number of students being reached.

In 2019, Minnesota Hillel won Most Innovative Program for their Israel Exploration Mission, a trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories for non-Jewish student leaders, at an annual ceremony which highlights the work of student groups at the University of Minnesota.

“Under Benjie’s leadership, our impact on students has never been stronger, our programming and relationship building has broadened in both breadth and depth, and our staff have advanced professionally and collectively,” Robins and Kibort wrote. “Minnesota Hillel has become a destination for Jewish campus life, consistently achieving local and national recognition for excellence. Once just a vision, these accomplishments would not have been possible without skillful development campaigns and meaningful stewardship of our generous supporters. This invaluable work has enabled us to open an expanded and renovated facility and grow our annual budget to support more staff and programming. We are in a strong position to support Minnesota students moving forward.”

Said Kaplan: “I’m excited to see where Hillel goes from here. From strength to strength.”