Max Hendrix of Kenosha, Wis., left the Twin Cities after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2015 with a degree in communications and minors in Jewish and youth studies. He left for a year-long stint at the University of Michigan’s Hillel (the other U of M), but came back before he could miss the Mini Apple too much. Now, Max works as the engagement and leadership coordinator for Minnesota Hillel, where he’s hoping to share his love of Jewish leadership with other students.
What got you interested in working with the Jewish community?
I think I’ve always identified Jewish non-profit work as what I want to do. Where the end goal is isn’t always clear, but working with college students is a lot of fun. It’s fun to work with people who walk into our building because they want to be here, not because their parents dropped them off or they have to be here in order to get somewhere else. They want to be here and they want to do Jewish things with us.
What does the engagement and leadership coordinator do?
I work with six engagement interns. We engage students, create micro-communities on campus, and they’ll create initiatives in the second semester to hopefully engage more students in Jewish life on campus. I also work with the student leadership team — both the five student board members and the 26 interns — on leadership development and making their time not only meaningful for us as an organization, but also meaningful for them as individuals, in that they gain tangible skills and knowledge that they can leave this place and continue to bring Jewish life into their lives.
What do you hope the engagement interns gain from their work?
Our mission is to enrich the lives of students so they may enrich the Jewish people and the greater community. People who move forward with Judaism as a value base feel more connected, and that’s important. All the leadership development stuff isn’t just about being Jewish leaders — it’s just about becoming good leaders. I think anyone that’s going to go out into the workforce can gain skills through leadership training and can understand how to communicate better.
What drove you to come back to Minnesota Hillel? How has this community influenced you?
Growing up, I always craved leadership roles in the Jewish community and knowledge from important Jewish role models in my life. So I think of my youth group advisers, my camp directors, my Rabbi, my mom. The knowledge I gained from them has so much molded my ability to lead going forward. I’ve seen Minnesota Hillel take great strides toward success and to never be afraid to try new things, to fail, and to get knocked down and get right back up. I think that’s part of why I wanted to come and work for this organization. I love the idea that we’re going to try things and they might not work and that’s totally okay. We’ll get back up and we’ll try something different and we’ll do it with students right by our side who are engaged and want to do it.
What are you looking forward to most this year?
Gopher football. Not the cold winters. Chick-Fil-A in the Union. Lots of Starbucks coffee. Shabbat dinners. Being back in this Jewish community. And I think above all else, just being with students. The more time I can spend outside of my office and with students, the more energized I am to come back and get things done. This organization has grown in the last four years because the students have made it and they’ve wanted it to change, and that’s the beauty of it. Getting to be a part of that is exciting.
What’s your favorite thing about back-to-school season?
Just the excitement that builds on campus. Walking into Dinkytown this week, there’s people everywhere, there’s buzz, there’s a lot of movement going on, and just that energy on campus that we’re all back and we’re all excited and getting ready. And Gopher football.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
I really like Passover. It’s not a lot of people’s favorites, but one of my favorite things about Jewish holidays is that so many of them are meal-based. It’s about sitting down at the dinner table with people you care about and having a meaningful experience. Passover has always been that for me. I also just love matzo ball soup.
Favorite Jewish food?
Anything my mom makes.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!