Growing up with parents who are active in the community can be hard for some, but Raffi Mark has inherited his parents’ commitment to helping others. “I love it,” says Mark, whose recent election as president of Rutgers Hillel puts him in the Jewish communal service track of his mother, a regional director of the United Synagogue Youth, and father, who serves as rabbi at Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne.
Mark’s “experience, commitment, and natural leadership talent” bode well for a successful term, says Rutgers Hillel’s executive director, Andrew Getraer. Mark says he was inspired by overseeing Hillel’s Israel programming last year, and seeing the program successfully grow. “I wanted that applied to the whole Hillel.”
Mark’s campaign focused on his hope to unite the different groups that make up the Hillel. His vision is to see Rutgers Hillel functioning as one single organization that provides all different kinds of programming that accommodate the varying groups. Mark says that he doesn’t merely want it to be “a lot of programs happening in the same building.” Founder of the “Hillel Echad” (Hebrew for One Hillel) initiative, Mark hopes that with a vision of unity-in his words-“we can have an even bigger impact.”
Accommodating the broad spectrum of Jews on campus is a daunting task. Rutgers Hillel has strong Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative presences. Mark was raised Conservative, but through his involvement with Hillel learned that each religious group has great things to offer. He wants to form a connection between the different groups through community service projects and programs that will highlight shared heritage. Regardless of the student’s religious affiliation, Mark says that he believes that his job “is being available to help others and help them get through problems.”
How does he balance his work for Hillel with schoolwork?
“It’s tough,” Mark admits. But “tough” is not stopping him. Majoring in American Studies, Mark is an Arts and Science honors student and will be busy writing his thesis during his senior year. He hopes to fulfill his responsibilities by staying organized, being aware of his personal schedule, and relying on the people who were elected to work with him.
Mark is still uncertain of his plans for further education and career.
“I’m open for suggestions,” he jokes.