Caroline Dorf credits her paternal grandparents for instilling in her a love for Judaism. “My grandparents on my dad’s side were very instrumental in my Jewish identity,” she said. “I’ve always had very fond associations of the High Holidays with my family or sitting around the Passover seder together, laughing and singing.”
Dorf, the Springboard Innovation Fellow at University of Michigan Hillel, is one of just 31 professionals from the U.S., Mexico and Israel selected through a rigorous process for a prestigious opportunity: Cohort Three of the Graduate Degree in Israel Education at George Washington University, in partnership with The iCenter. The goal of Springboard is to reimagine and redesign Jewish life on campus. She is the only Detroit participant this year.
Participants complete a one-year program in Experiential Jewish Education and Israel Studies, earning a graduate certificate. They may opt to continue for a second year and earn a master’s degree.
“What’s really special about this program is it’s in partnership with George Washington University, which is an amazing university, and The iCenter [which focuses on education about Israel],” Dorf said. “I did a program with The iCenter in January, their Birthright Fellows program in San Diego, right before the whole world shut down, and it was such an amazing experience in the way that they were teaching about Israel and creating experiences for participants of that program.”
Dorf grew up in Delaware County near Philadelphia in an interfaith home. “We were members of a Reform synagogue, and I had a bat mitzvah, but we were also exposed to Christmas, which I think gave us a really rich background. It wasn’t until I got to college and became involved with Penn State Hillel that I found this passion for Israel and Jewish life and realized that it was something I wanted to do professionally.”
While at Penn State, Dorf also went to Israel on Birthright, staffed Birthright and spent a summer doing research in Israel for an honor’s thesis.
Dorf believes her background helps her work with students at Hillel. “I’m able to reach students who are from backgrounds like me, who had an interfaith home growing up. This is what the future of the Jewish world looks like, at least from my perspective, and I think that it’s important to have representation of that in the professional Jewish world as well.”
Through her cohort, diverse with people from different facets of Jewish life, and the program, Dort sees it as “a really great way to grow as a professional and supplement what I’m doing through Springboard. It aligns with my hopes for my future career in working in the Israel educational world.”