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Harvard Hillel Executive Director Jonah Steinberg to Step Down After 12 Years

Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg announced he would step down as executive director of Harvard Hillel.
Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg announced he would step down as executive director of Harvard Hillel. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Tyler J.H. Ory, Crimson Staff Writer

Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg will step down as executive director of Harvard Hillel, the University’s Jewish center, at the end of this academic year after 12 years in the role.

During his tenure, Steinberg, a Harvard Chaplain, created the Harvard College Israel Trek program — which sponsors students to travel to Israel and the West Bank every spring break — in addition to a speaker series and the Harvard Torah Podcast.

In his email announcement, Steinberg wrote he was thankful for the opportunity to serve, adding that he felt confident in the organization’s future.

“The past dozen years, serving our students and our entire Harvard community, have been rewarding and deeply meaningful,” he wrote. “I am grateful to all involved, and I am confident of a wonderful path ahead for Harvard Hillel.”

Under Steinberg’s leadership, Harvard Hillel became a hub for Jewish programming and a strong voice on campus. Steinberg himself has been a staunch pro-Israel advocate on campus issues related to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In the email, Steinberg praised the organization’s resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our institution has led the field through the Coronavirus pandemic, with online programming that now continues to engage a global Harvard community even as our in-person community rebuilds and flourishes anew after the long period of campus closure and ‘social distancing,’” Steinberg wrote.

In a statement thanking Steinberg’s service, Lavea Brachman ’84 and Marc A. Cohen, co-chairs of the Harvard Hillel Board of Directors, wrote in an email announcement that Steinberg fostered a welcoming environment for a wide range of students.

“Jonah has been a leader in advancing the notion of Hillel as a ‘big tent’ on the Harvard campus where students with a variety of viewpoints — on topics ranging from Israel to religious practice, social justice to politics — can all feel comfortable calling Hillel their home,” they wrote.

Hillel’s board of directors will create a search committee this spring to conduct a national search for a permanent executive director to start serving in the 2024-25 academic year. In the meantime, the board will select an interim executive director to lead the organization during the 2023-24 academic year.

In an email to The Crimson, Harvard Hillel President Jacob M. Miller ’25 praised Steinberg as “a caring administrator, passionate leader,” and “a personal friend.”

“Steinberg has always been a steady advocate for the Jewish community with the Harvard administration, and, under his leadership, Hillel launched a capital campaign to raise funds for our building’s upcoming renovation,” wrote Miller, a Crimson Editorial editor.

“As a student leader, Jonah is always one phone call away, and is always prepared to teach me something new about Jewish culture or our nation’s history,” Miller added. “Jonah will be missed — by myself and the Harvard Hillel community as a whole.”

—Staff writer Tyler J. H. Ory can be reached at tyler.ory@thecrimson.com.

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