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Getting to Know Jews: Hillel of Silicon Valley

Posted by lchaimlover on August 20, 2007

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely ladies of Hillel of Silicon Valley. Ruth and Vanina both recently got married (mazel tov) and are now settling in to make a rocking year over at Hillel. They are both actively involved in the Jewish community (beyond Hillel) and are a pleasure to know and work with. Introduce yourself the next time you have a chance! Don’t forget Hillel kicks off with it’s first Shabbat Dinner this Friday Night at 7:oo p.m. See you there!


Ruth Berg and Vanina Sandel Mutchnik

recently lead a leadership retreat to LA with students from HSV.

Name: Vanina Sandel Mutchnik and Ruth Berg
Age: 29 and 22 (respectively)
Position: Asst Director of Hillel of Silicon Valley and Program and Engagement Associate
Organization: Hillel of Silicon Valley (or HSV)
Mission: To provide a welcoming supportive environment to enrich student’s college experience and enable them to connect with the Jewish community.

What makes your organization unique?

VSM: HSV (Hillel of Silicon Valley) is the only Jewish organization for college and grad students on campus.

RB: Every year evaluate what we do to best fit the needs of those we serve.

What challenges does your organization face?

VSM: We serve four campuses and we do a lot of programming so we don’t have many resources to do everything that we do, on the other hand the Jewish population in each school is very small so it very hard work to find the Jews on campus.

RB: While we want to plan what students are interested in, many students do not share what they would like to see from Hillel while at college or step up to take the opportunity to get involved.

How often do you have programs?

VSM: At least 3 times a week between the 4 campuses, if not more.

What do you think you contribute to the Jewish community?

VSM: I think it contributes develops the future loeaders for the local jewish community

RB: These students are the future of the Jewish community so we let them know what is out there when they graduate, as well as give them opportunities to partner with the community while in college.

Best program for Young Adults?

VSM: There are two types of programming: (1) events at the Hillel house: in that capacity the Shabbat dinners are the best because there is a community for the students and a homemade meal; (2) the on campus program and there the best are the high visibility so we can promote and create a better understanding of Jewish life on campus.

RB: While all of our programs are amazing, the best to take advantage of would be the Mentor/Internship program since that gives real experience to students in their field or someone to talk that is able to give guidance. Some people are even given jobs after they have completed the internship.

What is your personal favorite program?

VSM: Mentorship and internship (Jmentor/Jintern) because we are facilitating a concrete need that our students have by connecting them with the local Jewish community. And Shabbat dinners, or course.

RB: My personal favorite program is birthright israel, a 10-day free trip to Israel for 18-26 year olds. This trip gives the sense of what Israel has to offer while also allowing participants to meet many new people both from the US and from Israel. This trip is offered both in Winter and in Summer and Winter registration begins this September 5th.

Average Cost of programs?


RB: Average cost of programs is $0 since we know college students do not have the money to spend on programs and almost all events include food.

What do you consider the most important thing you do?

VSM: If HSV was not on campus nobody is there to represent the Jewish students and to help them create the community. An active presence on campus is essential, for the continuity of the local Jewish community.

RB: We provide college students with the community and feeling of home that many find their schools do not provide and while at Hillel many make lifelong friends and find their Jewish roots.

Anything you want to add?

Thursday, August 23rd: Kick-off event! We are going to be on campus with a Café Israel!

Friday, August 24th First Shabbat dinner at the Hillel house, at 7 p.m.!

Tuesday, August 28th Welcome Night for SJSU at Hillel House. Jamba Jews event from 6-8

Coming up in November: Inside Global Terrorism from personal impact towards responses, look for an article about this on Oy Bay.


5 Responses to “Getting to Know Jews: Hillel of Silicon Valley”

  1. JB said

    That Ruth is so cute!!

  2. whitefrodude said

    I think Vanina and Ruth should average out their names because Vanina Sandel Mutchnik is too long and Ruth Berg is too short. lol

  3. eva said

    where and when?

  4. Oyster said


    Follow the link in the post to the Hillel of Silicon Valley webpage. The house is located on William St. south of the SJSU campus.

  5. lchaimlover said

    email ruth at campusprograms@hillelsv.org, she can tell you about anything going on at foothill. Dinner is this friday at 7, for directions, follow oyster’s link!

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