Penn State Abington student Jessica Peskin led Hillel, the organization devoted to engaging students in Judaism, through a period of growth that started, surprisingly enough, during the pandemic.
She was the new president of Hillel when COVID struck in March 2020. Peskin quickly adapted the group to the Zoom environment, planning monthly activities and events that involved and entertained students and as a result, membership climbed.
Besides speakers on timely Jewish topics, she engineered a trivia game show, a magic show, and coordinated with Hillel at University Park to host actor Josh Peck, co-star of the hit Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh.
“There were a lot of people during COVID who were actively participating, and many came to our events. They really needed to do that for themselves,” she said.
Peskin joined Hillel during her first year at Abington, serving as treasurer, and it contributed to her personal development and overall happiness.
"For me the ability to connect with people and make new friends is really powerful. It’s a lot of fun to help people connect to their Jewish roots, and I wanted to be the person to take the lead,” she said.
Even though the biology major plans a career in the medical field, she welcomed the opportunity to broaden her skillset as Hillel’s president.
“It taught me so much about business. I didn’t realize how much time and work it takes to plan events. There’s catering, marketing, logistics, and working on contracts,” Peskin said.
The ability to connect with people and make new friends is really powerful. It’s a lot of fun to help people connect to their Jewish roots, and I wanted to be the person to take the lead.
—Jessica Peskin , president, Hillel, Penn State Abington
Eva Klein, advisor to Hillel and director of Academic Services at Abington, called Peskin a born leader.
“I have worked with students at Penn State for 24 years, and Jessica is the kind of student who really makes an impression. She is innovative, her enthusiasm is contagious, and she is warm and welcoming to all,” Klein said.
With approximately 70 students, membership in Hillel continues to grow and diversify. But Peskin, a Schreyer Honors College scholar, also cares about leaving Hillel in good hands when she graduates in 2023, according to Klein.
“Because of her outstanding interpersonal skills, Jessica has been able to recruit and nurture new student leaders into the organization. A good leader wants their work to continue, so Jessica is planning for the time when she will no longer be a student at Abington. She wants our Hillel to continue to thrive,” she said.
The goal of Hillel is to educate, promote, and engage college students in Judaism through meetings, events, and holiday celebrations. The close-knit community is comprised of Jewish students who want to connect with others sharing the same faith as well as students from different backgrounds who are eager to learn about the Jewish religion.
Abington students can learn more about Hillel here.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 23 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.