It’s a Schnitzer family tradition: Head to Champaign-Urbana after high school, then head straight to Illini Hillel upon arrival.
“The Jewish center on campus has played a key role in my life,” says Chicago accountant Robbie Schnitzer (BS ’14, elementary education). “In order to understand the impact it has had on my life, you need to understand my University of Illinois family history.
“My parents met as students at Illinois and bonded over their Jewish connections. They spent a great deal of time at Hillel and were leaders in the Kosher Cooking Club on campus providing kosher food to students and staff.
“They raised me and my three older siblings on the University of Illinois. We grew up traveling from the Chicago suburbs down to Champaign often to see football and basketball games. All four of us were lucky to be able to attend Illinois and we all were active participants at Illini Hillel.
“In 2007, Illini Hillel built a new, modern building, strengthening its physical presence in the heart of campus and serving as a home for Jews on the campus.”
503 East John Street was Robbie’s first stop on campus when he arrived in the fall of 2010.
“It was my home away from home and has been that for thousands of Illinois students annually. I have made all of my lifelong friendships through Illini Hillel," he says.
“Additionally, I have had tremendous opportunities to grow as a campus leader. I was able to quickly grow and expand Jewish life on campus and eventually became the president of Illini Hillel.
“Having a vibrant, active and proud Jewish community on campus is imperative. The new Illini Hillel center’s elevator is dedicated to my grandfather and it is always my first stop when I visit campus as an alum.
“I thought of him and his legacy when I was a senior and created a scholarship fund for Jewish student leaders with financial needs. The Karson Family Scholarship Fund is my legacy on campus and it is only possible due to Illini Hillel’s support and guidance.
“Overall, Illini Hillel shaped my college experience and has given me the opportunity to be able to help shape the experiences of other deserving students.”