After a year of waiting, the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale has a new director: Steven Sitrin, a Rhode Island resident who has served as director of student life centers at both Carnegie Mellon University and George Washington University.
Sitrin, who will take on the position beginning next month, said he plans to make sure that programs run properly and that the center has a clear idea of what to improve and sustain. Rabbi James Ponet, head of Slifka Center, added that the center will benefit from Sitrin’s management while he continues improvements to Slifka’s dining operations.
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“I’m really looking forward to the time when [Sitrin] will be able to step up [to the position],” Ponet said.
Former director Amy Aaland left the position after 12 years in December 2008 to battle breast cancer. Over the past year, administrators of the Slifka Center have divided the responsibilities of her position among a management team whose members took on the directorial responsibilities in addition to their usual positions.
Sitrin graduated from Cornell in 1984, and since then has worked in the Jewish community in Rhode Island in a variety of positions, including director of a non-profit foundation that preserves and educates the public about Touro Synagogue, the oldest in North America. He has also served as regional manager for Sodexho Management Services, a Maryland-based international food service management company.
The Slifka Center created an executive search committee to interview candidates for the position at the beginning of last semester. The committee contacted Sitrin in mid-November to apply for the position and interviewed him in early December.
Sitrin likened his experience in searching for a job to high school seniors finding the right college. Sometimes you know when a college is right for you immediately, he said.
“After only spending a couple hours [here], I knew that this is a place I could be comfortable and would feel like home,” he said.
Sitrin was given a formal offer for the position before the New Year’s holiday, which he was spending with his wife’s family. He got his first taste of Yale tradition when one of his in-laws — a Harvard employee —brought up the rivalry.
“Everyone was really happy, though he was a little combative,” Sitrin said.
Sitrin’s appointment to one of Slifka’s most important positions is good news to many students involved with the center, said Yaron Schwartz ’11, co-president of Yale Hillel, an organization housed at the Slifka Center. Although students did not immediately notice the effects of not having an executive director, Schwartz said, he believes the filled position will greatly aid running the center more smoothly.
“I think the executive director can help in setting clear vision for the organization,” Schwartz said, adding that improvements for the Slifka dining hall, which will include increasing Kosher options and sustainability, and increased publicity for events are included in this vision.