A Bit of History

Hillel began with Shai Horowitz, who left the ultra-orthodox community at age 17. In 1991, Shai appeared on Israeli public television, to present his vision of an organization to support those choosing to join larger Israeli society. Tammy and Miki Cohen, members of T’chila: The Israeli Secular Movement for Humanistic Judaism were watching that broadcast, and immediately contacted Rafi Shapira from Kibbutz Ein Shemer. The trio began absorbing those in need into the kibbutzim of the Hashomer Hatzair movement.


The organization’s volunteer base grew and Hillel was in fact completely volunteer run until 2013. Yair Hass, our current Director, himself a Yotzeh, began as a volunteer in 2007. Today we have four Centers nationwide, transitional housing units in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a residential Emergency Shelter facility, and 32 paid staff – primarily social workers. Volunteers are a crucial part of Hillel programming, with over 700 filling a wide range of roles. Hillel currently serves 2,500 per year. New member intake has grown annually by an average of 22% over the past 5 years.