You Should Know…Mallory Kovit

Mallory Kovit is a white woman with long, brown hair standing next to a poster for Temple University Hillel and Israel.
Mallory Kovit | Courtesy of Mallory Kovit

Until she left for college, Mallory Kovit never had the feeling that Jews were unique or different.

Kovit, the assistant executive director of Hillel at Temple University, grew up in the heavily Jewish Five Towns of Long Island, New York. Matriculating at Stony Brook University was a culture shock — the first time she felt like part of a minority that made up 2% of the country’s population.

“I had never had to grapple before with people that had never met a Jewish person before,” she said. “I had also never really understood that there was such a thing as the BDS or anti-Israel movement until I went to college.” 

During Kovit’s junior or senior year, the Stony Brook administration voted to get rid of schoolwide days off on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, a policy it later changed. Kovit was frustrated that non-Jewish students didn’t realize this was a big deal.

“A friend of a friend said something to the effect like, ‘Not everything can be about you and what you want,’” Kovit remembered.

That’s when Hillel changed Kovit’s life. Hillel advocated for having the High Holidays off and provided a central meeting space for Jewish students. Kovit later applied to become Stony Brook Hillel’s engagement intern, the first of many leadership positions she’d hold at Hillels.

At 33, Kovit has been involved in Hillel for almost half her life. As a leader of Temple University’s Hillel, she wants to make sure today’s college students can find the same joy in being Jewish that she found through Hillel.

“I’m someone who is confident in my Jewish identity, and it’s not necessarily something that comes naturally to a lot of people,” she said. “I want people to feel really excited and thrilled to be Jewish and know that it’s really fun to be Jewish.”

Since taking on the position in August, having previously served as the director of the Jewish Graduate Student Network at Greater Philly Hillel Network for two years, the Center City resident has had her work cut out for her.

“When it comes to the challenges of being a student nowadays, Jewish student or not, everything is relatively unprecedented,” Kovit said.

The students coming to campus are shy, having spent most of their high school days entrenched in online spaces during the pandemic. Many times, Kovit said, kids encounter antisemitism online.

It’s Kovit’s job to make those students feel welcome and work with Temple Hillel’s staff to bring programming to fruition that is “by students, for students.”

“We really want Temple Hillel to be a place where students know that they can have enrichment for their lives now, and also for after they graduate,” she said.

Interacting with the 30-100 students who filter in and out of Temple University’s Rosen Center — Hillel’s hub — Kovit bridges the gap between the Gen Z students and millennial staff. The key to connecting with today’s teens, she said, is not learning TikTok dances, but finding common ground. Students who join Hillel are looking for the same thing: to have fun and connect. 

“They’re still figuring out who they are as people,” Kovit said. “But people who are between the ages of 18 to 22, they have a lot to say; they are really funny; they’re really kind; they really want to share; they want to have a good time, and so do I.”

Kovit’s path to Hillel seemed clear: She went on Birthright before going to college, right as the program was starting. She went back to Israel again as an undergrad, studying at Tel Aviv University for a year. After graduating, she worked at Hillels of Westchester in New York, coordinating programming with five area Hillels.

In 2019, Kovit relocated to Philadelphia, taking on roles at Greater Philly Hillel Network, and balancing her job with earning her master’s degree in nonprofit/public/organizational management with a concentration in Jewish education administration from Gratz College. Balancing a cultural Jewish identity with a spiritual one, Kovit is also a yoga teacher and has taught mindfulness and yoga to Jewish audiences, finding that the two cultures can blend seamlessly.

Returning to the college Hillel scene a decade after her own college experience, Kovit saw some changes. The Birthright program has burgeoned since she first took the trip. Students today are interested in smaller affinity groups within Temple Hillel, such as Owls for Israel or a Russian-language group. Instead of a humble Hillel office that Kovit was used to at Stony Brook, Temple has a center for Jewish students — a “mansion of Jewish life.”

“It’s such a thrill and a gift to have an entire building to have Jewish life thrive,” she said.


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