Ask Big Questions began with a pretty simple idea: to ask a question instead of making a statement.
In 2005, as the new rabbi at the Northwestern University Hillel, founder Josh Feigelson put up a banner advertising Yom Kippur services. Rather than just giving notice of the date and time of services, this banner posed a question: “What will you do better this year?” And then something unexpected happened: Students responded, noting that the sparked conversations about the question. And they suggested that Hillel make more banners.
More banners came along. Students got involved. Soon a website emerged, and professors began participating in salon conversations in the campus Starbucks about the questions, and groups of students began to hold their own conversations. Over time, this caught the interest of the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, which was instrumental in helping explore how the Big Questions idea could be developed. With their help, in 2011, Ask Big Questions launched as an initiative of Hillel International.
In its first four years, Ask Big Questions trained 369 fellows on 28 college campuses across North America, who led 2,440 reflective group conversations involving 16,244 students. Through 17 regional and on-campus training workshops, 199 students and 208 faculty and staff on another 62 campuses have been introduced to our methodology, infusing it into programs for community-building, service-learning, interfaith dialogue, and college classrooms.
In 2016, Ask Big Questions began implementing a new strategic plan to bring reflective conversations and stronger communities to 100,000 students on 100 campuses by 2020. Ask Big Questions continues to be a signature content provider and trainer for Hillel International, among other partner organizations. At the same time, we’ve developed a diverse advisory board, staff team, and suite of content resources to serve students and communities of all backgrounds, beliefs, and political opinions.