We hear it all the time: the idea that people are struggling to talk and listen to each other. But what if we could shift from debates to conversations that help us connect? College is the perfect place to start, to bring the energy of students to a new kind of conversation about life’s Big Questions. No matter our background or views, we need opportunities to see and hear each other more deeply. When we share our stories and listen to others, we find connections and discover new perspectives about ourselves, each other and the world.
We provide powerful tools to engage diverse participants
Participants connect through reflective conversations
These conversations build trust and understanding in communities
“ask big questions is helping restore the soul of higher education.”
parker palmer | founder, center for courage and renewal
Ask Big Questions began with a pretty simple idea: to ask a question instead of making a statement.
In 2005, Northwestern Hillel’s Rabbi Josh Feigelson and Campus Engagement Interns Lexie Komisar and Allie Gross put up a banner advertising Yom Kippur services. Rather than just announcing the date and time of services, this banner posed a question: “What will you do better this year?” And then something unexpected happened: The banner sparked interesting conversations among the students, and they, in turn, asked for more banners and more questions.
More banners were made and the students got more involved. Soon a website emerged, and professors began participating in coffee shop salons discussing the questions, and groups of students began to hold their own conversations, modeled after the Jewish tradition to ask questions and share stories during the Passover holiday. With this growing interest and support from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Ask Big Questions formally launched as an initiative of Hillel International in 2011, bringing in Sheila Katz and Josh Feigelson as full-time staff to help develop the methodology and scale the program.
Through regional and on-campus training workshops, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have been introduced to our methodology, infusing it into programs for community-building, service-learning, interfaith dialogue, and college classrooms. To date, Ask Big Questions has sparked more than 300,000 people having reflective conversations.