Ask Big Questions began with a pretty simple idea: to ask a question instead of making a statement.
In the summer of 2005, Josh Feigelson arrived in Evanston, IL as the new rabbi at Northwestern University Hillel. When the Jewish High Holidays came around in September, Josh decided to put up a banner advertising Yom Kippur services. But instead of announcing the date and time of services, Josh decided to try something different: he printed “What will you do better this year?” on the banner. And then something unexpected happened: Students told him that the banner sparked conversations about the question. And they suggested that Hillel make more banners.
More banners came along. Northwestern students Lexie Komisar and Allie Gross got involved. Soon a website emerged, professors began participating in salon conversations in the campus Starbucks about the questions, and groups of students began to hold their own conversations.
After a few years, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust approached Josh about exploring how the idea could be developed, and in 2011, Ask Big Questions launched as an initiative of Hillel International.
From 2011-2015, Ask Big Questions trained 369 fellows on 28 college campuses across North America, who have 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.
Beginning in 2016, Ask Big Questions is 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.