(JERUSALEM – September 17, 2003) Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has opened a new Hillel center at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The new center will offer Jewish programming and extracurricular activities to the 15,000 students studying at the Beersheba campus.
"Hillel offers Israeli students opportunities to explore and celebrate their Jewishness in a pluralistic environment," explains newly appointed Ben-Gurion University Hillel Director Ofer Namimi. "Our programs are open to all students regardless of their background. We want to expose them to their Jewish heritage in ways that are appealing to them so that they can make their own choices about how Judaism fits into their lives." Namimi, who previously served as director of the Israeli Student Department for Hebrew University Hillel, will work closely with Ben-Gurion's Dean of Students and the Student Union to encourage student participation in Hillel.
Rabbi Yossie Goldman, Hillel Associate Vice President for Israel and the Former Soviet Union, explains that Hillel has worked with Ben-Gurion University for the last eight years to open the new Hillel. "As one of the fastest growing universities in Israel, Ben-Gurion University is a perfect home for Hillel," Rabbi Goldman said. "We will offer students multifaceted programs and activities that focus on 'doing Jewish,' love of Israel and of Am Yisrael."
Hillel, largest Jewish campus organization in the world, set up its first center in Israel in 1950. Hillel at Ben-Gurion University joins Hillels at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. Hillel at Ben-Gurion University is made possible by a grant from the Samuel and Helene Soref Foundation.
Hillel in Israel serves Israeli students as well as foreign students studying in the country. It offers a multitude of informal educational, social and religious programs as well as cultural events and seminars on campus geared for the diverse student population. Rabbi Goldman explained that the college years are a unique time in young people's lives when they are searching for their individual paths and choosing the values, beliefs and opinions that will direct their future lives. "In the university setting, Hillel has a golden opportunity to engage young adults to explore, identify and 'do Jewish' in a way that resonates with them," he said.
Hillel encourages students to take ownership of their Jewish identity and expression: from participating in community service projects to creating art and theater productions; from informal Jewish learning opportunities to cultural and social gatherings. Hillel is committed to a pluralistic Jewish vision that embraces all movements and streams of Judaism.