The year-long celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday is reaching a crescendo on campuses around the world in the days leading up to Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut) on May 8.
Hillels are marking the anniversary with a wide variety of programs that showcase the country’s cultural, social and political life. The events include a lecture by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, at Bryn Mawr and Haverford College; an Israel Birthday Bash at Rochester; an Israel Fair at Johns Hopkins University; and, at MIT, an Israeli music jam session (complete with a lesson in the art of hummus making).
Complete calendar listing of Israel at 60 events!
In North America, a special grant from an anonymous donor is making it possible for 50 smaller campuses to sponsor Israel @ 60 events. Hillels outside the continent are also getting into the act with their own Israel birthday parties.
Even those not lucky enough to be on a campus during Israel's 60th birthday celebrations can join in the fun by sending a birthday card to Israel, supporting Hillel in Israel, or “tricking out” their own Sussita, Israel’s unique contribution to the auto industry. Go to www.birthdayisrael.org.
Israel at 60 Sussita.
Israel Celebrations on Campus
The sights, sounds and tastes of Israel are coming to life on campuses across the United States thanks to a generous grant from an anonymous foundation. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is one of nine organizations to receive approximately $250,000 in funding for college programming that promotes Israel's 60th Birthday.
Occidental College students pose with Israeli flag.
Hillels on 50 American campuses each received a portion of the grant money to help make their Israel @ 60 events attractive to the entire student body. From now through the end of the May, these Hillels will host a wide variety of unique and engaging programs aimed at celebrating the last 60 years of Israeli statehood and culture. Block parties, mock seders, engaging speakers and art exhibits will all be incorporated into the Hillels' Israel @ 60 celebrations.
At University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the money was used to bring Israeli alternative rock group EGGROLL to campus for a live performance. Another Israeli group, Hatikva 6, performed at New Orleans Hillel Center. Hillel at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will kick-off its Israel @ 60 celebrations with Israeli Jazz band Seeds of the Sun on April 27.
Pride for Israel displayed on campus.
"The students are most looking forward to the festival atmosphere and, of course, the food!" says UT Knoxville Hillel Director Deborah Oleshansky. She adds that the Israel @ 60 celebration will invite students to make positive associations with Israel through culture and music, rather than what is often seen on the news.
Erin Searle, Hillel's senior JCSC fellow at Denver University, says DU Hillel is hoping the campus' Israel @ 60 Block Party educates Jewish and non-Jewish students alike.
"We're hoping students will gain a heightened awareness of Israel, its history and its culture," says Searle. "Many students on this campus do not know a lot about Israel so we are hoping that people who stop by our event leave with at least one new fact they did not know beforehand."
Students at DU and Cal State will be treated to a performance by Israeli-American rapper Kosher Dillz. Hillel students at Tulane, Kent State, SUNY Purchase and Queens College will gather for Israeli films like "Encounter Point," "Aviva, My Love" and the controversial "Unsettled."
Meanwhile, chocolate, felafel and other Israeli treats will be consumed at Florida State University and De Anza College in San Jose, California. In Madison, Wisconsin, the local Hillel plans to host an Israel Bar Night and several other campuses have planned to incorporate hookahs into their local events.
International Hillels Celebrate Israel @ 60
Moscow Hillel student models in Israel-themed fashion show.
All 27 Hillels in the FSU are also participating in the large community events in their respective cities including Hillel in Ulyanovsk, Russia, which will host an Israel @ 60 concert for the local community at the city’s music hall. Hillel’s dance and vocal students will be joined by other ethnic groups for an evening of performances. Special invitations were delivered to the WWII veterans who will also be honored at the event.
Hillel in Moscow, Russia hosted a fashion show highlighting Israel’s culture and contributions to the world of fashion. Students participate in the projects while designing clothes, modeling, creating sets and putting a show together.
Hillel in Krasnoyarsk, Russia is conducting an Israeli film festival in the city.
In South America, Hillels will celebrate Israel's 60th Birthday on May 8. From Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Cordoba, Hillel students will organize all-day celebrations, connecting Jewish students with Israeli soldiers via videoconference.
In order for each Hillel to feel interconnected on an international level, each Hillel in South America will send a delegation of its students to visit the other Hillels on that continent.