Schusterman Conference Rocks with an International Flair
September 07, 2001Comments (0)
| E-mail this to a friend When it comes to bringing international talent together, Hillel has MTV's Video Music Awards beat in every category. Performing at Hillel's 2001 Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly were an Israeli clown, poets from the former Soviet Union, a Uruguayan singer, and even an American student demonstrating aboriginal New Zealand hunting implements. Foreign talent – the largest delegation of students from outside North America in conference history -- was just one of the highlights of the 2001 Schusterman conference.
One student said that the most memorable feature of the conference was "the sense of international community, along with international support from a huge number of organizations. I now feel the motivation to lead my school's Hillel and I have the tools, too."
First Charles Schusterman Conference
Hillel took the occasion to rename the annual student conference in memory of former International Board of Governors Co-Chair Charles Schusterman, a man who believed passionately in training leaders to bring about a renaissance of Jewish life. Mr. Schusterman died in December after a long battle with cancer.
"My late husband, Charles, of blessed memory had to learn to be a leader. He found role models and mentors to guide him… and he went to conferences to learn from experts, acquire new knowledge, and explore possibilities," Hillel International Board of Governors Co-Chair Lynn Schusterman told students at the dedication ceremony. "Charlie would be so proud of you. He would have spent hours wandering among you, asking many questions in an attempt to understand better your needs."
Largest International Delegation
Participants in the conference came from over 140 campuses around the globe, including a delegation of 10 students from Uruguay, 12 from the former Soviet Union (FSU), two from Australia and, for the first time, 13 from Israel.
"I knew that American Jews cared about Israel but I didn't know how devoted they were," said Roni Malkai, a student at Tel Aviv University.
Uruguayan student Jenny Gerner said that participating in the conference was "not only an opportunity to find out about how Hillel works, but to share memorable experiences with other Jewish students from around the world."
Manya Basauri of Kiev State Linguistic University said, "everything changed in my life when I came to Hillel." She explained how Hillel helped her to rediscover her family's Jewish heritage after two generations of forced assimilation. "I had a blank page in the history of my family. I decided to fill that blank page," she explained. "Now as a teacher of fellow students I am helping them to fill in their blank pages as well."
Hillel devoted more time than ever before to Israel at the conference. Students learned everything from how to make the best Turkish coffee to how to refute anti-Israel activists on campus. Presenters included a range of experts from Hillel partner agencies and other pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC, Americans for Peace Now, the Government of Israel and the Pardes Institute for Jewish Learning.
Hillel provided students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of Israel's history and the politics of the Middle East. "These Muslim students know so much about what's going on, they know their arguments," Ohio State University student Mitchell Shankman told The New York Times, which covered the event.
Students clearly came away from the conference feeling more empowered. "I really never felt so united with other Jews in my life, especially the idea of being together under one roof with Jews of different backgrounds," said one student.
"It was great to see the work that international Hillel does," said another. "I never knew what a large organization Hillel was and I didn't know how many resources were available to me and how many professionals are available to give me advice."