Posted by: Julian Sandler on 1/9/2007 2:36:00 PM
Last summer the Jewish community was reminded once again of Israel’s vulnerability as rockets rained down on northern Israel from Lebanon, causing great damage across the region. I am proud that Lynn Schusterman, the co-chair of our Board of Governors, decided to sponsor a special student trip this winter to help repair the damage in Israel’s north.
Leading Up North brought 550 students and recent graduates from around the globe to Israel to do volunteer work. Hillel and the Israel on Campus Coalition sent students on this trip.
Aviva Weber, 20, a student from Milwaukee, was interviewed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency while painting a bomb shelter in the northern town of Shlomi. “This kind of volunteering is unlike anything else I’ve ever done before,” she said. “We hope they don’t have to use them, but if they do it will be a less scary place to be.”
Hillel’s participation in the Leading Up North trip was one component of our multi-faceted winter Israel programs. The trips reflected the findings of our Strategic Plan which mandated that we double the number of students involved in Jewish life on campus and who have meaningful Jewish experiences. We are reaching out to uninvolved students through Taglit-birthright israel trips and through Israel Experience missions that are designed to appeal to students with an interest in social justice and the environment.
In addition, our Jewish pluralism trip fostered understanding and mutual respect among campus Jewish leaders from different denominations. For the first time, this group includes students from outside North America, creating a true sense of Jewish peoplehood.
We also created a trip, in cooperation with our partners in the Conservative movement’s KOACH program, for college-age young people with Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition related to autism. “Our hearts are filled with joy daily as we see Israel through their eyes,” wrote KOACH Associate Director Elyse Winnick, who is accompanying the group.
We can take great pride in strengthening our Jewish community through these different Israel opportunities. Not only are we building the Jewish identity of these young people as individuals, we are building connections with Israel and within the diaspora.
RE: Touching Lives, Building Identity
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