By Stephanie Burton
Jewish students at Loyola University Chicago are demonstrating their pride for Israel in the campus library with "Hillel—Bringing Israel to Loyola," an exhibit focusing on modern Israeli culture. An encore of a similar – and extremely popular – display featured last year to celebrate 350 years of Judaism in America, this year's exhibit is twice the size, allowing thousands of students and faculty to sample Israeli culture in a central campus location.
As a university with a positive reputation for religious tolerance and dialogue, the Jewish students at Loyola felt the need to represent Israel in a way that people of all religions would feel connected and comfortable, according to Loyola University Chicago Hillel Director Patti Ray.
"The students wanted to highlight the multicultural and multifaceted dimensions of Israel," Ray said. "For example, there is also a pop culture element with a Coca-Cola bottle in Hebrew, a Coke Hebrew t-shirt and some falafel mix."
Framed by the Israeli flag, the first exhibit case has at its center a large poster displaying scenes of prayer in Israel from every faith. The second exhibit case reflects Israeli youth, with a hookah in prominent display, a satellite map of Israel, an overview arrangement of Israel's universities and Israeli beach scenes. The display also includes informational cards that highlight Israel's multiculturalism and little-known facts about the country.
The Jewish students at Loyola feel that these displays of Israeli culture that been very successful in bringing knowledge about Israel to both Jews and non-Jews.
"It is exciting that Hillel really does have a presence on campus. Hopefully, raising awareness will lead to peace in the future," said student Alyssa Zeller.
"Not only do these kinds of projects represent a different approach to the issue of Israel advocacy, they give students who may feel isolated from Israel issues something to be a part of and proud of. Even students who do not agree with Israel's policies and actions can appreciate a small taste of Israel's culture," junior Kevin Gafni said. Stephanie Burton is a senior at The George Washington University and an intern in Hillel's communications department.