Students participate in Hillel Alternative Break in Rio de Janeiro.
Hillel's immersion experiences are getting better and better.
By reaching out to new community partners and expanding existing relationships, Hillel is finding new ways to make Jewish life come alive for students, whether they want to visit Israel, work on a farm, or serve the community.
Now working with eight additional Taglit-Birthright Israel organizers to accommodate campus-based trips, Hillel will increase its 2009-2010 student participation capacity by nearly 900 students.
"Taglit-Birthright Israel has become a right-of-passage for Jewish college and university students to explore their Jewish identity and connect with Jewish peers," says Andrea Hoffman, Hillel's director of Immersion Experiences. "Working in partnership with numerous trip organizers, we are thrilled to provide these experiences for as many students as possible."
Hillel is also working with Hillels in Latin America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Jewish National Fund (JNF), American Jewish World Service (AJWS), Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) and the Jewish Farm School (JFS) to provide more than 2,000 students with transformative, service learning experiences focused on meeting community needs around the world.
Hillel is also developing new domestic and international Alternative Break opportunities. A recent partnership with City Year, a secular national service organization, and new funding from Repair the World, a leading voice, advocate and resource provider for the value and power of Jewish service, will allow more students to explore and support various communities, people and needs - whether around the corner or around the world.
This past year, Hillel launched a Los Angeles-based pilot project with City Year in partnership with the AEPi Fraternity. Fueled by the success of this initial venture, Hillel is expanding the project to three cities this academic year - New York, Miami, and Los Angeles - to create four one-week trips for 200 students. Students will participate in a minimum of 25 hours of community service while also learning about issues facing the community and exploring Jewish thought and ethics, as well as some traditional "spring break" activities - time at the beach in Miami, enjoying Central Park in New York, and star-searching in Los Angeles.
"The creation of Repair the World and the visibility and funding it has infused into Alternative Breaks enable Hillel to truly meet its vision - enriching the lives of students so that they may enrich the world," explains Michelle Lackie, director, Weinberg Tzedek Hillel.
The immersion experience is only one point in Hillel's association with students. Hillel campus professionals follow up with students when they return to campus to build meaningful relationships and to continue students' journeys of Jewish exploration.
"I've returned to my campus invigorated to continue my service to the community," said one student participant in last year's pilot program. "I think I speak for all the trip participants when I say that everyone was motivated to continue doing service, and helping those less fortunate in their respective communities."