Over 130 study abroad students in Israel gathered for a festive Thanksgiving dinner at the Park Hotel, hosted by Hillel Israel and the Jewish Federations of North America, and generously sponsored by the Bruce Kaufman Endowment Fund. The evening was a lavish affair with a traditional American menu and Thanksgiving decorations with a special Israeli touch. In addition to incorporating Jewish sources focused on giving thanks, this year's Thanksgiving dinner also featured a variety of entertainment options including a live band and a dance party.
This annual Jerusalem tradition was also made available to study abroad students from Tel Aviv University and the IDC Herzliya who sought an opportunity to celebrate this traditional family holiday far from home and to meet their peers from other universities.
Miriam Sharaby of Hebrew University Hillel welcomed the crowd and presented students with myriad opportunities to share the Thanksgiving spirit and participate in one of Hillel's service initiatives, such as the Giveret im Salim project in Jerusalem in which students help elderly shoppers carry their purchases home from the Machaneh Yehuda market or Tel Aviv Hillel's food rescue program.
The evening program featured greetings from Hillel Israel CEO David Ya'ari, divrei Torah from two students, and remarks from Hillel President Emeritus Avraham Infeld. Adding to the festive atmosphere, the Diwan haLev band provided musical entertainment during dinner and afterwards at the dance party, blending Israeli elements into an American holiday. Fire jugglers added a magical aura to the event, in addition to the mimes and clowns.
Arlene Kaufman and her husband Sandy Baklor, a member of Hillel's International Board of Directors, joined the celebration this year. Their ongoing support has enabled this dinner to take place over the past number of years and their presence was a real inspiration for the students.
Hebrew University Hillel Director Heli Tabibi expressed her satisfaction with the beautiful turnout and the success of the evening. "I am thankful that we can make a Thanksgiving dinner for overseas students who probably miss their family celebrations back in America. We hope these students will continue to see Hillel as their home-away-from-home."