Academy Award-winning actor and activist Michael Douglas announced in June that Hillel International would be the first grant recipient of the inclusivity initiative launched by the Genesis Prize Foundation and himself.
Hillel International is using the Genesis Prize grant to expand our initiative to engage a diverse range of students in Jewish life and build inclusive communities on campus. The program is supporting this week's annual Hillel Institute conference, where 230 student engagement interns from more than 40 college campuses are being trained in ways to engage their peers and create welcoming communities. These engagement interns will spend the academic year on their own campuses, building relationships with students of all backgrounds and bringing them into the Hillel family. Hillel’s engagement goal is to reach 15,000 new Jewish students, including more than 7,000 students from intermarried families.
Below, read the letter Michael Douglas wrote to Hillel's engagement interns who were trained last week at Washington University in St. Louis.
Dear Hillel students,
When accepting the 2015 Genesis Prize in Jerusalem, I spoke of my heritage proudly; my father is Jewish, my mother was not. My journey to this point was a long time in the making, but along the way there have been a number of key moments and people in my life that pointed me in the right direction, and that led to me being able to say these four words with great pride: I am a Jew.
The work you are doing on campus is important work. You have the privilege of being people who include and inspire your peers to explore their own Jewishness. You have the opportunity to engage Jews in your diverse networks, including those from intermarried backgrounds, and to welcome them to all that is beautiful and complicated within the Jewish culture.
I am proud that you are committing a year to this work. I am proud that funding from my Genesis Prize is contributing to your work. I hope the values and lessons you learn along the way are ones you actualize throughout your entire life.