Last month saw the gathering of 150 Russian Hillel students, who came from eight Russian cities to the historic city of Yaroslavl to take part in Hillel Summer University.
Made possible with generous support from the UJA Federation of New York, Hillel Summer University is an annual project by Hillel Russia, which gathers Hillel activists who have demonstrated an impact on the local Jewish community during the past year to hone their engagement skills, strengthen their Jewish education and learn best practices during a four-day seminar.
The program combines workshops in leadership training, project management, marketing and Jewish studies, as well as plenary speakers and informal networking among students and Hillel staff.
After the conference, all the participants submit proposals for innovation grants – awarded by their local Hillel director – for their own programs.
More than 60 such projects have already been implemented over the last two years, in areas ranging from Jewish cooking fests, travel to Jewish sites, volunteer projects and even Jewish camping.
“Hillel summer university is the ideal seminar combining learning and informal dialogue leading to friendships beyond geographical borders and time zones. I am happy to be with hundreds of cool, smart, enthusiastic people and drawing encouragement from our interactions,” said Hillel activist Tanya Samoylova of Novosibirsk.
Yosef Mendelevitz shows how he fashioned a homemade yarmulke while serving 11 years in a Soviet prison for trying to commandeer a passenger plane to flee the Iron Curtain for Israel.
Egor Odintsov, founder of Moscow’s Jewish Film Festival, shares his success story, and explains how one small idea can spread.
In a team building exercise, Hillel Russia students try to count coins without looking at the coins, or each other.
A Hillel activist gives a d’var Torah on Shabbat.
Can a group of people tie a single knot together?
Text by Viola Matevosyan
Images by Hillel Russia