First Hillels at Israeli Regional Colleges in Peripheral Regions
(WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sept. 17) Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life will make its first foray into Israel’s growing regional college system with the opening of new centers at Sapir College in the southern town of Sderot, Tel Hai College in the northern Galilee, and Jezreel Valley College near Afula. The centers join a growing Hillel presence at seven major Israeli universities.
The three colleges are located in Israel’s periphery, away from the larger population centers in Israel’s coastal region and center. Like their university counterparts, regional colleges in Israel are accredited to offer bachelor’s degrees, though they are similar to U.S. community colleges in their affordability and locally-based student population.
“The periphery of Israel has been neglected for too long,” said Rabbi Yossie Goldman, director of Hillel Israel. “The regional college movement has been experiencing a growth curve for the past few years. That’s where the leadership of the State of Israel is developing and that’s where we need to be.”
Goldman said the expansion of Hillel’s Israeli operations into the regional colleges comes in the midst of a surge in popular demand. “Not a week passes without our receiving requests from students and administrators in regional colleges regarding the possibility of developing a Hillel presence in their schools,” said Goldman. “This is our next growth area and the next stage of our Israeli operation.”
Yossi Ciechanover, chairman of Hillel Israel, has long advocated for the expansion of Hillel in Israel. “There is hardly any academic institution that hasn’t approached me about establishing a Hillel center at their campus,” he said, “Now we don’t have to convince deans and directors about the importance of Hillel.”
Ciechanover believes Hillel provides a place for students from both Israel and abroad to get together, discuss political and social problems and meet the leaders who are working to solve them.
“During the past few years of our activities in Israel, we’ve seen Israeli university students inspiring one another through new interpretations of their Jewish identities,” said Wayne L. Firestone, president of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. “How appropriate that during this period of tremendous Israeli leadership and innovation in the sciences and the arts, Israeli students are now becoming a part of a global network of Jewish students, exploring new ways to celebrate and assert their Jewishness and transforming Jewish peoplehood from a rallying cry to a reality.”
“We see these openings as a fulfillment of modern-day Zionism,” said Goldman. “This is a very exciting development for us and a wonderful opportunity to bring about a Jewish renewal and a reawakening of Jewish identity throughout the State of Israel.”
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Israeli undergraduates studying at regional colleges has more than tripled in the past decade, from 24,300 in the 1995-1996 academic year to 82,023 in 2005-2006. Regional college students account for some forty percent of Israeli undergraduates, up from seventeen percent a decade ago, and are located on twelve campuses scattered throughout the country.
The largest Jewish campus organization in the world, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life seeks to inspire every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life through its network of more than 500 campus foundations, program centers and affiliates. Hillel enriches the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students of all backgrounds so they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.