Four students from across North America will represent Hillel at Inaugural Festivities in Washington, D.C., as part of Hillel’s participation in the National Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The young people are all recent participants in Taglit-Birthright Israel programs or Hillel’s alternative break service programs who submitted essays, multi-media presentations, editorials or blogs to Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone describing their experiences.
Stephanie Shainker, an alternative break to New Orleans participant from University of Delaware, and Derek Kwait, a Taglit-Birthright Israel participant from University of Pittsburgh, were selected to attend the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. Eric Niederman, an alternative break to New Orleans participant from Hofstra University, and Nazgol Ashouri, an alternative break in Israel participant and MBA student from Santa Clara University, were selected to attend President-Elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration on Tuesday.
Many of the students' writings reflect on their experiences of traveling throughout Israel or on how they helped to rebuild New Orleans. The students show how not only have they impacted the communities they visited and worked with, but how they, too, were tremendously affected.
Reflecting on her Taglit-Birthright Israel experience sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the Negev, U.C. Stanta Barbara student Lauren Zabel writes: "Those unimaginably ancient stars made me feel at home and at peace. I was no longer in this group but completely alone, completely in the dark, completely still, and completely quiet... I knew right then and there, underneath those glistening stars, that Israel was truly my homeland. I knew then that I had taken an important step in coming here but for that step to count it would have to be followed by many more."
New Orleans participant Stef Millman from University of Delaware comments: "I never could have imagined the impact this trip had on me would be more significant than the other trips I've taken with my public high school, but it was. I connected with my peers on a deeper level because of the team-building, the reflecting, and the time we spent really considering what our mission was."
Service trip participants' reflections (PDF File 330Kb).
Taglit-Birthright Israel participants' stories (PDF File 212Kb).
[Require Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or higher.]
View Eric Niederman's YouTube video documentary on Hofstra University’s alternative break trip to New Orleans.
Jordan Leventhal from Cleveland Hillel also created a YouTube video of his experiences.