From Moscow to Jerusalem, Anchorage to Rwanda and Montevideo to New York City, Hillel's 85th Birthday celebration on June 14, 2009 was felt worldwide. Keeping with the event's "spread the light" theme, Hillels outside of North America brought the festive celebration to thousands of Hillel's students and supporters situated in all corners of the globe.
Moscow Hillel Students Celebrate Hillel’s 85th Birthday by releasing balloons filled with birthday wishes.
"There are 85 birthday celebrations taking place in more than 40 cities and on four continents in honor of Hillel's 85th birthday today," said Hillel International President Wayne L. Firestone during the live birthday webcasts. "As Hillel begins its next 85 years the 'globalization trend' is Hillel's next big step."
In a departure from Hillel's usual annual gala, this year Hillel supporters, staff and students held separate local birthday parties united via live webcasts broadcasted from Washington, DC. The broadcasts featured English, Hebrew, Russian and Spanish birthday wishes from those attending in DC and online posts from those joining virtually from around the world. (view broadcast)
In addition to the virtual global party, international Hillels found dozens of creative ways to celebrate the birthday in their own communities using Hillel the Sage and Jewish values as a guide.
Kiev Hillel Simultaneously Celebrates 85 years of Hillel International and 13 years since the founding of Kiev Hillel.
In the former Soviet Union, the number "85" took on new meaning as Moscow Hillel students participated in a text study and then released 85 balloons filled with Hillel birthday messages at a local park. St. Petersburg students planted 85 flowers near a children's orphanage, while students from Simferepol, Ukraine delivered 85 chocolate bars to the Hillel's new neighbors and Sevastopol Hillel, also in Ukraine, lit 85 candles in the city's main square.
Several other Hillels in the region simultaenously celebrated Hillel's 85th Birthday and their own milestone year, including Hillel Russia's 15th birthday, Kiev Hillel's 13th birthday, which attracted nearly 300 participants, and Kharkov Hillel's 12th birthday. These Hillels commemorated the events through Jewish learning sessions and festive parties to showcase the impact Hillel has made on the lives of students.
"Hillel is my life, my second family and my lifestyle" exclaimed Yulia Gorbunova, a participant in Dnepropetrovsk Hillel's birthday Shabbat.
A variety of celebrations were held in Israel, including an interview with President Firestone on Sapir College's weekly radio show, a study session at Pardes Institute in Jerusalem and a special assembly at Tel Aviv Hillel's closing Zachor v'Kabed program, where students shared Hillel's impact on their Jewish identity.
"Hillel has given me the opportunity to come and learn, but most of all to face my conscience and live with a full heart, knowing that my life will add a little bit of 'giving' to a world that is mostly 'taking'," said Alon Shnayderman a student active in Tel Aviv Hillel. "I wish that everyone would feel this way!"
In the the southern hemisphere, student actors and vocalists from Hillel Latin America showcased their talents in honor of the occasion by pledging 85 hours of theater perfomance for at-risk children. Hillel Latin America also celebrated by throwing a birthday party and singing "Happy Birthday" with local children in San Pedro Norte during Hillel Latin America's first regional tzedek trip. (view video)
200 Taglit-Birthright Israel students form the number "85" on the Jordan River.
Even North American students traveling during the birthday festivities celebrated this important milestone. Over 200 Taglit-Birthright Israel summer participants formed a human "85" while gathered at the Jordan River bank and Tufts University Hillel students delivered 85 children's books to an orphanage in Rwanda during a trip led by Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Tufts University, and Jeff Summit, Tufts Hillel Director.
While each region marked the occassion in their own unique way, every activity was connected to the greater global celebration, a trend Hillel hopes to strengthen in the future. As the global celebrations continue to "spread the light" around the world, Hillels will be posting photos, videos and personal messages on the Hillel at 85 Blog.
Global Celebration Highlights
S dnyom rozhdeniya! Yom Huledet Sameach! Feliz Cumpleanos!
Here's just a sampling of the dozens of birthday events held at Hillels around the world.
"On behalf of the entire Khabarovsk Jewish community, we wish to congratulate you and all Hillel students and staff around the world on the 85th anniversary of the opening of the first Hillel. Your active presence at many universities worldwide, and especially in Khabarovsk, gives students an opportunity to grow both as Jews and as contributing members of society so that they are prepared to face the challenges that life puts in their way."
Ilya Baru, Director, Hillel Khabarovsk
• Moscow Hillel: Text study program and concluding ceremony in which 85 multi-colored balloons were released into the sky
• Regional: A series of communities around Russia compiled a commemorative birthday video with special messages from local students and young professionals. (view video)
• Saint-Petersburg Hillel: Student volunteers painted murals to brighten the walls of a local pediatric hospital, including a balloon bouquet commemorating Hillel's 85th birthday
• Hillel Khabarovsk: Hillel 85th birthday cakes were distributed to local Jewish organizations; Havdalah ceremony with Jewish learning focused on the teachings of Rabbi Hillel
Hillel CASE (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)
"We join in celebrating the 85th birthday of Hillel. Dnepropetrovsk Hillel students wish to congratulate all of their Hillel peers abroad. Mazel Tov, Hillel!"
Olga Tovkach, Director, Hillel Dnepropetrovsk
• Kharkov Hillel (Ukraine): Celebrated alongside the 12th birthday of Kharkov Hillel; song, skit and dance performances during a "Generation to Generation" event, which attracted hundreds of Hillel students and alumni (pictures)
• Minsk Hillel (Belarus): Hosted "Jubilee Day" as part of family camp to educate all participants about Hillel's history and learn about Rabbi Hillel
• Dnepropetrovsk Hillel (Ukraine): Special Shabbat dedicated to Hillel's birthday on Friday, June 12, 2009; a party on Saturday and a lecture for at least 85 students about Rabbi Hillel and his teaching by local representative of the religious community
• Lvov Hillel (Ukraine): Program called "85" featured a two-day quest about Hillel history and learning
"Students, staff, lay leaders and alumni join in celebrating Hillel's 85th birthday. We are very proud to be part of the great, world-wide Hillel family and feel privileged to carry the banner of Hillel in the State of Israel. May we continue to grow from strength to strength, focusing on the present and future of our people. Mazel tov, Hillel!"
Rabbi Yossie Goldman, Director General, Hillel Israel
• Sapir Hillel: Hillel International President Wayne L. Firestone was interviewed on Monday, June 8, 2009 during Sapir College's weekly radio station about Hillel's 85th Birthday (view)
• Hillel at Tel Aviv: Students shared Hillel memories at Tel Aviv's end of the year activity, Zachor v'Kabed: Remembering the Past and Honoring the Present through Study and Personal Contact; Zachor v'Kabed is a national Hillel Israel project in which students learn about Holocaust-related issues and do volunteer work with Holocaust survivors
• Pardes Institute (Jerusalem): Hillel staff and friends of Hillel studying at Pardes this summer tuned into the morning webcast on Sunday, June 14, 2009 and then held a study session together, featuring University of California-Berkeley Hillel Senior Jewish Educator David Kasher
• Taglit-Birthright Israel: Over 200 Taglit-Birthright Israel participants arranged themselves into the number "85" to celebrate Hillel's 85th birthday on the banks of the Jordan River
Hillel Latin America
"The Hillels in Latin America are thrilled to be sharing in Hillel's 85th birthday! We are bringing today's celebration to the Southern Hemisphere with Hillel birthday parties and events in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. The festivities will continue throughout the month to commemorate Hillel's 85 years!"
Gaby Trajtenberg, Regional Director, Hillel Latin America
• Regional: Thirty student participants in Hillel Latin America's first Regional Tzedek trip recorded birthday wishes while celebrating with local children in San Pedro Norte. (video)
• Hillel Argentina: Hillel theater group pledged to conduct 85 hours of performance for at-risk children
• Hillel Uruguay: hundreds of students came to Hillel to celebrate the 85th with the live webcast followed by a concert from a local band on Sunday, June 14, 2009
• Hillel Argentina: Buenos Aires local students and their American study abroad peers celebrated together with pizza, jazz and new friends