More than 400 Jewish student activists from across North America participated in the Charlotte and Jack J. Spitzer B'nai B'rith Hillel Forum on Public Policy, the largest attendance in the event's 12-year history. The conference took place at the Mayflower Hotel, February 25-27.
The young people attended workshops and lectures in a variety of domestic and foreign policy areas, including hunger, homelessness, illiteracy and the environment. They were not only studying the issues in depth but learned how they can be more effective in bringing about social change on campus and in their communities.
"I think the record level of attendance reflects Hillel's growing emphasis on issues of tzedek or social justice," explains Hillel President and International Director Richard M. Joel. "We are providing more resources to the campuses to promote advocacy and community service and students are rising to the challenge."
- A coffeehouse featuring readings by "Miriam's Poets" a group of formerly homeless men and women.
- A visit to the Lincoln Memorial and a discussion of the biblical sources of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
- The Glenn and Darcy Weiner Lectureship on Public Policy featuring Nancy Lublin, the founder of Dress for Success, an organization that gives women clothing to help them enter the workforce.
- A speech by Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX).
In addition to workshops and plenary sessions, the students joined with representatives from the Jewish Council on Public Affairs to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The conference was held in conjunction with the JCPA Plenum and the Mark and Sharon Bloome Jewish Environmental Leadership Institute of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. A group of 40 students are participated in a special environmental track sponsored by COEJL. Pulitzer-Prize winners and prominent editors of Jewish publications instructed student journalists as part of J-Track, a program sponsored by Hillel, the American Jewish Press Service and the Jewish Student Press Service.
Hillel has increased its emphasis on social justice since 1998 when it launched its Tzedek Hillel initiative, a major public service effort dedicated to pursuing justice and transforming communities through community partnership, advocacy, service and education. Each Tzedek Hillel implements a public service effort based on a strategic action plan. Tzedek Hillel is sponsored by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. The Tzedek Hillel campuses are: Brandeis University, Brown-RISD Hillel Foundation, Columbia University and Barnard College, The George Washington University, Hillel of Greater Baltimore, Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College Hillel, The Ohio State University, St. Louis Hillel at Washington University*, The Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, NYU Hillel, Rochester Area Hillel Foundation, The Granoff Family Hillel Center, Tufts University, University of California, Santa Barbara Hillel Foundation, The Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Hillel Center for Jewish Life at the University of Maryland, College Park, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin Hillel.
The largest Jewish campus organization in the world, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, is committed to creatively empowering and engaging Jewish students through its network of over 500 regional centers, campus Foundations and affiliates. Its long-standing dedication to building Jewish identity, while nurturing intellectual and spiritual growth in a pluralistic community, positions Hillel as a leader in building a stronger Jewish people and stronger Jewish future.