This piece was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. Read the full issue and sign up for your FREE copy of the next issue at hillel.org/magazine.
College students are saving lives through bone marrow donations. They are planting trees, volunteering in soup kitchens, and raising money for charity. And on Alternative Break experiences, they are immersing themselves in domestic and global communities in order to learn about and actively combat social justice issues. But students can’t do all of this amazing work alone. That’s where Hillel comes in. On these campuses across North America, students have access to a myriad of social action opportunities. If giving back to your community and the world is important to you, one of these schools could be your perfect match.
Eckerd College Hillel
“Scubi Jew” is Eckerd College Hillel’s Scuba Club, working to inspire the next generation of young Jewish marine environmental activists. From diving with sharks in the Bahamas to restoring coral in Key Largo, Scubi Jew is raising awareness of the threats to the world’s oceans through a Jewish prism. This summer, Scubi Jew is hosting a Jewish Scuba Camp for middle and high school students, and is running the first ever Taglit-Birthright “Israel Underwater” trip.
Maryland Hillel views Social Justice as one of its defining pillars. Through its extensive Alternative Break program, students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in new local and global communities in order to learn about and actively combat social justice issues, hear from experts, and explore Jewish thoughts on social justice. The Breaks inspire students to understand their role in the world and their ability to make change. In conjunction with the AB program, Maryland Hillel offers a plethora of local volunteer opportunities for students to make an immediate and on-going impact on the community around them through community service initiatives, fellowships, and classes on social change.
Since 2005, Hillel at the University of Missouri, Columbia (Mizzou), in partnership with the University's Women's Center and other campus groups, has hosted a Social Justice Seder, combining the traditional Passover Seder meal with discussions about current societal issues and messages of action and hope. Mizzou Hillel's growing social action programming includes our weekly Hillel Sandwich lunch group and a new Alternative Spring Break program with the Institute for Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, MS.
Hillel at Ohio University
Since 2009, Hillel at Ohio University has hosted hundreds of “Got Swabbed” Bone Marrow Drives and entered more than 15,000 students, staff, faculty, and community members into the national bone marrow registry through the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. Of those now in the registry, more than 25 members of the Ohio University family have donated their bone marrow and saved the lives of infants, teens, adults, and the elderly. Visit www.giftoflife.org/dc/HillelIntl to learn how Hillel students from around the world are saving lives.
Penn State Hillel
Penn State Hillel is an active partner in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Raising funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer, Hillel students are able to experience the value of tzedakah (giving). Funds raised by Hillel students have paid for everything from birthday gifts for the children to cancer treatments not covered by insurance. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $127 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
Hillel of San Diego
Through Mitzvah Day, now in its 18th year, Hillel of SD annually organizes 10-12 projects for upwards of 100 people. Participants include alumni and members of a variety of campus organizations. From beach cleanups to fixing up the homes of the elderly to serving meals at soup kitchens, everyone loves helping the local community.
The White Rose Society (WRS) is Texas Hillel’s genocide awareness and Holocaust remembrance organization, focused on learning about and taking action against global injustice and human rights violations. WRS volunteers with local refugee rights organizations, educates about and acts for human rights campaigns and hosts domestic and international activists and genocide survivors to share their stories, with a focus on Darfur, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria. During their annual “10,000 roses” event, members and volunteers distribute 10,000 roses across campus to represent the number of Jews murdered in one day in Auschwitz.
“Read by the River” is Tufts Hillel’s campus-wide initiative that celebrates the love of books and reading. Each spring, more than 200 students volunteer at a literacy carnival on campus featuring fun reading-related activities in collaboration with local libraries and schools. The event welcomes 1,200 local children in grades K through 5 and their families.
University of Vermont Hillel
For the past three years, UVM students have spent time serving their adopted community through a locally-based alternative break, exploring issues of food justice and food security through a Jewish lens of tzedek (justice) in Vermont. Designed by students and staff, the trip works through a "ladder" of food justice, starting with emergency need and concluding the week looking at the role of advocacy and policy making in influencing poverty and hunger. The participants build lasting relationships with the organizations they serve over break and continue to partner with these organizations throughout the school year.
Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia
Since 2011, Challah for Hunger at UVa has baked and sold over 10,500 loaves of challah and raised $35,968 for hunger relief locally and abroad. Half of this money has been donated to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, providing 61,932 meals for local residents, with the additional funds going to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Challah for Hunger is a non-profit that brings people together to bake and sell challah in an effort to raise money and awareness for social justice causes. Challah for Hunger engages students on 77 campuses across the US and globally, and 68% of their chapters partner with Hillel on campus. Visit http://challahforhunger.org/ to learn more.