A year and a half ago when I first started the interview process to become an Israel fellow I never imagined that my experience would be so powerful and inspiring.
The only thing I knew of Minnesota when I got the interview was that Brandon and Brenda from 90210 came from Minnesota. But after a long research process and a great interview, I was heading to the Twin Cities!
My first adjustment to life in America might be a little surprising: everyone here speaks English. I think, speak and dream in Hebrew; so it takes more time to form a sentence and express an opinion. The best way to overcome this problem, I’ve found, is by having a great working environment! My co-workers and the amazing Hillel students helped me with my transition and got me to feel comfortable with life here very quickly.
I also had to adjust my understanding of student life in America compared to student life in Israel—and on the top of that try to create the campus Israel program for the year. By the time they start school, a majority of Israeli students are IDF veterans and in their late twenties. Over here, most of the students come to college right after their high school graduation. It’s often their first time living away from their parents – this is why Hillel tries to be like a second Jewish home for them, helping them get used to life as Jewish adults by celebrating Shabbats and holidays, and forming a Jewish community on campus.
I am very lucky to be the first Israel fellow at Minnesota Hillel! I got to create my own program and to bring Israel to the university’s campus by creating programs based on the common things I found with my students. For example, we talked about the Israeli elections, we watched Israeli movies, and ate Israeli food. All of those programs, and much more, came from the interest expressed by the Jewish students on campus, and from the hard successful work of Hillel’s leadership team.
On the top of that, it was a very exciting year for Minnesota Hillel. With our building renovations, and the growing involvement of students on campus, there is no surprise why over 400 people came to our 1st annual Maroon & Gold Shabbat a couple weeks ago; and more and more students are choosing to participate in the various programs that we have to offer.
I also got to participate in and help organize the Supporting Israel Month on campus! During April, the growing working relationship between Hillel and Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at the University of Minnesota reached new levels by being the first school in the country to dedicate a whole month to Israel! With over chai (18) programs in one month, students at the U were able to find their connection to Israel according to what interests them! A couple of highlights from our month was an event we had with Assi Azar, TV host and Israeli LGBTQIA icon, talking about his life story and sharing his point of view of life in Israel. Another event that we had was a ceremony for IDF Memorial Day, followed by a conversation with two Israeli soldiers who told us about their experience in the IDF and answered our questions. Plus, we had Israeli independence celebrations with a very festive tabling on campus, Israeli Shabbat, and, according to the Israeli tradition, a huge Sunday afternoon kosher BBQ!
Another highlight of my year would be the great Taglit-Birthright Israel trip we had over winter break! For the first time ever, a whole Minnesotan-only Birthright bus traveled across the holy land showcasing Israel to our students. They got to experience firsthand the special connection between Jews and Israel. One moment that I will never forget is the spontaneous block party we had in the middle of the Shuk (market) during a rare snowstorm in Jerusalem.
If you are a student at the U or any other Twin Cities college—or about to become one—Hillel is your home! You are always welcome for any event we have, and we will be more than happy to spend our time getting to know you!
Lastly, I would like to say THANK YOU! Thanks to all of the students who spent time with me and welcomed me into their lives. With every cup of coffee and every conversation, you got into my heart more and more! Thanks to all of Hillel’s leadership team for their hard work and endless hours of caring for pro-Israel life on campus. And a special thanks to my co-workers Benjie, Justin and Jessie for creating a safe environment for students to grow, and for dreams to come true!
I’m heading back to Israel to pursue my dreams and become a lawyer, but this experience was the best I could ever wish for it to be! Most importantly, I made lifelong friends and created special connection with the TC community!
I know that Minnesota Hillel is on his right path. While I got the honor of being the first Israel fellow here, I know that there will be a lot more in the future. Israel will always be a part of the Minnesota Hillel community!