Minnesota Hillel Wins Award, Kicks Off Jewish Culture Week

It’s a good year to be Minnesota Hillel.

On April 2, the campus organization won Most Innovative Program for their Israel Exploration Mission, a trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories for non-Jewish student leaders, at the Tony Diggs Awards. The Awards are an annual ceremony that highlights the work of student groups at the University of Minnesota.

This is Hillel’s second award for Israel programming in the 2018-19 school year, having won the Israel Education and Engagement Award at the Hillel International Global Assembly back in December.

“I am proud that our Hillel continues to work for a more productive campus environment around the topic of Israel/Palestinian Territories,” said Benjie Kaplan, Minnesota Hillel’s executive director, “and that both Hillel International and the University of Minnesota Student Union and Activities office have honored us this year with Excellence Awards for our work in this space.”

Mackenzie Litt, Hillel’s assistant director, was also nominated for the Outstanding Student Group Advisor award at the Tony Diggs Awards.

“Mackenzie has been so helpful in leadership and helping me get the most out of my Hillel experience,” said Abby Flekier, a freshman at the University of Minnesota. “[Hillel] has become a priority in my college life here at Minnesota.”

Not an organization to just win awards and let them sit on the shelf, this week Minnesota Hillel is hosting Jewish Culture Week on campus.

The festivities were kicked off with Good Deeds day on Sunday, April 7, where students came together to donate blood and register bone marrow, and packed menstrual care products for Period.MN, a student group working to provide menstrual care products to communities in need.

Like most Jewish events, food is a major theme to much of Jewish Culture Week, with students serving Matzoh Ball soup on the Washington Avenue bridge on Monday, and baklava and babka at the same location on Wednesday. A challah bake will also be held on Thursday.

“Jewish Culture Week is important for campus because it allows students and anybody to observe and understand what our culture entails, and the community we have built and established on campus,” said Hannah Ballen, a junior at the U.

“We want others to be involved so we can have conversations and create friendships,” she said. “It’s a time where I feel I can proudly advocate for, and represent, my culture and religion and show my friends one of the most valuable aspects of my identity.”

As with every Friday, Hillel will wrap up the week with Shabbat services and dinner at their home on University Avenue.