This year, we welcomed 27 first year students to campus a day before the official move-in for new students! With the help of ten sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the new students got to go on a scavenger hunt of campus, bowling, and on a hike up Mt. Sugarloaf. Since August, many of the participants have returned to Hillel as Birthright participants, Shabbat service leaders, Student Council members, and more! We can't wait to see where they go and what they do next.
We were honored and blessed to be gifted with a beautiful new Torah, thanks to the generosity of Ira Lipman, in honor of his mother, of blessed memory. In attendance were a slew of distinguished guests, including Mr. Lipman and his sons; Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Hillel International; and many of our own board members and students. Watch the video above to see the lovely ceremony for yourself!
Back in November, students from Hillel and the Muslim Student Association partnered with UMass Dining on an event celebrating the similar food traditions between the two faiths. Students, faculty, staff, families, and more gathered in Franklin Dining Hall for a delicious kosher/halal meal.
The evening provided an opportunity for everyone to sample global foods, while also mingling with their peers and joining the conversation about kosher and halal customs. The menu included chicken tikka, beef rending, Moroccan fish, kugel and more.
This past winter, we had three groups of students spend time in Israel: two Birthright buses and a trip sponsored by the David Project. Read below to hear perspectives from participants on each trip:
From Bus 9: "I had an amazing experience on Birthright. I really enjoyed meeting other Jews from UMass that I got the opportunity to return with and keep up our friendship outside of Israel. I was looking for a bigger and closer Jewish community and I achieved that through going on Birthright with UMass. Additionally, I love Israel and always have so I did not have the first time experience like many others did but I loved seeing fellow students fall in love with the country and want to go back and participate in pro-Israel activities back on campus and continue their learning through classes or participate in other trips to Israel through Onward or interning for Birthright. I am always looking to go back so after I went I was determined to participate in the David Project and currently I am an intern and will hopefully get the opportunity to go next winter and see more of my fellow peers fall in love with a country that means so much to me."
- Carmela Dobrusin
From the David Project: "Growing up Catholic, I came into the trip unsure of how I could connect to a self-proclaimed Jewish State. Beginning with a visit of the Church of the Beatitudes I was quickly able to feel a connection with my own faith which was unforeseeable just days before. Understanding this feeling, I was then able to instantly relate to those around me as they made the connections with their own faiths. I was never aware how multicultural Israel was, especially within the Old City of Jerusalem. Through the opportunity to view sites from various faiths and interact with those of different beliefs who maintained a genuine enthusiasm for their cultures, I was able to recognize how Israel’s culture is designed to instill coexistence nationwide."
- Tim (read more here)
From Bus 218: "I often wondered if one could be Jewish yet non-religious, if it were possible to keep my Jewish identity without holding religious beliefs. During my Birthright trip, I found a surprisingly simple answer. Traveling to Israel allowed me to discover that being Jewish can be whatever you make of it. I felt as though I uncovered a part of my identity that had long been forgotten. As a child, being Jewish meant attending Hebrew school and services, making it easy to forget in the years following my final religious experience. I figured going on Birthright would be similar, so I wasn’t expecting to rekindle my relationship with Judaism. To my surprise, with every Israeli city I traveled to, I felt increasingly connected to my identity, however this time seeing it as my heritage rather than religion. When I was younger, my relatives shared stories about their summers spent in Israel as young adults. These stories would pop into my head throughout the trip, reminding me that by choosing to go on Birthright, I was carrying on a family tradition, experiencing the same things I had been hearing about my whole life. I had learned in Hebrew school about much of the sites I saw in Israel, yet I found myself using this knowledge to better understand the culture of the Jewish people rather than anything spiritual. I now have a better understanding about my heritage and greater enthusiasm in learning about the culture in which modern day Jews live. Experiencing Israel forever changed my view on not only Judaism but myself and my roots."
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