Sunday, December 29, 2013

General Assembly for the Jewish Federations of North America

Hello, my name is Alexandra Nau and I am a current junior here at the University of Delaware.  I am a Human Services major with minors in Psychology and Spanish.  This semester I had the extreme privilege to travel along with another Hillel student, Samantha Rosenberg, to Israel in order to attend the General Assembly for the Jewish Federations of North America.  In a week and a half, we were able to experience the culture of our Judaism, network with people throughout the world, and become truly inspired by everything we were a part of.  As the newly elected President of Hillel Student Life, I am completely energized and ready to implement many of the things I learned from the trip into our current campus culture.  

With the help of much generous sponsorship from Hillel, the Jewish Federation as well as my local synagogue in my hometown, this trip of a lifetime became possible.  Samantha and I traveled as the student representatives for our local Delaware Federation, with about 25 other adult Federation representatives.  While we were a little apprehensive about how the adults would interact with us, we were extremely grateful that they welcomed our pair into their group with open arms.  By the end of the trip, we felt as if we had gained an entire family that we continue to grow with after our return to the United States.  As a current college student, this is something I am so appreciative of.  I feel as if I now have a local community I can connect and return to even after I graduate.

The trip culminated at the end of the week, with the 3-day international General Assembly conference.  We were able to hear speakers like Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, and attend breakout sessions on topics like disability inclusion in the Jewish community, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as Young Emerging Leadership.  Our opportunities to meet other people and network ares also something we are so lucky to have completed.  Every time we experienced something new, I kept pinching myself to make sure it was really happening!

I cannot even begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who helped me travel to the land of milk and honey.  To have people believe in you, with confidence that you will represent their organizations in another country is the ultimate form of flattery and respect.  Hillel continues to open my eyes, expand my knowledge, and give me opportunities to travel and experience culture. This trip is something I will be able to take with me in my future endeavors for years to come, while igniting my passion for the Jewish community.  With so many changes going on in the upcoming years as I figure out my life as a professional, I know with confidence Hillel has prepared me more ways than I can count.  How many college juniors can say that?

-Alexandra Nau, Class of 2015

20th Anniversary Event - Abraham Foxman of the Anti-defamation League

Most college students have a narrow perspective of the world around us, as we devote all of our energy and attention to our overwhelming schoolwork, demanding extracurricular activities and our busy social lives. Our Internet activity generally revolves around multiple Facebook logins, constantly checking to see if our exam grades are posted and probably some online shopping. Global anti-Semitism, the war on terrorism, church/state issues, religious intolerance and issues relating to the Holocaust are rarely the top items in a typical college student's search history - nor in the list of priorities to deeply consider. 

However, Monday, October 28th, Abraham Foxman asked us to change this and to look deeper into the world around us, perhaps beyond the 3 square miles of this beautiful campus. On what would be a typical Monday night for me, he offered an intimate and compelling lecture that forced me to reconsider my own perspective on the world. 
Mr. Foxman revealed his personal history, living as a young child during the Holocaust and how he was so personally affected by the experience. It was then evident to me that much of his passion and hard work that he has devoted to his career derives from his determination to create a world of tolerance, unlike the one through which he lived as a child. He cited numerous recent attacks on minority communities, proving how much progress is still necessary to abolish the hate in this world that drives people to such malicious acts of violence. 

Once relentlessly bullied for being Jewish by my peers throughout middle school, I rarely face anti-Semitism as a student at the University of Delaware. This is something I am incredibly grateful for and I am fortunate that this University provides a safe environment in which I feel comfortable expressing my Jewish identity in whichever ways I choose. This freedom has allowed me to sometimes overlook that this isn't the case in many other lives. Mr. Foxman reminded me that people all across this nation and this world are continuously confronted with anti-Semitism, racism and hate. He reminded me that this world is still full of hate and the work to put an end to that is still far from over. He reminded me that the future of this world is my generation and for that, our attention must broaden from our immediate surroundings to the global issues that this world is experiencing in the present. 

Hearing Mr. Foxman speak was a unique experience provided by Hillel. I looked around and realized that this message which he was sending - to look around and acknowledge that evil does exist in this world, whether we are directly affected by it or not - was being received by the hundreds of students who attended the presentation. Mr. Foxman's speech served as a wake up call and a reality check to those who heard him speak; he reminded us that we have a responsibility to acknowledge the global issues that surround us- yet are often ignored- and make a real difference in this world. 

-Emily Dale, Class of 2016

20th Anniversary Event - Eric Fingerhut CEO of Hillel

I was lucky enough to be invited to the 20th Anniversary celebration of the University of Delaware Kristol Center building this month.  This included a discussion with the CEO of Hillel, A speech by Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, and honorary co-chairs Yetta Chaiken and the Kristol family who are supporters of Hillel.  It was a great experience and it really rejuvenated my love of Hillel.  I am now a Senior and currently the President of Koach, the conservative Jewish group.  I am also currently the Hillel Communications Intern.   I have been involved since the Fall of my Freshman year.  I have met my best friends through my experience at UD Hillel, so I was very happy to celebrate its anniversary. 

I gathered in the "big room" at Hillel with my fellow leaders to have a discussion with Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel.  He was very friendly and personable.  We introduced ourselves and gave our reasons of why we love UD Hillel.  We each had unique reasons, and Mr. Fingerhut clearly enjoyed hearing them and seeing examples of how Hillel has impacted us.  Mr. Fingerhut happily answered any questions and talked about his visits to other Hillels around the country.  He asked us about how we became involved in Hillel.  Most of us, myself included, had participated in Freshman Fest, an orientation for Jewish students, which opened the door and introduced us to Hillel.  Some of us had been urged by our parents to attend Shabbat dinners to meet other Jews. Mr. Fingerhut stamped his foot and told us that he believes this is the worst thing a parent can do because it has the opposite effect.  We talked about how our Hillel is so lucky to have had two Israeli Fellows with us.  We also discussed what some other Hillels are doing and how we can strive to improve and continue to grow. 

We talked about the dynamics of Hillel, and we all agreed that for someone who has never come into the building before, it can be intimidating to walk alone into a place where everyone already has friends.  At Hillel, Jewish students should feel encouraged to participate and become involved, whether or not their parents want them to do so.  Hillel has introduced me to so many people and experiences which really have changed my life.  Jewish students should come to Hillel with an open mind and be willing to accept everything that Hillel has to offer.  

-Lindsey Calabro, Class of 2014

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bus 1058 part 4 Amy Leeds

There are really no words to describe the experience that we had with the soldiers for the last few days.  When they first stepped on the bus, I felt a rush of different emotions.  I was excited, nervous, anxious, and worried that the dynamics of our group would change because we had already made so many memories.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The soldiers completed our group. They brought with them so much knowledge, experience, excitement, and helped bring us even closer together.  I never knew that eight complete strangers who were from a different country then me could be so similar, and I was shocked and happily surprised to find out that once they were out of their uniforms, they were just like us.  Saying goodbye to them was so much more emotional then I ever expected it to be, but I am beyond happy to have made friends that have taught me so much, and inspired me to take advantage of the opportunities that I have, because unlike them I had the choice to say no to the army and chose what I wanted to do.  The soldiers were by far the best part of the trip, and I feel so lucky to have had this experience.  
Amy Leeds 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bus 1058 Sarah Dickstein

Today was such an incredible day, just like all of the other days of the trip! Today we got up at 6:30 like a normal day on bus 1058. We loaded up the bus and made our way into Jerusalem. We got some time to shop around Jerusalem and then we went on our way to the Western Wall or the Kotel. Seeing the Kotel for the first time was truly incredible. It was not as big as I expected it to be but I still took it in. When we got closer to the wall it felt more and more real. Personally I put on my long skirt, along with a few other people, and we made our way to the wall. For me, when I was able to touch the wall and put my personal note in the wall, it was probably the most connected I have ever felt to g-d. I have always dreamed of going to the Kotel growing up and learning about it in hebrew school but to actually be at the Kotel and be touching it with my bare hands felt absolutely incredible. I felt like a piece of the puzzle has been put in place. Everyone on the bus had their own special moment at the Kotel and it was very special for everyone. After we spent time at the Kotel we went off for a quick lunch break and headed over to Mt. Herzl, which is a cemetery for deceased soldiers. It was a very emotional experience for all of us and a great bonding experience to bring our bus closer than ever. We were told stories of various soldiers and how they died. The one that stuck out for me the most was the story of an American who decided to go to Israel to join the army and put his life at risk for the state of Israel. I had heard of him before and for the story to come up again was a very strong and emotional moment. When others in our group  were upset by the stories, the other members of the group were there in an instant to comfort you. It was truly incredible at how understanding everyone was while we were there and respected each other. This day was a very emotional day in happy and sad ways but it was all very positive and I think that it really brought our bus closer together, which is a very powerful thing. 

-Sarah Dickstein

Bus 1058 Rachel Natbony

Bus 1058 #2
When I pictured the moment I would feel most connected to and passionate about Judaism on this trip, I imagined a ton of different scenarios. But I will say this: never in my life did I picture that moment would be when I gracelessly tripped while hiking down Masada.
Bus 1058 was about a third of the way down the mountain when it happened. I guess I should have been paying attention to the ground, but I was so awestruck by the breathtaking views and incredible people around me that I got caught up in the moment. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, and my ankle was killing me. I couldn't walk on it. With the selfless help of Daniel, our security guard, and Dan, one of the students on my bus, I hiked back up the Masada to take the cable car down to the bottom. On one foot.
I will admit, I was really scared that in that one fleeting moment, Birthright was ruined for me. After all, what if I wouldn't walk? What if I had to sit out on all the life-changing things I had heard about, time and time again, by friends from past Birthright trips?
However, all of my fears faded away when I finally returned to the group. My friends, new and old, constantly checked in on me and helped me move around, waited up for me and, best of all, made me laugh. I was truly moved by how concerned and caring everyone was. To me, a girl most of these students have only known for about a week. In a lifetime, that's no time at all. I'm realizing though that in Judaism, that's all the time in the world. I was quite possibly injured, but it was okay, because I was in Israel. I was home. 
Our guest speaker, the founder of Birthright, described Judaism not as a religion, but a family. Yes, I have had the best of times here in Israel before and since my fall (especially since my ankle healed!), including floating all together in the Dead Sea, holding my breath in sheer awe standing before the Western Wall, and having guitar sing-alongs. But what truly defines a family are those who hold you up and keep you smiling through the not as good times. I am so extremely grateful and proud to be part of this wonderful family

Rachel N

Bus 1058 Lexi pumilia

Usually they say time flies when you're having fun, and this is both true and untrue for the past six days. The truth is in the fun and the not so true part is that time has flown by. Our days begin at 6:30 AM and end somewhere between the hours of midnight and 2:00 AM, so we have pretty packed schedules. The past six days have been spent in Jaffa, spontaneously scaling mountains, climbing Masada, hiking in mud, taking the not-so-easy paths to get from Point A to Point B, joking around with our awesome staff, and eating our body weight in schwarma and falafel. We started out as 35 strangers with seemingly one connection, being Jewish. After almost a week, and with 8 new lifelong Israeli friends, we have become family. In such a short time we have shared so many laughs, experiences, and definitely some embarrassing moments. This trip to birthright has successfully been educational as well as incredibly fun. We all share a bond that nobody else can ever really understand because we've gone through everything together, especially complaining. Just kidding, but not completely. With only about four days left, and only one with the Israeli soldiers, I'm sure we'll spend it learning, walking, cuddling, walking, eating, walking, hugging, walking, and continuing our journeys through Judaism and sharing memories together. Shoutout to Shabat, the man, the teacher, the spirit, the leader. 

-Lexi Pumilia

Alexandra Nau reports first day of TBI winter 2013

On a foggy Sunday evening, I, along with about 60 other University of Delaware students made our way to the Philadelphia airport.  This journey was for the long anticipated trip to the holy land, the place we have heard about all our lives, and the place where our religions' history was created.  We are attending Taglit Birthright, a ten day free trip to Israel, for a chance of a lifetime.  The anticipation of this trip was met with many emotions from our entire group; of excitement, fulfillment, and maybe even a little bit of nerves.
Many of my peers discussed the opportunity they will have to get closer to other students at the University through traveling.
Sophomore Jordan Schnoll said, "I feel like it (the trip) will be something I can relate to people with."  She said that as Jewish students, we tend to have many similar morals, and things in common, so she is eager to get know others.
Sophomore Paige Ruderman agrees with Schnoll.  "I really hope that I meet more people on campus."  She wants to have a wider scope of people to connect with, especially out of state students, as she is a Delaware resident.  
The group attending is very diverse, with students of all different years in college, including a number of freshmen.  Freshman Josh Vogel said he had always seen himself as applying.  "I guess I heard from friends and family about how great the trip was and I wanted to go!"   He hopes it will allow him to get more involved at Hillel when he returns to campus after the trip.
When asked about the most anticipated part of the trip, many of the students mentioned climbing Masada.  Freshman Jenna Wilson said she is hoping to see the magical sunrise she has heard about from family and friends.  Schnoll also said she can't wait to see Tel Aviv as a bustling and thriving city.
As far as logistics and apprehension, Ruderman doesn't feel any.  "It's really cool because I don't really go on trips, so it's a good opportunity to branch out and do my own thing."  Ruderman, along with many other students also said they have never been out of the country.  Vogel summed it up by saying that we have to just roll with the punches.
I am hoping for a trip to remember, and the chance to experience a totally different culture.  While yes, I'm sure there will be barriers that will test us as a group, it's the challenge that excites me.
While this is a ten-day "vacation" almost all of the students mentioned its Jewish impact.  Wilson said it best.  "I was already really into Judaism, but I think it will remind me why I love it so much!"

Alexandra Nau

Monday, June 11, 2012

Partnership Blog

Along with the 20 students from UD Hillel there are 15 students from Wisconsin Hillel and five students from Long Beach (CA) Hillel on the birthright trip. Wisconsin Hillel has set up a way for us to share our trip real-time through the all of the facebook, twitter, and blog posts from the students. Check it out! LINK:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Taglit Birthright Israel First Blog!

bar David - it has been amazing to be in Israel not with my parents, it's a different experience.I get to share my beautiful homeland with my peers. the best part about it is that I have made life long friends in less then 2 days.

Shane Janicola - we basically just got here and I already feel like I belong here.  today were hiking in the Golan and kayaking in the Jordan river which will definitely get things going and make being here even more exciting and meaningful.

Max Isaac- This has been an unbelievable trip so far. We have already seen so many amazing things. The most surprising part of Israel is that no matter where you are, there is a beautiful view to look at. I can't wait for the rest of the trip!

Kylee Harris-the last two days have been an amazing start to our trip in Israel. I feel like I've already seen so many amazing sites and met so many people and I can't wait to experience everything else we have planned for the week.

Marissa Berlant- I am especially amazed by the scenery around me in Israel. As we drive right now to hike the Golan, I see palm trees and mountains on my right, and the beautiful Kineret on my left. I can't wait to kayak, hike, ride camels, and experience everything I have been looking forward to and imagining for so long.

Lauren bossak & Lindsay Norman - these last two days have been exceptionally amazing for the both of us. it was the first time both of us have ever been to Israel and after months of talking about it we areactually here. we can't wait to do all of the things that are planned for us including the hiking that we are doing later today.

Ally Becker & Julie James - this trip has been a long time in the making for the two of us and it's everything we expected and so much more. this is a natural stop on our Jewish journey. It's only been two days and we've had such a great time meeting everyone so far - we can't wait for the next eight days!!

hunter Paul- I need to live here.

teddy peilen- this place is amazing

z&j - really inspirational trip! great food!

Candice & Katherine;; looking at the Jordan/Israel border is breathtaking, next up looking out on Syria!! Let's go hiking, wooo!

sami & sam: never leaving... walking the land that we have learned about our whole lives is an unbelievable experience. Sharing this experience with new friends is something we will never forget. After waking up to such breathtaking views, we will never be able to look at an American skyline the same. It really makes you realize that there is something so much bigger than yourself, a refreshing outlook. Can't wait for what's in stostore

Morgan and Laura: such beautiful scenery literally everywhere you look. it's like something one can only dream of. we're moving here as soon as possible. GO BADGERS!! ON WISCONSIN! #7bproblems

Lauren&Simone: beautiful, but dont look down.

stephanie and kate: loving Israel! we survived this crazy ride to the Golan!