Hillel Israel serves as a source of inspiration for young Israeli adults and university students, encouraging them to delve into their Jewish identity and cultivate a strong connection to the Global Jewish People. We aim to foster a pluralistic Jewish life and motivate students to make Judaism more meaningful and relevant for them, especially during the pivotal juncture when they are embarking on the path to adulthood. We believe this influence is crucial in shaping the way they navigate life choices, build their futures, and form
families within Israeli society.
We focus upon two interconnected pillars: Jewish Pluralism and Jewish Peoplehood. Through these two inextricably linked values, we specialize in crafting enriching educational encounters that facilitate and promote dialogue between Israeli students and their global Jewish peers, emphasizing
(re)building the relationship and bond between Israeli and American Jews.
Many Israelis believe that Judaism = Religion = Orthodoxy, and therefore non religious people do not need to cultivate their Jewish identity. However, Hillel Israel believes that all students, regardless of their religious affiliation, should seek a meaningful Jewish life, and a sense of belonging to Jewish community. Thus we challenge the secular-religious dichotomy in Israel, offering many ways to celebrate our diverse Jewish identities and prioritizing community over conflict surrounding religious expression.
An illustrative instance can be found at Tel Hai College, where specialized courses delve into the intersection of Women & Judaism ("Kol Isha"), offering an exploration of Jewish-Israeli identity through the lens of gender, or at Haifa University where we strengthen the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Israelis through joint learning and campus initiatives.
One of the most important Jewish values is Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. As Leo Baeck famously said, “In Judaism, social action is religiosity, and religiosity implies social action." Hillel Israel presents students with numerous prospects to partake in volunteer endeavors and community engagement.
A notable example of this is "Giveret im Salim - Lady with Baskets," a student initiative founded and developed through the Hillel at Hebrew University that has now evolved into a prominent institution in Jerusalem. Through this program, passionate students volunteer weekly at the Mahane Yehuda Market helping the elderly carry their heavy bags to bus stops or to their homes. In return for their assistance, seniors share a personal story or give a piece of life advice. This initiative is just one of many that allows our students to give back to their community and gain perspective on different life experiences in Israel.
One of our main priorities at Hillel Israel is to dismantle division within the Israeli Jewish community, and strengthen our students' sense of unity instead. We aim to convey a sense of caring about Jews and Jewish communities worldwide, so that Israeli university students can understand the importance of establishing strong bonds between Israelis and Jews worldwide.
Campuses across Israel host "Mifgashim" (encounters) providing opportunities for Israeli and international students to explore their commonalities and differences and to foster dialogue. Hillels’ in Israel and Hillels in North America meet on zoom to learn WITH one another, ABOUT one another and FROM one another.
They discuss Israeli society, the image of Israel on US campuses, BDS/antisemitism, Jewish life in diverse communities around the world and much more. Another unique example of our programming on Jewish Peoplehood is "Mabateam" at Hillel of Ben-Gurion University, in which they partner with the Azrieli Center for Israeli Studies and offer sessions to learn about global Jewish communities.
Bridging the Gap:
Hillel Israel places particular emphasis on (re)building the relationship between Israeli and American Jews. Through informal educational programs and direct encounters with Jewish students from the United States and Canada, our students can experience the diversity, vibrancy and challenges of Jewish life in America. These interactions enable and facilitate authentic conversations and bonding, fostering personal connections between students from the two largest Jewish communities in the world.
Creating impactful programming that brings together Israeli and Jewish American college students fosters cross-cultural understanding, enriching personal perspectives, and building enduring bonds within the global Jewish community. By facilitating direct interactions and meaningful conversations between these two groups, we provide opportunities to explore shared values, challenges, and aspirations.
Such initiatives not only strengthen the connection between Israel and North American Jews but also contribute to a more pluralistic Jewish identity for all involved.
Delegations of selected Israeli students visit Jewish communities abroad and get first-hand exposure to Jewish life around the world. One example illustrating this is "MIFGASH," a collaboration of Hillel Haifa and Hillels in Boston for a year-long fellowship and exchange program.
Through learning and informal interaction, personal bonds are created between small core groups of students at each institute. The students take part in one-on-one text study throughout the year, alongside traveling to one another's schools where they can be exposed to Jewish life on campus. Here they can be inspired by Jewish life and leadership, deepening the interpersonal connections between the Haifa and Boston communities.
MIFGASH is supported by Combined Jewish Philanthropy's Boston-Haifa Connection.
We deeply respect the array of approaches to Judaism and celebrate all forms of Jewish life in Israel and across the globe. "Parashim BaLayla - Late-Night Cavalry" is a weekly radio show broadcast by Hillel Sapir students in which they examine the weekly Torah portion from a plurality of perspectives with guests.
Parashim BaLayla opens doors for young individuals to become acquainted with the Jewish bookshelf, further deepening their understanding of Jewish life around the world through discussion of relevant issues.
Tel Hai College provides courses on "Religion & State" that expand students' insights into the complexities affecting Jewish pluralism within Israeli society.
This endeavor nurtures an understanding of the balance between religion and the state, contributing to the appreciation and respect for diverse Jewish perspectives.
70th Anniversary Celebrations