Hillel Israel seeks to emphasize the relevance of a pluralistic Jewish life to today’s Israeli students and young adults, inspiring them to explore their Jewish identity and to feel a sense of belonging to “The Global Jewish People.” The only non-denominational and apolitical Jewish student organization in Israel, Hillel Israel provides students with leadership development, educational programs and volunteering opportunities, which increase their sense of commitment to Jewish Pluralism and Jewish Peoplehood in Israel.
Hillel Israel’s key challenge is to help Israeli students realize that Judaism is not solely a religion – it is also a culture, a people, a set of values - and that Judaism is more varied, rich and beautiful than they had ever thought possible. Israelis, chief among them student-leaders - the future leaders of Israeli society - need to understand why this is so critical for the character of Israel as a Jewish AND democratic state, and for Israel to remain a home for ALL Jews wherever they are.
We do not know who our leaders will be in 10-20 years, but we know where they are now… on campus.
Hillel Israel operates in seven centers across Israel: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Haifa University, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Hai College in the upper Galilee, and Sapir Academic College in Sderot, the Negev.
Hillel Israel is the Israeli constituency of Hillel International, the world’s largest global Jewish student organization. Hillel Israel engages over 20,000 Israeli students each year in meaningful Jewish experiences and partners with over 100 organizations in Israel and abroad.
The common equation engrained in the perception of so many Israelis suggests that Judaism = Religion = Orthodoxy, and therefore, as long as one isn’t religious, one need not cultivate any Jewish identity. Hillel Israel aims to encourage students to take responsibility for their Jewish identity and to be proactive in seeking a meaningful Jewish life, beyond the secular-religious dichotomy in Israel.
For example, we partner with GPG to create programming to strengthen the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Israelis through joint learning and campus initiatives.
Tel Hai College offers courses on Women & Judaism (“Kol Isha”) to explore Jewish-Israeli identity through a gender lens.
“In Judaism, social action is religiousness, and religiousness implies social action.” –Leo Baeck. Hillel Israel offers students many opportunities for volunteer work and community involvement.
One example is "Giveret im Salim-Lady with Baskets,” a student initiative developed at Hillel at Hebrew University, now a well-known Jerusalem institution.
Through this program, big-hearted students volunteer weekly at the Mahane Yehuda Market helping the elderly carry their heavy bags to bus stops or to their homes. As "payment," the seniors share a personal story or give a piece of life advice.
We work tirelessly to ensure that the powers that unite us as a people are stronger than those which divide. We aim to give our students a sense of caring about Jews and Jewish communities around the world, a concern for the issues of their global peers, to foster mutual responsibility and belonging to the Global Jewish Family, and to create an understanding of how crucial strong bonds between Israel and Jews worldwide are for the future of the Jewish People.
All of our programming is designed through the prism of Jewish Peoplehood. For example, "Mabateam" at Hillel of Ben-Gurion University partners with the Azrieli Center for Israeli Studies offering sessions to learn about global Jewish communities.
We frequently host “Mifgashim” (encounters) for Israeli and international students to explore their commonalities and differences and to foster dialogue around issues such as: Israeli society, the image of Israel on US campuses, BDS/antisemitism, Jewish life in diverse communities around the world and more.
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, our students experience the diversity, vibrancy and challenges of Jewish life in America. The encounters enable authentic conversation and bonding, fostering personal connections between students from the two largest Jewish communities in the world.
For example, students from WCU Hillel in Philadelphia meet with Hillel Israel students for deep-dive discussions on issues of common interest.
Delegations of select Israeli students visit Jewish communities abroad and get first-hand exposure to Jewish life around the world. One example is “ConnecTech,” a collaboration of Hillel Technion and Hillel MIT in Boston for a year-long fellowship 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, host and travel to one another’s campuses to be inspired by Jewish life, technological innovation and personal leadership, deepening people-to-people connection between the Haifa and Boston communities.
ConnecTech is supported by Combined Jewish Philanthropy’s Boston-Haifa Connection.
We deeply respect the plurality of approaches to Judaism and celebrate all forms of Jewish life.
For example, “Parashim BaLayla-Late-Night Cavalry" is a weekly radio show broadcast by Hillel Sapir students in which they and their guests discuss the weekly Torah portion from a plurality of perspectives. Parashim BaLayla allows young people to become acquainted with the Jewish bookshelf and to deepen their familiarity with Jewish life around the world through issues that are relevant to their lives.
Courses on “Religion & State” are offered at Tel Hai College to expand students’ understanding of the issues that affect Jewish pluralism in Israeli society.