Dec 2, 2009

Israel Activities at Berkeley Hillel

Israel at CAL 2009-2010

Berkeley Hillel is blessed with a vibrant community of students committed to engaging with Israel from a wide diversity of perspectives.  We are all committed to a flourishing Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and apply a strategic approach to the critical area of Israel programming  Berkeley Hillel believes in providing a broad spectrum of opportunities to interact and develop a mature relationship with the country and the citizens of Israel.

To help us carry out this vision,  the Jewish Agency for Israel has sent us  an amazing Israel Fellow, Chaya Gilboa.  Chaya is in her second year as a Shlicha  and has made an amazing impact on the Jewish community on campus.  She is a resource to the three Israel groups on campus – "Tikvah, Students for Israel," the "Israel Action Committee" and "Kesher-Enoshi."  All of these Israel groups meet regularly at Hillel. And our Hillel staff has worked with all of them to help them think strategically about their mission to provide meaningful and thoughtful programming to the Berkeley campus.  Chaya's presence on campus and at Hillel has not only provided the community with quality Israel programming, but we are all benefiting from her commitment to creating a dynamic Jewish campus. 

This year, the Koret Foundation is providing Berkeley Hillel with five student interns who have been, and will continue to work on campus supporting Israel activities.  Their responsibilities range from working with our Israel Fellow to coordinate Birthright pre- and post-programming, to developing a new Israel trip, to supporting the variety of speakers coming to campus throughout the year. 

Berkeley Hillel is also fortunate to have a MASA Intern on campus to engage with students and help them find opportunities to spend six or more months in Israel.  The opportunities range from Yeshivot to volunteering on a kibbutz.  This Intern's responsibility is to figure out the best fit for each student to have a successful and meaningful experience in Israel. 



We had 70 applications for 40 spots for our Winter Taglit-Birthright trip!  This year—as has been done every year—the students will spend several evenings speaking with alumni from the trip and staff to be prepared for the experience.  Thanks to the Koret Foundation, we have been able to have a Taglit-Birthright Alumni who meets with every student and serves as the student liaison for the trip and answers questions about Israel.  We anticipate that this position will make the experience more rewarding for each participant. 


There will be three informational sessions for the students before they leave:  one session focusing on Jewish studies, one session focusing on Israel, and one that will focus on group dynamics. When we come back, we will have two more reflection sessions. The first will be for the purposes of processing the experience on an individual level, and the second will be aimed at learning how their Taglit-Birthright trip contributes to their involvement with the Jewish community as a whole and their continued relationship with Israel.


Ongoing Israel Initiatives at Cal


  • Hebrew Hour – Twice a week, Kesher Enoshi and Hillel host a conversation group at CafĂ© Strada.  The topics range from Hebrew poetry to life of the average student at Cal.
  • From Rambam to Yehudah Amchai – Every Friday, Hebrew speaking graduate students, facilitated by two Hillel staff members, study a wide spectrum of text.  The forum is modeled after a pluralistic Yeshiva in Tel-Aviv which brings together both observant and secular Israelis that study text ranging from traditional Rabbinic to modern poetry. 
  • Teaching Hebrew – All the Birthright participants who do not speak Hebrew and other students who express interest will meet on a weekly basis to study basic Hebrew in a casual manner. 
  • Israeli Art exhibit – Hillel will host different art exhibitions from Israel around the building. The content will range from nature scenes, to typical life throughout the country, to artistic depictions of different Israeli communities. 


Fall 2009

  • September 3 & 26 – Kesher-Enoshi held their kickoff event, followed up with hosting Friday night dinner at Hillel.  They had dynamic and creative ice breakers and valuable information about the group to help new students orient themselves with the goals and mission. 
  • October 8 –  Professor Hanan Alexander, visiting from Israel, from the Education department spoke to students about the relationship between the holiday of Sukkot and the idea of Aliyah to Israel.  14 students from different groups came and discussed this topic, which led to interesting perspectives and ideas.
  • October 21 – Singer's from Israel's version of American Idol joined the students at the weekly BBQ.  They shared their music and their amazing life journey's.  We hope to meet up with them again in Israel on our Birthright trip this January.   
  • October 22 - Mr. David Makovsky (Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process) and Mr. Ghaith al-Omari (former senior advisor to Mahmoud Abbas) had dinner with a handful of student leaders from Tikvah and later spoke to the community about the process of moving to a true agreement of peace in the region. 
  • October 23-25 – 5 students from campus attended the J street college track portion of the conference in Washington DC. Their hope was to get a better understanding and educate themselves about the organization.  Our goal is to equally subsidize Cal students to attend the AIPAC and StandWithUs conferences. 
  • October 27 – Linda Gradstein, National Public Radio reporter discussed the role of the media in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
  • November 3rd - Yariv Oppenheimer, Secretary General (Director) of Shalom Achshav, will come to speak with the campus community.


Spring 2010

  • Israel Film Festival – The First week of February there will be an Israeli Film Festival on campus.  Hillel, along with the JSU will host a week long film festival at the theater on campus. The theme of the festival will be Tel Aviv, and we will screen four different movies that will touch upon a different perspective of life in Tel Aviv. Working with the Israel Fellow there will be a speaker to share insights of the film. 
  • Food in the Bible – A hands on cooking lesson that focuses on ingredients and food related to stories from the Bible.
  • Betipul – In Treatment – This program will compare the Israeli and American cultures by contrasting the original Israeli TV show with the American version.
  • In Between – In Between is a semi-autobiographical one man show that portrays the complexities and contradictions inherent in Palestinian-Israeli identity.  It recalls Ibrahim Miari's childhood in Acco, memories of his Jewish and Palestinian grandmothers, of war, and of the struggle to shape and understand his own multi-faceted identity.
  • Alternative Summer trip to Israel – Hillel will hopefully run a summer alternative trip to Israel for students who have already been to Israel. We hope to take 20 students and give them the opportunity to engage with Israeli society. Students will be required to take a Spring Decal course that will inform them about many aspects of Israeli society and after the ten day trip, each one will volunteer for an NGO in Israel.