1) Tell us about yourself. (name, age, where are you from, a little background, etc)
A: My name is Adi Snir, and I am 28 years old. I was born and raised in Jerusalem, graduated from social work studies two years ago and started working in the Jewish agency in 2012.
S: My name is Sherry Maya and I am 25 years old. I am from Bat-Yam, a small city by the beach, south of Tel Aviv. After my army service, I went to Tel Aviv University where I studied Jewish Philosophy and History of the Jewish People. I have always been involved with the younger community in Israel, from participating in volunteer programs with children to teaching Jewish Studies in high schools.
2) Why did you choose to become an Israel Campus Fellow in the US?
A: Last year I worked as a sh’licha in the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. I discovered how fascinating Jewish life is abroad with so many different approaches and connections to Israel. I would like my personal experiences and education in Israel to be a source of inspiration which I can share with students and faculty.
S: When I was 21 years old, I worked at an American Jewish Summer camp. It was during that summer that I developed an interest in the American Jewish identity and culture because I found it so different from the Jewish culture I grew up in. My first host family was Orthodox, my second was Conservative and the third identified as Reform. It was very interesting to me that the degrees of observance varied so greatly and I was curious in how individuals decide what constitutes their Jewish identity. I decided to apply to be an Israel Campus Fellow in order to engage with American Jewish students and to further explore their decision process.
3) What expectations did you have?
A: I imagined that working with students would be meaningful and interesting. Now, I realize how impactful our conversations on Israel engagement are.
S: Going into this experience I expected to learn a lot about American culture as well as form many great friendships. Having kept in touch with my host families from the summer camp, I can see that the relationships I build this year will also last for many years.
4) What is your favorite part of working on campus?
A: I like the staff on both campuses as well as being in a university atmosphere. Also, it has been really enjoyable to get to know passionate students and their connections to Judaism. Their motivation to take leadership roles on campus in order to influence others has been great to watch.
S: Unquestionably my favorite part of this experience is working with the students and the unexpected conversations shared with them. I love when a conversation about falafel and Israeli culture ends up turning into a conversation about Jewish Philosophy and God.
5) What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: Time passes by very quickly; the semester was over before we knew it! There are so many more activities you can do with the students, but, as students, they must take care of all of their other responsibilities and extracurricular activities. In addition, Israel can be a controversial subject on campus; it is a challenge both for me and the students to face some unsavory comments while leading an Israel-related event.
S: Initially the most challenging part of this job was just adjusting to life on the other side of the world. Now the challenge is maintaining a good balance between being a staff member of Hillel and a friend to the students. In addition, there is the knowledge that this job is only temporary so I will eventually leave people with whom I have really connected.
6) What do you hope to gain from your experience?
A: Since I have learned so much about Israeli politics and culture, I would like to pass this knowledge along to the students, so that they are more confident when planning Israel-related programming.
S: I feel as though I have already gained so much in the professional sense. I have gotten the chance to hone abilities I didn’t have before. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I am fortunate enough to work in a very supportive atmosphere; my supervisor pushes me to be successful. I genuinely feel cared for as a person and not just as an employee. I hope that these relationships and friendships will continue long after this fellowship ends.
7) What do you hope the students gain?
A: I would like the students to gain knowledge and confidence in their future endeavors.
S: I hope to help the students in the various Israel groups on campus accomplish whatever goals they set. I hope that I can be a go-to person for students, someone they feel comfortable talking to about anything: Israel, Judaism, or just life in general.
8) What is the biggest different between college campuses in Israel and in Baltimore?
A: In Israel, people start college much older – usually after 22 years of age – and often they have military experience. American students are younger and, typically, it is their first experience away from home.
S: Israeli students go to college with more life experience behind them and, consequently, a more firmly developed personality. Because the university culture in America is structured differently, college is the time for American students to explore their interests and develop their opinions. Also, American universities have more campus life, making it not purely a place of study. Because there is so much offered and so much to look forward to upon graduation, American students seem to have lot of hope and willfulness to make a positive impact on the world.
9) What do you like to do during your free time?
A: I like to read, spend time outdoors, hang out with friends, and go to the movies or art galleries.
S: In my free time, I like to explore Baltimore. I love walking around the Inner Harbor, Hampden, Fells Point, as well as traveling to other cities such as Washington D.C. and New York. I enjoy hanging out with my students and doing activities off campus with them, like bowling. There is a great network of Israelis in the area who I enjoy seeing, but I especially love visiting my old host families.