Tag Archives: Hillel

Alternative Break in Kiryat Gat: Aryeh’s Story

Group shotUniversity of Maryland sophomore Aryeh Kalender from Fairfax, VA, blogged after spending a week in Israel on an Alternative Break trip with Maryland Hillel and Yahel. While there, students worked with the Ethiopian Israeli community to build community centers, gardens and more. Students stayed with Ethiopian host families as part of the experience.

The Day After
I’m sitting around the apartment in Katamon, a neighborhood in Jerusalem. It’s nearly 11:30 in the morning and I’ve only recently woken up. No 6:45 alarm followed by six exuberant and excited children running around the house yelling. No 8:00 a.m. meeting time at a nearby high school. No morning bus rides in a mini bus to a farm on the outskirts of the city. No digging soil, wrapping tires or cement making. No, today is very quiet.

I’m back in the Israel I grew up in. The one that involves much less Hebrew and relaxing wonderful morning’s with amazing grandparents. The one without six children running around literally jumping on top of me. And yet, even though this Israel is the one I am most used to, the aftereffect of 10 days of hard work, and harder reflection can be one of longing. Longing for the hectic atmosphere the engulfed my life for a short period of time. That is the picture of the “other” Israel.

As I reflect on the past 10 days living in the Kiryat Gat among the Ethiopian minority, learning their story and empathizing with the fight they wage every day to become assimilated into Israeli society without losing their heritage, I cannot help but feel as if I’ve just passed through a rainstorm. A million different perspectives were thrown at us from trips near the Gaza strip, to Ethiopian deputy mayors, to our host families. And now suddenly it’s all over. Or at least, it is for now. Because what would these experiences mean if they were just fragments of time. Each experience that I and the rest of our group had translates into a different part of our lives, whether it is a personal transformation, or an outward change that we can bring back to share with the people around us.

I’ve learned a lot from this Hillel trip. The potential for changes is always around us, as in our wonderful world, nothing is ever, or should be perfect. But sitting in front of the computer now, ideas are constantly racing through my mind of how to make a difference and bring about change. I cannot wait to bring what I’ve learned back to the University of Maryland Jewish community.

Hillel Taps Eric Fingerhut, Former Congressman, As CEO And President

Eric Fingerhut, a former U.S. congressman and leader of Ohio’s system of public universities and colleges, has been tapped to serve as the next president and CEO of Hillel.

Fingerhut’s hiring was approved Sunday in a unanimous vote by Hillel’s board of directors during a meeting in New York. He comes to the international campus organization after serving most recently as a corporate vice president at Battelle, a Columbus-based independent research and development organization.

Fingerhut was an Ohio congressman in 1993-94.

“I am honored to be joining such an esteemed and important organization,” said Fingerhut, 54, in a statement released by Hillel. “Everything in my life has led to this moment — my public service, my work on campuses and research centers across Ohio, and my lifelong devotion to Israel and the Jewish people. And so I could not be more thrilled.”

Hillel boasts a network of 550 branches at colleges, universities and communities in North America, Israel, the former Soviet Union, Europe and Latin America. While most of the branches operate independently, the central Hillel organization, based in Washington, plays a lead role in setting strategy for the movement and raising money to create and help implement new strategies at the campus level.

Under the guidance of Fingerhut’s predecessor, Wayne Firestone, the organization adopted a new strategic plan focused on reaching Jewish students who rarely, if ever, frequent Hillel houses. When Firestone announced his decision last year to step down as leader of the organization, Hillel board members said the next president and CEO would need to focus on securing new funding sources to fund the strategic direction.

Sidney Pertnoy, chairman of Hillel’s board of directors, issued a statement saying that “we are confident Eric will be an excellent leader so we can better engage the Jewish world’s most precious resource — over 400,000 Jewish students on college campuses in North America and the hundreds of thousands of Jewish students and young adults in communities around the globe.”

Fingerhut, who is set to start in August, also issued a video statement in which he pledged to follow the lead of Hillel the Elder, for whom the organization is named, noting his reputation as Judaism’s most inclusive rabbinic sage.