About three months ago, a close friend who attends the University of Delaware asked if I would like to accompany her school’s Hillel on an eight day trip to Miami, Florida. I could earn community service hours, and have an inexpensive vacation. I thought, “eight days in the Miami sun? I’m there!” and I signed up for the trip. What I thought would be a week of tanning on the beach was actually the most influential learning experience of my life.
Two years ago, during my freshman year at Queens College, I found my passion for Jewish social justice when I started a Challah for Hunger chapter on campus, an organization that raises money and awareness for hunger and disaster relief through the production and sale of challah bread.
Weekly, a group of students gather to knead and braid dough and discuss social justice issues. The next day, the fresh bread is sold to Jews and non-Jews alike to benefit both Darfur relief efforts and local hunger initiatives.
As the lights of the Chanukah candles burned, students took time from studying for finals to help deal with fires of a different sort on campus and in Israel. Anti-Semitism, anti-Israel activities, and the devastating impact of fires in Israel all intruded on pre-exam schedules.
When protesters heckled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly in New Orleans, the adults in the audience may have been surprised or even shocked. Many of the students in the 600-strong Hillel presence had a different reaction.
Hundreds of Jewish students will be in attendance at this week's General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans. And these future community leaders are getting real-world training in Jewish activism on campuses across the country.