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We’re taking a break from all of Hillel’s Israel at 75 campus celebrations to reflect on how important bringing Israel to our students on campus is to Hillel.

A primary goal of Hillel is to inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful and enduring relationship to Israel. Whether through Israeli culture, educational events, advocacy or travel, we are deeply committed to helping each student find their personal connections to Israel. Through efforts like these, we know that engaged and educated students can become committed Jewish adults and passionate supporters of Israel, well beyond their years on campus.

Both Hillels host a full-time Israel fellow, or Israeli emissary, in partnership with The Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel International. Over the years, we have seen the immense impact of bringing a talented young Israeli staff member to our campuses to build personal bonds with all types of students, Jewish and not. These Israel fellows bring their own passion and perspective about Israel to Hillel. They annually host Israel learning cohorts, engage diverse speakers and meet with hundreds of students for one-on-one conversations.

Nothing can replace the experience of traveling to Israel. We’ve seen the impact hundreds of times over by accompanying students on Birthright Israel and other educational and experiential programs. And, would it surprise you to learn that we are talking about Jewish students (of course), but also about non-Jewish students?

It’s true. Since 2017, Hillel at Kent State University and Cleveland Hillel have sent 171 influential student leaders, the majority not Jewish, to Israel on campus-specific leadership missions – 38 students traveled there this academic year alone. These trips changed the landscape for Israel on campus in Northeast Ohio through the important discussions and relationships that start in Israel and continue back on campus.

Under our Israel-related programs and projects we have cultivated student leaders and volunteers to focus efforts built around Israel education and advocacy, engaging Jewish and non-Jewish students alike. Our students work with their peers in partner student organizations on campus creating opportunities for co-sponsored programs. This creates partnerships that make for a positive Israel-on-campus atmosphere for all students, most notably our Jewish students.

As we celebrate Israel’s 75th birthday, we emphatically proclaim “Am Yisrael Chai,” and proudly announce that feeling from here on our campuses.

Adam Hirsh is the outgoing executive director of Hillel at Kent State University and Jared Isaacson is executive director of Cleveland Hillel.

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