Georgia Tech Hillel
Our goal was to advocate a campus-wide positive attitude towards Israel through cultural activities and educational presentations. We believe our event was an incredible success! The 700 students who came through the Campanile during IsraelFest had the opportunity to experience Israeli culture first hand by learning Israel trivia with GT Hillel members, discussing the importance of Israeli holy sites with local Rabbis, getting a henna tattoo of Middle Eastern symbols from a henna artist, eating Israeli food, interacting with camels (camels!), and winning fun prizes. Specifically, the award from the ROC grant and the Men of Reform Judaism allowed us to hire the kosher Incrediball falafel food truck. The falafel meal, which was free for Israel Fest attendees, was easily the highlight of the event and the reason it was such a success. We are especially grateful for MRJ’s help in planning our event, and we are looking forward to working with MRJ in the future!
The Reform Minyan at Boston University’s Hillel hosts a monthly Havdalah and dinner four times during the semester. The minyan is Havdalah at the Hillel facility at 5:30 PM on Saturday evening then moves to an affordable restaurant such as Uno’s or Noodle Street for dinner at 6:00 PM. The MRJ ROC grant funding offsets five dollars from the cost of each participant’s meal. Reform Jews enjoy the Havdalah observance because it is a familiar, brief, and simple service that gives them a taste of home. The dinner immediately after the service provides a relaxing, fun and comfortable atmosphere in which to create lasting bonds within the Minyan. These bonds develop our group’s numbers and strength for years to come. This program is also appealing because it does not interfere with students’ evening plans.
Our organization is located right on the corner of CSU, Chico but is a quarter mile from the main tabling center of our campus. Students have had difficulties transporting tabling materials across campus. With the help of MRJ funding, we were able to purchase a multi-functional cart along with high-quality marketing materials. These minor changes made a large impact on our ability to be present on-campus.
Our program needs are met in terms of marketing materials and equipment. We look forward to future opportunities to receive MRJ funding for a series of possible Shabbat dinners since we do not have appropriate funds to offer this intimate service to our students.
MRJ ROC University of Maryland
University of Maryland
We had students ranging from Reform to Orthodox to not Jewish. Many Reform students came to the event and experienced the different aspects of Israeli culture. Two tables that drew a lot of Reform Jews were the Birthright table and the Jews in Greek Life (JGL) table where students could “check-in” for their Greek house. The Birthright had information about going to Israel and got people excited for their upcoming June trip. The JGL table had a smaller taste of Israel with burekas, hummus, Israeli salad, and pita making. Another popular table was the falafel stand with fresh falafel, hummus, and salads, which the Men of Reform Judaism grant helped to fund. In addition, the winner of the round trip plane ticket to Israel was a Reform Jew.
We also put in much work to reach out to other student groups across campus including the Armenian Student Union, the Ethiopian Student Association and the Catholic Terps. This heightened level of diversity led to a more authentic Israeli experience. In addition to a focus on drawing a diverse crowd, we also prioritized offering an educational component. We accomplished this by requiring each participant to visit at least three different cultural booths to learn something before receiving a T-shirt. This allowed for students to not only have a good time at Israel Fest, but to also walk away with a greater knowledge of Israel and its unique culture.
We want to continue adding to the diversity and educational aspects of the event. It would be great to have Muslim students represented to bring a new perspective. We want to have posters printed with more facts around the mall and require students to have 5 passport stamps in order to get a T-shirt so they can learn even more about Israel.
We hope that IsraelFest was another step in helping to re-engage the Reform Jewish community on campus and get people excited for upcoming programming in the fall. A lot of work is being done right now to help create Reform life on campus, and events like IsraelFest are a great way to engage those students.