Texas Hillel’s 2017-18 School Year a Success with Programs Old and New
Texas sent a team to the National Hillel Basketball Tournament in Maryland, finishing as the runner-up in the Tier 2 bracket. Courtesy: National Hillel Basketball Tournament.
By Alicia Garnes and Maiya Chard-Yaron
Texas Hillel’s mission is to inspire every Jewish student to create an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Hillel’s committed staff partners with student leaders each year to create hundreds of outlets for students to get involved based on their interests and passions.
2017-2018 was an exciting year with both perennial Hillel programs that have become a staple of Jewish life on campus, and new projects and opportunities that made their way to campus.
The year kicked off with Welcome Week, a series of events for new and returning students to campus. In addition to a First Day of Class Brunch, the annual Texans for Israel Falafel Dinner and Welcome Back Shabbat, the Labor Day BBQ showcased more than 30 student groups and projects that are part of the Hillel community, introducing students to the diverse ways they can get involved in Jewish life and pro-Israel activities.
As the year got underway, Hillel’s ongoing, regular programming commenced. This included weekly Shabbat services and meals, which are free for students, the Jewish Learning Fellowship program, offered both at the Hillel building an in Greek chapter houses, frequent volunteer and social action opportunities in the community, and weekly Texans for Israel meetings and programs. Fall semester highlights included High Holiday celebrations and programming, a memorable week in the Sukkah, traveling to Houston to volunteer for Hurricane Harvey Relief, the annual TAIPAC campus leadership dinner featuring a bipartisan congressional panel, and the award-winning Hanukkah/Diwali dinner celebrating the Jewish and Hindu traditions’ festivals of light.
Some of the most impactful programs Hillel offers are travel experiences, both domestic and abroad. In 2017-2018, nearly 300 students traveled with Texas Hillel, from Birthright Israel over winter and summer break to alternative break trips to Poland, Argentina, Israel, New Orleans and Florida. These programs enable students to travel with their fellow Texas students across the globe, exposing them to new ideas and experiences that, for many, are highlights of their college career.
The 20th Annual Israel Block Party took place in late March, featuring interactive educational booths showcasing Israel’s dynamic history and culture and welcoming more than 1,500 students to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday. The TAIPAC cadre brought one of the largest student delegations in the country to the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C., and was awarded the national Activist of the Year award.
The White Rose Society, a genocide awareness group, held its annual 10,000 Roses event, handing out roses on campus to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. The group hosted UT President Gregory Fenves at Texas Hillel for their annual 10,000 Roses speaker. Fenves shared the moving story of his father, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to America. The evening was one those in attendance will not soon forget.
In April, Texas sent a team to the National Hillel Basketball Tournament in Maryland, finishing as the runner-up in the Tier 2 bracket in a field of more than 40 teams.
Through more than 500 programs, large and small, offered by Hillel in 2017-2018, students explored their Jewish identities on their own terms, formed lifelong friendships, cultivated leadership skills, volunteered in the community, and learned about Israel. From thousands of students dancing to Israeli music on the East Mall, to a one-on-one coffee meeting on campus, Hillel is building community on campus and inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders for the Texas Jewish community.
Texas Hillel’s attention is now focused on the arrival and return of student to campus this fall. ■