THE UCONN EXPERIENCE
UConn Hillel sent 26 students on a bus that included several Trinity College students, as well.
“Birthright Israel-Hillel trips are the best tool we have to offer students a truly meaningful Jewish experience during their college years,” says UConn Hillel director Pam Newman. “Throughout the recruitment, interview, orientation, staffing and post-trip follow through processes, Hillel staff helps each student to personalize and maximize the impact of this amazing gift.”
UConn Hillel’s trip was staffed by UConn grad Jake Wilkenfeld-Mongillo, who was taking his fourth trip to Israel; his first was a student traveling on a Birthright trip.
For the past three years, UConn has both winter and summer trips for UConn students as well as other college students around the state. Registration for their spring trip opens Feb. 12 at 9 a.m. For information visit www.uconnhillel.org.
“One of the perks of working for Hillel is the absolute privilege of staffing a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. Besides getting to see Israel through fresh eyes every time I travel, I have the honor of facilitating those not always easy conversations about Jewish identity. Even into my third trip, it’s still a new experience.”
Senior Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow
Hillel at UConn
THE TRINITY EXPERIENCE
To put things in perspective, the only other time Trinity College Hillel sponsored a Birthright bus they had five student participants. This year, the school sent 12 students on a Taglit Birthright bus, sharing it with UConn.
Those 12 were among a total of 23 Trinity students who travel on various programs, including three on leadership missions: Leaders Assembly; Israel@60; and Tzedek.
Trinity Hillel Director Lisa Kassow gives credit where credit is due n and that credit is due, she says, to Sam Newman, who serves as Hillel’s Grinspoon Israel Advocacy Intern.
“Sam made it his mission this year to increase our Birthright participation,” says Kassow.”
“My trip to Israel was amazing and one of the most spiritually significant experiences of my life. I was lucky enough to have my bat mitzvah in Jerusalem and I made friends, both American and Israeli, with whom I will share a bond for the rest of my life. The trip also taught me a lot about the State of Israel and Judaism. I cannot wait to go back!”
A Trinity College sophomore from from Providence, R.I.
THE YALE EXPERIENCE
Yale University sent 39 undergrads on a trip staffed by Megan Goldman.
“It was an incredible group of students and I was moved watching them interact with one another the country. They challenged themselves and everyone we met to speak honestly about the country and get to know the place in a deep way. The group returned feeling very close to one another and we have gathered both formally and informally frequently.”
THE WESLEYAN EXPERIENCE
Wesleyan University sent 38 students and two student leaders on a Birthright trip this winter. Thirty came from Wesleyan and eight from various other east coast schools. It was the fifth year that Wesleyan had enough students to warrant a “Wesleyan” bus.
According to Wesleyan senior Erica Belkin, who staffed the trip with senior Alex Salzberg, having a Wesleyan bus meant the group could “tweak” the trip to suit the group’s unique needs. Participants met in advance several times and ultimately designed a trip that included lots of discussions. They also brought their own Wesleyan prayer books, says Belkin, “to make the experience more comfortable for the participants.”
“Our participants came from a variety of backgrounds, but bonded together well and engaged in a really thought-provoking 10 days together. Everybody found something that moved them in Israel, and everybody emerged from the trip at least a little changed for the time spent away.”
Senior, Wesleyan University
THE QUINNIAPIAC EXPERIENCE
Though they did not send their own bus, Quinnipiac University did have several students who joined other birthright trips.
“After coming back from 10 days in Israel, I truly feel like it is my second home and have gained such a passion for the country that I did not have before.”
Junior, Quinnipiac University
“It opened my eyes to the culture and history behind the country. Not only was I able to become friends with Israelis, but I was also able to make friends with Jews located all over the U.S. Israel is such a beautiful place and I am looking forward to visiting it again in the future.
Ashley S. Blatt
Junior, Quinnipiac University
THE HARTFORD EXPERIENCE
The University of Hartford and Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), who share a Hillel director, sent 5 students on Birthright this winter. In addition, they sent one student on the Leaders Assembly: Andrew Halpern, a sophomore biology student. Chosen for his leadership potential, Halpern is the president of the CCSU Hillel n a group that is, as he puts it, “close knit and active.”
Thought the Leaders Assembly is not a Birthright trip, his experience is worth noting.
“It was very powerful to meet people from across the world with whom I share eons of common history and knowledge. We also shared the same determination and passion for Israel and our individual Jewish communities.”