Hillel establishes new LIFE fellowship
The new fellowship aims to foster discourse about Israel without taking sides on political issues
September 3, 2013, 8:22 pm · Updated September 3, 2013, 10:48 pm·
College junior Jordyn Feingold wants to separate love for Israel from blind support for Israel.
She’s doing it through Hillel’s new LIFE fellowship, which Rabbi Mike Uram calls a “value-based Israel engagement program” and will not focus on just facts and figures. Rather, it’s creating a middle ground between advocacy for Israel and “cultural fluff of giving away falafel and hookah,” Uram, director of Hillel, said.
The fellowship will attempt to find a space beyond the argument over which side is right or wrong in Israel. It will seek to talk about Israel without an agenda.
“For many students, their relationship with Israel is very personal,” Uram said. “They’re not interested in joining large groups to listen to speakers or lobby or engage in work of Israel advocacy because it’s not their thing. They’re looking for a way to think and learn more about Israel and who they are as a person and a Jew.”
The fellowship, which held its first meeting on Tuesday, is also designed to encompass all branches of Judaism. Ten students will meet once every other week to develop the fellowship by hosting more dialogues.
“I love Israel, but I don’t have a language that I can use to defend Israel. I seek that vocabulary about how to discuss that with people,” LIFE fellow Feingold said.
“We’re trying to create a space for students to think about Israel and ask serious questions,” said Uram.
The fellows, who are currently in training, will be engaged in small salon-style dialogues throughout the fall. In spring 2014, the fellows plan to host more events with other organizations around campus.
They plan to work with other minority groups on campus, especially “minorities who haven’t gotten together to share their statuses as minorities and bind together over it,” Feingold said. She also plans for interfaith interactions with other religious groups.
LIFE was started with help from a partnership grant from the David Project, a group that works to shape “campus opinion on Israel through educating training and empowering student leaders,” according to their website.
The group of fellows plans to address varied topics such as ideas on Jewish body image, conflict among different groups of Israelis and what Jewish law says about divorce, abortion and women’s issues in Israel.
These topics will then be used to create campus-wide conversations through collaborations with a variety of student groups.