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Penn Hillel's Israel Week included speaker events, spin classes, and a basketball tournament to increase awareness of Israeli culture at the University. Credit: Hannah Lazar

Penn Hillel is hosting Israel Week from March 13 to March 17 with the goal of increasing awareness of Israeli culture at the University.

From speaker events to spin classes, the week is intended to “uplift and share our Israeli culture with the Penn community,” Engineering and Wharton sophomore and Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee Co-President Noah Rubin said.

The week began on Monday with a t-shirt and candy giveaway and will conclude on Friday with a free Shabbat dinner at Hillel. In addition, several speaker events have been scheduled throughout the week. On March 15, Holocaust survivor Michel Jeruchim spoke to students at Hillel with over 100 students in attendance. Rubin said that it was the first event of its kind hosted for Israel Week in recent years.

Jeruchim spoke about his time growing up as a child survivor of the Nazi's occupation of France, according to Rubin.

“It’s super rare to hear Holocaust survivors share their stories in person as they get older,” Rubin said. "It was a very meaningful and emotional event.” 

Outside of speaker events, Penn Hillel had a variety of other events planned for the week, including a shakshuka and coffee giveaway on Locust Walk and an evening event at Smokey Joe's. On Friday, Penn Hillel will host a spin class with Israeli music at Pottruck.

“We want to engage with people outside of the community that comes to Hillel … outside of the building,” College sophomore Maya Harpaz, vice-president of Israel Engagement at Hillel, said.

Friday, the last day of Israel Week, will feature an afternoon basketball tournament and an evening dinner open to all students. 

Hillel members said that the event's planners aimed to collaborate with different groups this year, hoping to reach different parts of the Jewish community on campus. 

Thursday night’s speaker event featured Noach Hacker, the Minister of Economic Affairs at the Israeli Embassy, allowing students to “get interested in Israel from a business perspective,” Rubin said. 

Outside of inviting students to get involved with Hillel and learn more about Israel, the goal of the week is also to educate students further about Israel as a country. 

“There are 7 million Jews living in Israel today,” Rubin said. “Knowing that without Israel they wouldn't have a stable place to be makes it really important to stand behind them.” 

The group had events planned to educate students on different topics surrounding Israel as well, including a panel and dinner on Tuesday night titled “American Jews and Israel.” 

Harpaz said that hundreds of students have engaged in the week's events so far. 

“We definitely want more people to come to the stuff we have the rest of the week, whether that be just engaging at a dinner, attending one of the speaker events, or going to one of our events," Harpaz said.