Hillel and The David Project: Shared Values Create a Common Goal
Before I began working with the David Project, Hillel had already strongly influenced my college experience. After I returned from Fact Finders in 2016, a trip for Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders to learn about Israel firsthand through dialogue and experiences, I saw my fellow trip participants transfer their newfound knowledge through Hillel programming. Whether it was the annual Welcome Back BBQ or weekly shabbat dinners, I was able to see how crucial Hillel was to facilitating these conversations and connections.
During my first year as a student intern, it was clear how important our relationship with Hillel was to being successful on campus. Besides having all of our intern meetings held at Hillel, it also connected us to one of the most important resources we have - our Israel fellow. Being able to work alongside the Israel fellow helped me to become a better advocate; he was especially influential in educating students about Israel, combatting the BDS movement and helping to pass an Anti-Semitism condemnation resolution through student government.
"The David Project and Hillel will help us establish a home-base and a foundation for our Jewish/pro-Israel community, so that we can truly offer the support that we want to give to other student organizations on campus." - Delaney Kahlert, San Diego State University
The most important aspect of working closely with Hillel as a David Project intern was the similarity in values between both organizations. Both Hillel International and the David Project have instilled the importance of Israel education in me as an Israel advocate on campus. Without the support of Hillel and the deeply impactful trips, many of the triumphs we have had on campus would not be possible. – Delaney Kahlert (SDSU)
“When I was growing up, my mom told me stories about her experiences while she was living in Israel after she graduated from college. She talked about red sunsets over the Mediterranean, falafel on Ben Yehuda street, and the feeling in the air throughout the Shabbats that she spent there. Because of my mom, I fell in love with Israel before I saw it with my own eyes. It wasn’t until high school, when I traveled to Israel with my youth group, that I fell in love with Israel for my own reasons. I was fascinated by the draft and I admired how every Israeli citizen has such a strong sense of responsibility to protect their (our) home, and I found Israel’s sense of resiliency inspiring. And of course, I loved the falafel on Ben Yehuda street too.
After I came home from my trip, I became more sensitive to the words of the anti-Zionist sentiment. Hate speech towards Israel and its existence began to impact me in way that I hadn’t experienced before, almost as if those words were directed towards a family member. At that point, I knew that I had to find a way to advocate for Israel, and show the people I care about why Israel means so much to me. Through my high school youth group, I enjoyed working alongside other Israel-based organizations. But that being said, being a part of The David Project here at Michigan State University has been more than just enjoyable - it has been one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had.
The David Project gave me the skills that I needed to peel back the layers and connect with others about the values that we share, and it gave me the confidence to use those skills in order to build bridges between entire communities on my campus. My work for The David Project has showed me that advocating for Israel is as simple as engaging others as people, acknowledging their ideas (especially if they differ from mine), and sharing my love for Israel with people that I care about. Throughout my tenure as an intern, I have learned to embrace the grey area between the polarized mentalities that news outlets try so hard to foster about Israel, and speak to others about Israel in a way that gives respect to their life experiences while also allowing them to understand mine. I joined The David Project expecting to become a stronger Israel advocate, and now I am beginning my second year as an intern after realizing that my experiences while working for The David Project has made me a better person.
"The David Project and Hillel will help us establish a home-base and a foundation for our Jewish/pro-Israel community, so that we can truly offer the support that we want to give to other student organizations on campus. " - Jake Nitzkin, Michigan State University.
At my school, Michigan State University, The David Project is an established entity on campus, known by a range of leaders of different organizations that have worked with the Jewish/pro-Israel community and attended our campus leaders retreat, Israel Uncovered. While we engage other communities incredibly well, we falter when it is time to bring our own unified Jewish community to the table, both in creating relationships with other organizations and offering support when they need our help. We believe the partnership between The David Project and Hillel will help us establish a home-base and a foundation for our Jewish/pro-Israel community, so that we can truly offer the support that we want to give to other student organizations on campus. Our vision is to become an ally for student organizations that need us, and at the same time, share our love for Israel and Jewish culture with them. With this new partnership, we’re feeling more ready than ever to dive in, and build communities with other non-Jewish student leaders and their organizations.” - Jake Nitzkin, Michigan State University