Students at Hillel's Engagement Institute in August first learned about the Talk Israel initiative.
On September 21 and 22, 20 Hillels across North America will participate in Hillel's Talk Israel initiative, a program that fosters dialogue about the changing landscape of the Middle East by setting up tents in central areas on North American campuses. The tents will provide venues in which students can converse in an atmosphere governed by the rules of civil dialogue and the university's code of conduct.
"Hillel seeks to recapture the public forum for debate," explains CIE Director Sharon Ashley. "We want to give voice to students with questions and to provide a forum for those who don't even know what to ask. The Talk Israel tents will bring students inside to talk about a secure Israel even as the world ominously shifts around it."
The 20 Hillels participating in Talk Israel are: Brandeis University; University of Florida; Montreal - Concordia & McGill Universities; Binghamton University; University of Arizona; Towson University; George Washington University; Tufts University; Columbia/Barnard; Toronto; Princeton University; University of Vermont; Goucher University; Cornell University; UC Berkeley; University of Miami; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Delaware; Michigan State University; and the Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh.
The Hillels of University of Michigan, Beach Orange County and others will participate in the Talk Israel event without the structure of a tent.
The Center for Israel Engagement will provide each of the 20 campuses with a furnished tent, educational materials and resources, speakers and the AV equipment to link them to all the tents and a Facebook page to connect the conversations of all Talk Israel participants. Each Hillel will adapt this paradigm to its own campus needs, partnering with university departments, groups and coalitions to bring added meaning and significance to this day-long event.
Plans are being made to replicate the program in the spring semester.
The program is sponsored, in part, by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
Hillel is the central address on college campuses for Israel engagement, education and advocacy. Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations. Hillel provides the infrastructure for Israel travel, celebrations and fighting anti-Israel efforts. Working closely with the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Birthright Israel NEXT, MASA Israel Journey, AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, Hillel helps students understand Israel and to defend her whenever necessary.
The core functions of the new Center for Israel Engagement, funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, are to lead an educational Israel agenda for diverse college students; to develop a cadre of influential, pro-active and knowledgeable staff; to increase student travel to Israel through programs such as Taglit-Birthright Israel, Alternative Break Israel trips, study abroad and more; and to centralize the role of Taglit-Birthright Israel in local Hillels' efforts to help students advance on their Jewish journeys.
Talk Israel was reported in The Jerusalem Post, JTA, eJewish Philanthropy, anf Tablet