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Humans of Hillel


I grew up being taught the values of helping others and making sacrifices for the greater good.

College Park, Maryland | 2022

Shoshana DistenfeldAs told to Gabriel Lesser, writer for the Hillel International Writer's Program

“I'm majoring in bioengineering. But I'm also in an academic program that combines Engineering, Business and Computer Science. It focuses a lot on the design and development of different products and that's truly what I am interested in pursuing. So when I heard about the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Fellowship, I thought: Wow, this truly aligns with my passions.

TOM is a worldwide Jewish organization, consisting of multiple chapters on college campuses, with the purpose of creating and disseminating affordable solutions to those in need. Every TOM project begins with the needs of one individual, and for my project, this started with a lovely woman named Carmen, who has severe arthritis.

At the University of Maryland, I am working on a project inspired by Carmen, called ‘The Ultimate Jar Opener.’ With our project, our aim is to help more people with severe arthritis or limited hand mobility open screwable lids and caps, by modifying the shape of these lids to make them more accessible.

Thanks to UMD Hillel, I am connected to a vast Jewish community on a daily basis, and I even have the opportunity to reach out and recruit people for my TOM project. Being a part of TOM has also definitely strengthened my connection to Israel, since that’s where TOM was founded and where many chapters are located.

Because of my Jewish identity, I grew up being taught the values of helping others and making sacrifices for the greater good. I have definitely been inspired to choose a career where I can educate and help provide services to others, and I hope to continue doing this through TOM.” — Shoshana Distenfeld, University of Maryland '24