First annual ‘Hilleluyah’ celebrates Jewish renewal
LAST UPDATED: 06/21/2011 04:57
“We are making a difference ... Many community colleges are clamoring for a Hillel chapter. The interest is coming from the ground up.”
Tel Aviv student rally Photo: Shaked Zychlinski
Professionals and students from across Israel, and around the world, gathered in Tel Aviv on Monday night for the first annual “Hilleluyah,” to celebrate the work of Hillel Israel, the Israeli division of the world’s largest Jewish campus organization.
Hilleluyah honored outgoing Hillel Israel CEO, Rabbi Yossie Goldman, whom after 25 years as CEO, has much to celebrate.
Indeed, since Hillel Israel’s first chapter was established at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1951, the organization has expanded to include eight other campuses, reaching over 30,000 students. But there is still room for expansion, said Goldman.
“We are making a difference,” he said. “Many community colleges are clamoring for a Hillel chapter. The interest is coming from the ground up.”
David Yaari, the incoming CEO of Hillel Israel, said this expansion has huge potential.
“We have the opportunity to foster a real Jewish renewal,” Yaari said. “We can stimulate students and youth to make a real change.”
In addition to the recognition of Goldman’s contributions, Hillel Israel also presented awards to two individuals who made outstanding contributions to the Israeli and Jewish communities.
Yaari explains, “The Hillel Israel Award is a strategic milestone of the connection between the Israeli society and the organization and the ideals it stands for. The award will show appreciation for significant activities and contributions to Jewish renewal in Israel, and acknowledge excellence in these fields.”
Hillel Milo was presented with the first-ever Hillel Israel award for his contributions to the Jewish-Israeli community – most notably for the 1977 establishment of Kolot, a pluralist beit midrash for Jewish studies, and Zehut Le’Chaim, in 2003.
Milo, who was both “honored and humbled” to be recognized said, “We are dealing with the most important issue of the Jewish people: identity. This is critical both inside and outside Israel. We need to encourage leaders in their respective sectors to become active in Jewish renewal.”
The recipient of the student award was Lynne Brill, who was selected for her initiative in developing the “Circle of Giving” project, which combines the study of Jewish sources and community volunteering.
Brill said she recognized the importance of fostering students’ understanding of their Jewish identity.
“If you don’t have a past, you don’t have a future,” she said.
Hillel’s presence extends far beyond Israel’s borders: there are over 350 chapters across North and South America, and in Russia.
Though Goldman is stepping down as CEO of Hillel Israel, he said he is far from finished with the organization.
“I will try and establish Hillel centers in Europe,” he said. “Hillel can help young Jewish adults in Europe remain Jewish.”
Yaari said last night’s gala showed the impact Hillel Israel is having on the country and the world.
“We are no longer the best kept secret in Israel,” he said.