AUSTIN — The 2017-2018 year was an exciting year one for Texas Hillel, with perennial programs that have become a staple of Jewish life on campus, and new projects and opportunities that made their way to campus.
The year kicked off with a Welcome Week of events for both new and returning students. In addition to a First Day of Class Brunch, the annual Texans for Israel Falafel Dinner and Welcome Back Shabbat, the Labor Day BBQ showcased more than 30 student groups and projects that are part of the Hillel community, introducing students to the diverse ways they can get involved in Jewish life and pro-Israel activities.
As the year got under way, Hillel’s ongoing, regular programming commenced. This includes weekly Shabbat services and meals (which are free for students); the Jewish Learning Fellowship program, offered both at the Hillel building and in Greek chapter houses; frequent volunteer and social action opportunities in the community; and weekly Texans for Israel meetings and programs.
Fall semester highlights included High Holiday celebrations and programming, a memorable week in the Sukkah, traveling to Houston to volunteer for Hurricane Harvey Relief, the annual TAIPAC campus leadership dinner featuring a bipartisan congressional panel and the award-winning Hanukkah/Diwali dinner celebrating the Jewish and Hindu traditions’ festivals of light.
Some of the most impactful programs Hillel offers are travel experiences, both domestic and abroad. In 2017-2018, nearly 300 students traveled with Texas Hillel, from Birthright Israel over winter and summer breaks to alternative break trips to Poland, Argentina, Israel, New Orleans and Florida. These programs enabled students to travel with their fellow Texas students across the globe, exposing them to new ideas and experiences that, for many, are highlights of their college career.
The 20th Annual Israel Block Party took place in late March, featuring interactive educational booths showcasing Israel’s dynamic history and culture, and welcoming more than 1,500 students to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday.
The TAIPAC cadre brought one of the largest student delegations in the country to the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and was awarded the national Activist of the Year award.
The White Rose Society, a genocide awareness group, held its annual 10,000 Roses event, handing out roses on campus to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. The speaker, UT President Gregory Fenves, shared the story of his father, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to America.
In April, Texas Hillel sent a team to the National Hillel Basketball Tournament in Maryland, finishing as the runner-up in the Tier 2 bracket in a field of over 40 teams.
Through the over 500 programs, large and small, offered by Hillel in 2017-2018, students explored their Jewish identities on their own terms, formed lifelong friendships, cultivated leadership skills, volunteered in the community, and learned about Israel. From thousands of students dancing to Israeli music on the East Mall, to a one-on-one coffee meeting on campus, Hillel is building community on campus and inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders for the Texas Jewish community.
Attention is now focused on the arrival and return of students to campus this fall. If you or someone you know is coming to UT, please go to http://texashillel.org/tell-us-about-yourself/ or email Arielle Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be welcomed to campus.