How Israel Inspires Empowered Me
By Rahel Bayar ’04
Living on campus during the start of the second intifada could have been categorized as terrifying. Rutgers University was a hotbed of anti-Israeli and anti-semitic sentiment. We were a student body dominated by daily anti Israel attacks in the student newspaper, scared by the graffiti on sidewalks and at Hillel and ambushed by fellow students who felt it justified to pie Natan Sharansky in the face, compare Israeli soldiers to Nazis, and call for the annihilation of Israel.
And yet, the four years I spent on campus were the opposite of terrifying. It was empowering. It was through the friendships forged at Hillel that groups of diverse students were able to band together and create a framework for advocacy. Hillel is an organization that encourages diversity, pluralism and tolerance. Rutgers Hillel was a place where I was able to forge friendships with people I may never have otherwise encountered. It provided us with an environment that celebrated both our similarities and our differences.
Rabbi Reed and Andrew Getraer were influential leaders who encouraged us to ask questions and be passionate about our beliefs. They taught us that the way in which we communicate can not only help get our message across, but will also inspire others to join us.
Israel Inspires was the brainchild of a group that decided that being proactive in its support for Israel would have the ability to unite, create and inspire. We started with small ideas on how we share smiles, cheers and falafels. We believed that sharing what we loved most about Israel could quell the negative propaganda surrounding us.
We could never have dreamed that we’d soon be standing side by side with thousands of people who gathered not in fear or in anger, but in solidarity. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. It showed me what individuals are capable of when they band together with a mutual goal. It showed our university and surrounding community the power of positive inspiration and the beauty of Israel.
I hope you will join with us in recognizing the great leadership of Rabbi Reed, Andrew Getraer and my colleagues on the Israel Inspires team as we celebrate our past and empower the next generation of student Hillel leaders as they inspire others.
Rutgers Hillel is proud to honor Rahel and the Israel Inspires Team ’04 at the Annual Gala on Tuesday, June 17th. Rutgers Hillel cultivates the next generation of Jewish leaders. The Israel Inspires Team ’04 is a true testament to that.