The Rutgers Bells Ring in Jerusalem
by Tzvi Raviv
There is something amazing about the Hillel Taglit-Birthright trip, a unique opportunity to show Israel to college students that have never been to Israel. Taglit-Birthright is free to the students and to the Hillel, and both are thankful for this wonderful opportunity. In the past I staffed Taglit-Birthright, but going with Rutgers Hillel was the first time I went with a group where all the students attend the same school. Our group had an immediate team spirit. It was obvious that following the Havdalah service in Jerusalem the Rutgers group started to sing the Rutgers fight song, “the Bells Must Ring.”
Taglit-Birthright is a group experience. Participants on the trip will create friendships that will continue after the college years, and some will even find partners for life. After coming back from Israel, Taglit-Birthright alumni have friends to go with to Rutgers Hillel programs, and even have the opportunity to take part in student-led initiatives that shape Jewish life on campus.
For me, the highlight of the trip was Friday night services on the hotel’s roof in Jerusalem. There is something special about services in Jerusalem, particularly when there is a view over the city. At the services it was nice to see that even after a long week of activities from morning to evening, the students still wanted to learn more about Judaism and spend time with their friends in a Jewish context.
For Rutgers Hillel, Taglit-Birthright is a way to attract new students to be part of the Jewish network on campus. The case for the attraction power of Taglit-Birthright can be proven by the fact that Rutgers Hillel staff members knew only half out of 40 students that went with Rutgers Hillel to Israel this past month. There is no other program that makes Jewish students connect with the Jewish network on campus as Taglit-Birthright.
Students that go on Taglit-Birthright come back home excited to be part of the Jewish community and are proud of the success of the Zionist project in the land Israel. But coming back to the daily routines might cause student to neglect to act on those post Taglit-Birthright experience feelings. It is up to the Rutgers Hillel staff to make sure that we keep the Taglit-Birthright alumni connected to the Jewish network on campus. There are many ways to get involved, such as Shabbat dinner, social justice opportunities and engaging others with appreciation towards the spirit of the Israel people. Now it is up to us at Rutgers Hillel to provide opportunities for Taglit-Birthright alumni to deepen their connection to Jewish identity and Jewish community.