Building Bridges on a Global Scale

Building Bridges on a Global Scale

“Act Locally, Think Globally”. That is the goal behind the Hillel Olami internship program and this year’s students have wasted no time in fulfilling this philosophy with the Tel-Hai branch of Hillel hosting some incredible events in the local area, which have brought together students from around the world. Hillel Olami is a yearlong internship program that enables a unique group of students to take part in professional internships in Hillel Centers in Israel and New York.

As part of the program, which is supported by the UJA Federation of New York, Israeli and American students carry out parallel internships in local Hillel centers and during the year travel for a short internship at the corresponding Hillel center overseas. During these internships, students from Tel-Hai operate locally, creating events, initiatives, programs and projects for the local student community, in coordination and discussion with a student intern from Hillel New York who is doing the same internship track. 

Within this framework, Tel-Hai student Gili Katlan, who is the intern for hasbara (public diplomacy), set up a correspondence channel with the public diplomacy intern at the Baruch College Hillel in New York, Goldie Gross. In January, Gili, together with Goldie, organized a trip during which a team of 10 Israeli and 10 American interns spent a week participating in a range of informative Hillel events.

The American students got the chance to see the incredible work their Israeli counterparts are up to and met with people and organizations in the region. In the spirit of community building, the group of students spent some time volunteering as well as bonding and sharing ideas with each other. They also found time to go on trips in the northern Galilee region as well as the Golan Heights.

After a long week of exploring, the whole group spent the weekend at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi for a Shabbat studying topics such as internships, group building and a discussion about Jewish peoplehood.

Amid all this learning, the students were treated to a lecture by the incredible Erin Schrode, the youngest candidate in history to run for US Congress. Erin, who has visited Israel a number of times after falling in love with the country on a Birthright trip, came to the upper Galilee directly from reporting from and volunteering at Syrian Refugee camps in Jordan. She is an activist for the environment, sustainability and social equality as well as a social entrepreneur and storyteller. Erin came to speak with students about how she has devoted her life to activism on behalf of a just and prosperous world for all people as well as for future generations.

Erin’s talk was so powerful that it had a lasting impact on many of the students. Since her visit, a number of the students have already been in touch with her to ask questions about activism and social change and have been inspired to make a difference.

The students who heard Erin speak have a fellow Tel-Hai Hillel graduate by the name of Dor Guata to thank for her visit. Dor, who decided after his studies to become a shaliach (emissary) in San Diego, was at the Hillel Global Assembly in December where he heard Erin talk. He thought that she was so impressive that he told himself that he had to go chat to her. Being a proud graduate, Dor told Erin all about how great Tel-Hai is and he invited her to come and speak with the students at his beloved college. She accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history.