At most colleges, April is the time to wrap up the academic year, say goodbye to graduating seniors, and support students as they prepare final exams. Students at DePaul University are fortunate (though some may disagree) to be on the quarter system, so they don't finish school until the middle of June. DePaul Hillel is using the spring quarter to focus on Israel education and advocacy. In the month of April alone, we've had seven different Israel-related events reaching over 200 students.
We kicked off the third-annual Chicago Israel Week with 90 students through Shabbat dinner at Silverstein Base Hillel. We worked with students to be "table captains" and trained them to help lead discussions during dinner on topics related to different aspects of Israeli society. Afterwards, students read poems and short stories by their favorite Israeli authors and spoke movingly about their personal connections to Israel in a poetry slam style setting. Students left Shabbat with more knowledge and curiosity about Israel, and for many, a stronger desire to return to Israel or sign up for Birthright.
Chicago Israel Week continued at DePaul on Good Deeds Day, when Jewish and non-Jewish students came together to make school supply kits for local kids in need. The highlight of the week on campus, however, was undoubtedly our Israeli fashion show. We brought in Tali Kogan of Tel Aviv Couture. Students modeled her client Hidas' work on the runway. Hidas' clothes are unique because they were all designed in collaboration with an architect from Gaza. Kogan talked about fashion as an art form that can break down barriers between different groups of people. Chicago Israel Week events were created and planned by DePaul student leaders who intern at JUF's Israel Education Center and Hillel's Israel Fellow, Itiya Schnall.
Israel programming on campus did not slow down after Chicago Israel Week. In a lecture co-sponsored by the History Department and the Center for Religious Culture and Community and organized by DePaul's Israel interns, Israeli law professor Amos Guiora shared his research on the bystander effect in the Holocaust, particularly from his unique perspective as the only child of two survivors. To commemorate Yom HaShoah, Hillel hosted two Holocaust survivors on campus to share their stories. A few days later, on Yom Ha'atzmaut, we celebrated Israel's independence in the most Israeli way possible -- with a barbecue, music, and lots of fun!
More opportunities for students to engage with Israel before the school year ends are in the works. Our events throughout April and the 200 incredible students who made them possible show just how vibrant and passionate the DePaul Jewish community is when it comes to Israel on campus.
Jonah Brandhandler, a shawarma connoisseur, is Metro Chicago Hillel's engagement associate serving DePaul University.