“March Madness” is much, much more than a basketball tournament. As Jewish students on campuses across the country were exhilarated – or disappointed — by one of the most exciting NCAA college basketball post-seasons in recent memory, they’ve also been involved in exciting developments at home and abroad, from Passover celebrations to fighting an anti-Israel divestment vote at the UC-Berkeley campus.
Passover on Campus Celebrations
When it comes to Passover, it’s not "one Seder fits all".
Students from the Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College focused on helping needy Jews this Passover: The Hillel distributed Passover food packages to 400 needy families in the area and another group of students will spend the entire holiday helping elderly Jews at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut. Upstate, a Seder in American Sign Language was held at the Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
University of Pennsylvania Hillel produced a Haggadah supplement that deals with the issue of human trafficking. At Emory, the Schusterman Visiting Artists Program supported a multicultural, multimedia Israeli hip hop/reggae Seder with the Israeli musical group Axum. The Ohio State University Hillel offered a Seder featuring Ethiopian Jewish traditions. At the University of Texas, Austin, Texas Hillel hosted its second annual LOVE Seder: Local, Organic, Vegetarian, Eco-friendly. Hillel student leaders at the University of Delaware chalked the ten plagues on the campus walkway and sponsored a “Helping to Make Seders fun” workshop.
Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution Vetoed at UC Berkeley
Will Smelko, the president of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley, vetoed an anti-Israel student Senate bill calling for divestment from two U.S. companies doing business with Israel. Berkeley Hillel led a campuswide effort of pro-Israel groups to oppose the anti-Israel measure. The student Senate still has the chance to overturn the veto.
Considering the way this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament has worked out, there’s a very high chance that you’ve lost interest in the bracket you made a few weeks ago (The author of this column is not in such dire straits — half of his final four is still in and he’s just two West Virginia victories away from a small profit). No matter who won or lost, chances are there was a Hillel on campus. Meanwhile, Jeremy Fine of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal predicted the winner based on their Jewish credentials. Unfortunately, picking God doesn’t always work out.
Doing Social Justice Around the World
The wave of social justice alternative break trips hit Manhattan two weeks ago and the New York Jewish Week and The Jerusalem Post were on hand to cover it. National Public Radio asked Syracuse HillelProgram Coordinator Brian Small why Hillel continues to do relief work in New Orleans when other groups have stopped. Two television networks, Band and Globo, covered the work of Jewish students in the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro.
Around New York
* Hillel of Queens College and The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding hosted Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who joined Rabbis Marc Schneier and Moshe Shur for a March 15 discussion on African-American and Jewish-American relations
* The Cirque du Hillel Fashion Show, sponsored by Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College, modeled designs by students at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute. Despite torrential rains, more than 300 people attended the fashion show which raised over $3,000 for UJA-Federation of New York.
In Other News…
* Hadag Nachash, the internationally-known performers of “The Sticker Song” toured the U.S. this winter, stopping by the University of Vermont.
* Hillel at the University of Rhode Island celebrated the grand opening of its first building on March 9.
David Meyer a first-year student at the University of Maryland.