At a final gathering before the quarantine began, Elad Kanfi and Shir Azaria, Hillel of San Diego’s Jewish Agency Israel Fellows, told a packed house how Hillel invests in student leaders of all religions who can change the conversation and improve the climate on campus for Jewish students.

Hillel of San Diego board members, donors, and parents came together to hear about the significant impact of Hillel of San Diego’s Fact Finders 2020 trips. Student leaders from the SDSU and UC San Diego campuses offered their firsthand experiences, takeaways, and the impact the trip made on their lives, social connections, and academic pursuits.

The fully-funded Fact Finder trips to Israel are for student leaders of all religious and ethnic backgrounds who explore the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first-hand in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Four students who participated in the recent Fact Finder trips spoke about their experiences and answered questions. One student, Ryan Du, offered additional insights through a video he shot and edited. Please enjoy watching it again here.

Four years ago, SDSU was one of the first six campuses nationally to lead this trip; today, more than 80 Hillels, including UC San Diego, lead these annual trips where students meet with leaders and ordinary citizens. It has been one of the most impactful experiences Hillel has ever created.

The Jewish Agency Israel Fellows help Jewish students develop a personal relationship with Israel as the Jewish homeland and help educate the entire campus community about Israel. They are fully immersed in the campus culture and serve as a human face of Israel. Their presence helps destigmatize Israel and Israelis among students who generally only know about Israel from what they see in the media.

As the BDS movement lobbies student government leaders to adopt anti-Israel policies that only serve to make Jewish students uncomfortable on campus, Hillel and our Jewish Agency Israel Fellows are building broad coalitions of Jewish students and students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds to push back against this anti-Israel activism.

Thanks to the significant investment that Hillel makes in our Israel Fellows and their programs, we are changing the culture on campus to make it safe and welcoming for Jewish students to develop positive relationships with their Jewish peers and with Israel.

Israel programs require a significant level of investment. Aside from the grant from the Maccabee Task Force, which covers the direct cost of the Fact Finder trips, Hillel of San Diego allocates another $100,000 in direct and indirect costs – about 1/10 of our overall budget – to meet these critical challenges. Hillel houses our Israel Fellows, gives them cars to drive, living stipends, and funds for programs.

When you invest in Hillel, you are on the vanguard of campus Israel engagement. This is where future leaders in local and national government will spread their wings and develop policy positions. Israel engagement is one of the most important challenges the Jewish people face today, and Hillel is on the front lines facing it head-on. If you have not yet made an investment in Hillel, please consider supporting us now. If you have already made your gift this year, we are very grateful! Please consider making an additional gift to support Israel programming. You will make a lasting difference, improving the climate, the culture, and the conversation on campus for Jewish students.