By MIKE URAM
During my first day back in the office after spending a week at the Shalom Hartman Institute as an iEngage Campus Professional Fellow, I found myself starting all sorts of new conversations with staff, students, and board members. I got into a discussion about Herzl’s utopian novel Altneuland with my board president. I found myself talking with the Orthodox rabbi on my staff about the Jewish writer and Hasidut scholar Hillel Zeitlin who was new to both of us. At a coffee date with a student who was taking summer classes, we began to discuss a profound article I had never seen before written by Prof. David Weiss Halivni. It was then that I realized the immediate and concrete impact that my experience at the Shalom Hartman Institute already had on me. I was intellectually reawakened and I was bursting with new ideas about how we could change the conversation that college students are having about Israel.
The week I spent in Israel as part of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals was wonderful on so many levels. Fourteen leading campus professionals from North America and the UK gathered in Jerusalem for seven days of intense study, discussion, and group building. With some of the best teachers and facilitators in the world, we delved deeply into topics including how to engage Israel beyond a crisis narrative, different conceptions of Jewish peoplehood, and the infusion of Jewish content into popular Israeli music.
In between each session, during meals, and late into the evening, the conversations between the Fellows continued as we processed and synthesized everything we were learning. Two amazing things grew out of all of these intense discussions. First, all of us were finding new and innovative ways to apply what we were learning to our local campus as well as to the larger Hillel movement. Second, this random group of campus professionals was transformed into a close-knit group and a community of friends and thought-partners.
We are all so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this group, and even though it was only our first gathering, I am sure it will begin to pay real dividends on campus in the coming year.
The Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals program is the product of a partnership between the Shalom Hartman Institute and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The Fellowship is generously supported by the Morningstar Foundation.
Mike Uram is the Director and Campus Rabbi at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel.