By Adam Polacek
This year, the Hillel Foundation at The University of Wisconsin entered into a partnership with the Jewish Federation of Boston to strengthen our Jewish community through the IACT initiative. This initiative championed by CJP, or Combined Jewish Philanthropies, stands for Inspired, Active, Committed, Transformed, and relates to the process of young adults finding their connection to Jewish life through campus Birthright Israel trips and other Israel travel experiences. A part of this initiative is employing a full time IACT Coordinator who oversees the program and ensures that as many people as possible are impacted through recruitment, engagement, and post-trip follow-up. This year, IACT Coordinators worked in 24 different Hillels on college campuses across the country; the number of IACT coordinators on campus continues to grow every year. At the UW Hillel, the goal of the IACT Coordinator was to increase participation in its campus Israel trips by 20 to 30 percent over the course of the year and have 80 percent of the participants engaged in three or more post-trip activities upon their return. UW Hillel sent 146 students to Israel this year through its winter and summer campus Birthright Israel trips (113 students), an alternative spring break trip to Israel (20 students), and the iEngage Fellowship in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute (13 students). In addition, UW Hillel engaged 80 percent of these participants in three or more follow up activities related to Jewish learning, Israel engagement, and community service. UW Hillel is proud to say that it met and exceeded its goals.
This upcoming year, UW Hillel will be entering into its second year working with Chicago-based trip organizer, Shorashim, to ensure the most incredible travel experiences possible for its Birthright Israel and alternative spring break participants. Shorashim is unique in that their Birthright Israel trips include Israeli participants for all ten days, as opposed to other organizers who have Israeli participants present for only a portion of the time. This unique aspect provides students with an authentic cultural immersion experience enabling North American Jews and Israeli Jews with the opportunity for meaningful cultural exchanges and the development of close personal relationships over the course of the trip. As requested by many students, Shorashim also provides extended time in the city of Tel Aviv. For the past three years, Shorashim has been presented with the Certificate of Overall Excellence from Birthright Israel, which encompasses education, itineraries, logistics, marketing, and staffing.
UW Hillel’s Birthright Israel program in partnership with Shorashim is available to Jewish young adults between the ages of 18-26 who are students at the University of Wisconsin and local community members, as well as friends and siblings of these individuals. For more information please visit our website at www.uwhillel.org or call (608) 256-8361 ext. 709. To secure your spot on the winter 2016/2017 or the summer 2017 trips, pre-register now at www.israelwithisraelis.com/go.