Tag Archives: Mayanot Birthright Israel Program

The Mayanot Birthright Israel Program and Tulane University’s Chabad Community, by Samantha Hilsenrod (2/2)

30 Jan

Overseen by Tulane University’s Chabad Jewish community, the Mayanot Birthright Israel Program appealed to me in part because the organizers opt to focus on Israel’s history and modern day culture. Rather than forcing a specific religious perspective on students like myself who enroll in the program, the Chabad strongly encourage all Birthright participants to delve into Jewish spirituality however they see fit. Additionally, the staff directing the Mayanot Birthright Israel Program goes above and beyond when it comes to securing high quality hotel accommodations, also making certain that students partake in the best of Israeli cuisine. Mayanot is a non-profit organization, therefore all funds allotted for the Israel trip go toward creating a superb and unforgettable vacation.

Aside from funding and leading the Mayanot Birthright Israel Program, the Chabad work hard to support the needs of Tulane University’s Jewish population. The linguistic term Chabad is actually an acronym derived from the underlying principles that inform religious faction’s mission. The word Chachmah translates as wisdom, followed by Binah (understanding), and Daas (knowledge). In a nutshell, the Chabad aim to actionably foster Jewish culture in every fashion possible, accomplishing this goal through Friday night Shabbat services and dinners open to all, educational classes held at the school’s Chabad House, celebrations of major Jewish holidays, and social gatherings on campus or out on the town in New Orleans.

About the author:

Presently majoring in Spanish and communications at Tulane University, Samantha Hilsenrod plans to graduate in May of 2012. Over the course of her tenure at Tulane, Ms. Hilsenrod has assisted in establishing the Delta Chapter of Phi Mu, a sorority that channels its resources toward philanthropic endeavors that markedly benefit the local community. Since enrolling at Tulane, Ms. Hilsenrod has raised money for the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Children’s Hospital, New Orleans. Moreover, she volunteers for the Gulf Restoration Network, juggling a busy schedule that requires her to balance a rigorous academic course load with an off-campus job. In her spare time, Samantha Hilsenrod takes movement classes at the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance.


The Mayanot Birthright Israel Program and Tulane University’s Chabad Community (1/2)

31 Aug

By Samantha Hilsenrod

As a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, I undertake a wide array of supplemental academic, social, and community service activities in conjunction to my everyday scholastic responsibilities. Suffice to say, these endeavors always prove worthwhile, often resulting in the formation of wonderful new friendships. In 2009, I had the opportunity to expand my understanding of Jewish culture and tradition as a participant in the Chabad Mayanot Birthright Israel Program. An incredibly fulfilling experience on multiple levels,  my involvement with the Chabad movement at home in the United States as well as in Israel has served as a foundation for exploring my personal spiritual beliefs and family heritage, a lifelong journey that I look forward to pursuing further.

During my visit to Israel with other members of Tulane University’s Jewish community, my peers and I employed our time in an enjoyable and intellectually edifying manner, simply relaxing and sightseeing on some days, while respectfully observing some of the most ancient facets of Judaism in practice on others. One particularly defining event of the Chabad Mayanot Israel Program that stood out for me was the Friday night our group spent at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Also referred to as the Wailing Wall or Kotel, the city’s Western Wall is situated in East Jerusalem’s Old Quarter, hulking in size despite the fact that more modern structures now engulf a large portion of the sacred artifact. Constructed from thick blocks of limestone, the Western Wall measures nearly 500 meters from end to end, its surface dotted with a multiplicity of tiny holes and crevices.

Upon close examination of these cracks, one will likely notice that many of the wall’s fissures contain folded pieces of paper, some still white, others yellowed with age. On these slips of paper, devout followers of numerous religions write down their prayers and lamentations, a physical rendering of faith with deep individual meaning for those who come to the Western Wall on a religious pilgrimage. As a communications major, I was pleased to discover that a free service now exists that enables people to Twitter their prayers, the digital messages then converted into print and inserted into the wall itself.

The Mayanot Birthright Israel Program and Tulane University’s Chabad Community, by Samantha Hilsenrod Part 2 – Published on BigSight