Donation Of $25 Million Could Help NU Students Travel To Israel

by Talia Alberts/THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN
Published: Friday, March 30, 2007

Few college students will turn down free food or merchandise, so it’s no surprise that many Northwestern students are taking advantage of a free 10-day trip.

A recent $25 million donation by the Adelson Family Charitable Foundation, started by Las Vegas-based tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, will allow for many more students to participate this summer in Taglit-birthright Israel, a program that gives young Jewish people the opportunity to visit Israel to foster a sense of connection to the country and to Judaism.

To date, the organization has given more than 120,000 young adults from 51 countries the chance to participate.

At NU, birthright is run through two different providers – Fiedler Hillel Center and Tannenbaum Chabad House.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein leads most groups that go through the Chabad provider, whereas Andrea Jacobs, Hillel’s director of engagement, leads the Hillel trips.

Although both Klein and Jacobs said the grant wouldn’t have a major effect on their summer programs individually, Jacobs said Hillel already is looking into creating an additional August trip to solve timing problems caused by the NU quarter system schedule.

“The tough thing for Northwestern is timing,” Jacobs said, “which is why we asked for the August dates to make it more quarter-friendly. The good thing is that there was an overwhelming response and so maybe next year it will be more of a permanent thing.”

Worldwide, Klein said the donation could allow for about 10,000 more students to experience birthright. Birthright will distributs the money among the different trip providers, Klein said.

Jacobs said the grant functions to open seats so that individual providers can allow those on their waiting lists to be a part of the program.

Klein said he believes that whether or not the money goes directly to NU, it will benefit the Jewish community here.

“(Having more young adults go) is better for Jewish identity and continuity and Israel,” Klein said. “The awareness of the importance of Israel to American Jews filters through to all Jewish students as they interact with each other.”

Both Klein and Jacobs said their summer trips had filled up. Jacobs said that Hillel’s registration numbers have increased since its trip at the end of Fall Quarter.

“Students (who) don’t go with either Hillel or Chabad also go with other providers or possibly study abroad,” Jacobs said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the number that are thinking about going.”

Stuart Loren, a Weinberg junior who went on the Winter Break trip with Klein, said he was attracted to the trip as a way to learn more about his Jewish culture.

“I felt like I was at an age where I would get something meaningful out of the trip,” Loren said. “It was a great experience and I felt like I learned more about who I am.”

Loren said he took part in a birthright trip with some close friends and that it was a great opportunity.

“I recommended it to all of my friends,” Loren said. “When else are you going to have the chance to travel halfway across the world for free?”

Reach Talia Alberts at t-alberts@northwestern.edu.