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Campus Israel Fellows Bring Israel to College Campuses

When Valentina Homenko began her Israel Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she focused on educating the student body. “I worked with students to help them find their connections to Israel and Judaism, because it is impossible to teach Judaism without teaching about Israel,” she said.

Valentina developed a special course on Israel that examined the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli culture and society. She also encouraged students to see Israel more broadly by introducing cultural evenings featuring Ethiopian and Russian Jews and started a club for Russian-speaking Jews. “Most of the Jews in the American university setting are of Ashkenazi origin, and their opinion about Israeli society was that Israelis are all the same…” Valentina said. Her initiatives countered some of the stereotypes students had about Israel and Israeli society and allowed them to learn about various Jewish traditions and celebrations.

Valentina is one of nearly 100 Campus Israel Fellows serving college campuses throughout the world, including most major American colleges and universities. The experience has strengthened her Jewish identity and the Jewish commitment of students at UMass.

Organized by Federation overseas partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, Campus Israel Fellows work on a university campus for one to three years, collaborating with students and faculty through peer-to-peer educational initiatives and unique social gatherings to present a positive and diverse picture of Israel. The fellows are based at a Hillel or other Jewish student organizations.

To learn more about Federation’s overseas partners, click here.

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