Roll Hillel Roll

    By Sally Friedman,
    Birmingham Jewish Foundation Executive Director
    Football, new classes, Shabbat dinners and plenty of “Roll Tides”-It’s fall semester for Jewish students at The University of Alabama.  Bama’s Bloom Hillel is ready with open arms and a welcome-back barbeque this Sunday.
    The last few years have seen unprecedented growth in U of A’s Jewish population and student participation in Hillel has skyrocketed.  Just five years ago, Bama Hillel had a little over 2400 student visits or participation in its events.  Last year, that number more than doubled to over 5300! Students came to Hillel events, loved them and kept coming back. The Jewish population at U of A is now estimated to be between 800 and 900.
    Hillel’s “new” building is six years old and it is bursting at the seams with student activity, whether it’s Shabbat dinners, study sessions or just hanging out.  Some Hillel highlights from last year:  A Passover Seder with 140 students and special guest Alabama mascot Big Al; U of A’s first ever Birthright trip to Israel; and director/producer Laura Bialis’ discussion of her documentary “Rock in the Red Zone” about the vibrant music scene in Sderot, Israel, which has flourished amid rocket attacks from Gaza.
    Both the Birmingham Jewish Federation and The Birmingham Jewish Foundation have participated in Hillel’s growth.  The Federation makes a yearly grant to Hillel and The Birmingham Jewish Foundation has a fund for programming at Hillel.  In addition, The Foundation’s Unrestricted Fund and some of its Donor Advised Funds have helped to support activities.
    In speaking about Alabama, Bloom Hillel Director Lisa Besnoy said, “We have created an amazing place where students can spend time with friends, connect with their Jewish heritage and eat lots of great food!”  Alisa Nadler, parent of a U of A student, is a believer–“The Jewish scene is alive and thriving for kids on the Alabama campus!  Roll Tide!”  Mike Honan, Hillel Board co-chair and two-time Bama, parent summed Hillel up best when he said, “It is one big extended family away from home.”
    For more information on Bama Hillel, contact Director Lisa Besnoy  lisa@bamahillel@gmail.com or 205-348-2183 (o) 205-523-4646 (c).
    If you would like to contribute to The Birmingham Jewish Foundation’s Alabama Hillel Fund, contact Sally Friedman at sallyf@bjf.org or 205-803-1519.

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