Hillel Seeks Students for 2014 Alternative Breaks

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By Zachary Mellen

Hillel is currently recruiting students for its Alternative Break program, which sends Jewish students on service trips over the winter and spring breaks.

The program, now in its sixth year, aims to assist students in exploring different aspects of Jewish life and community, according to Amy Weiss, who oversees service-learning initiatives at Hillel.

“We believe one really large Jewish imperative is tikkun olam, to repair the world and to be an active member of society making the world a better place,” Weiss said.  “Alternative Breaks are all about bringing people out of their comfort zones to explore social justice issues that plague our country and the world, and to really immerse ourselves in communities to learn about them.”

Hillel is running eight trips this year, four each in winter and spring.  Each has its own unique focus and location.  Spring break trips this year will travel to Mississippi, New Orleans, Mexico and Reisterstown, Md., and will focus on such issues as poverty and sustainable farming.

Each trip, Weiss said, is led by Hillel staff and two student Alternative Break Fellows, who do most of the planning and preparation.

One Fellow, sophomore behavioral community health major Anna Koozmin, participated in a trip to Tucson, Ariz., last spring working with homeless veterans.

“I just had a blast,” she said.  “It was the best experience ever, and one of the best decisions that I’ve made while being here at Maryland.  Going so young as a freshman, I came back with this really tight group of friends.”

Koozmin said she decided to become a Fellow because she wants others to have similar experiences.  “I understand people, especially freshmen, are really apprehensive about giving up their entire spring break to go with a group of people that they may not know,” she said.  “I would make sure people aren’t being too apprehensive that they’re holding themselves back from a really awesome experience that could change their lives.”

Koozmin’s trip will travel to Jackson, Miss., in March to explore poverty in the region and its links to education and agriculture.

Weiss said trips usually fill up fast, so apply early.  “Some trips fill a little more quickly than others,” she said, “but we’ve never not filled a trip.”

Applications for spring break will be accepted Oct. 14 through Nov. 15.  Further information can be found on Hillel’s website.

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