Cultural group Mishelanu explores what it means to be Israeli-American

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By Charlie Wright

Last year, a new program for Israeli-American students came to campus. Mishelanu, which means ”from ourselves” in Hebrew, is a program that focuses on creating a community for Israeli-American students on American college campuses. A year later, the program has grown more established according to Hillel Israel fellow Nurit Eitan, and offers leadership training as well as community-building activities.

The daily operations of the organization are handled by four student leaders — junior psychology major Dani Katz, sophomore architecture major Danielle Sherr, junior hearing and speech sciences major Noga Raviv and sophomore neurobiology and psychology major Shir Kantor. Maryland Hillel’s Israel fellow and Eitan, Mishelanu’s Hillel staff adviser, meets with these leaders once a week.

The organization focuses on bringing together a diverse community and giving members an opportunity to spend time with people who have similar views.

“We aim to provide an environment where a community can develop for students that come from this unique cultural background to talk about and connect over how we were brought up,” Kantor wrote in an email.

Mishelanu works to expand American-Israeli communities at college campuses across the country. The national organization, which is operated by Hillel, has chapters in Boston, Chicago and New Orleans, among other places.

The Maryland chapter of Mishelanu meets every other week to give Israeli students the opportunity to learn about their culture from different points of view. Mishelanu members also get together to celebrate Jewish holidays in creative ways.

There are perks to being members of a larger umbrella organization, according to Kantor.

“Mishelanu also provides us with opportunities to attend subsidized conferences for networking with other Israeli-American students from all over the country and to listen to some really exciting political and cultural speakers about Israeli and American interactions, life, culture, [and] politics,” she said.

Eitan explained that the program is all about getting students in touch with their identities.

“Mishelanu deals with joining American-Israelis with their Israeli identity. For students who grew up in Israel and came to the United States or for students who are second-generation Israelis, they have a group to talk to about their Israeli identity,” she said.

In addition to exploring cultural identity, Mishelanu sponsors Israeli-themed events just for fun. So far this year, the group watched a TV documentary about the life of soldiers at an Israel Defense Forces army base and has had a pizza party.

“We’re planning more awesome events like making chocolate balls and hopefully a Shabbat dinner, too,” Kantor said.

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