By Alicia Cherem
Photo courtesy of Dalia Bauman.
Each year, hundreds of Maryland students dedicate a week of their winter or spring breaks to help those in need across the United States. Maryland Hillel has been hosting these alternative break trips to encourage students to dedicate their free time to others. The locations that these trips will be held in this year include Guatemala, San Diego, Detroit, Las Vegas and New Orleans. The deadline to apply was October 7.
Trips can include up to 12 students and each “give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in a domestic or global community to learn about and actively combat social justice issues,” according to Hillel’s website. Social themes include environmental sustainability in Guatemala and mass incarceration in New Orleans. Every trip is planned out and lead by two students, along with a Maryland Hillel employee.
Shoshana Wolf, a sophomore sociology major, went on the Guatemala trip last year and will now be leading the trip to Detroit this coming spring break. She described her Guatemala trip as an “extremely powerful experience,” and one that she hopes that the participants on her trip will be able to experience as well.
“As a Jew, I’ve always felt an obligation to do my part in tikkun olam – repairing the world,” said Wolf. “It is so important to me that I give back to my community and the broader community – both locally and globally – and I’m thankful that the alternative break fellowship has allowed me to do exactly that.”
Her Detroit trip this spring break will focus on urban decay and bringing innovation to struggling cities.
“These trips consist of students of all different ages and Jewish backgrounds who come together to make a difference due to the single common desire to do better and help those in need,” Wolf said.
Similarly, Ben Bryer, a sophomore in letters and sciences, will be leading the Las Vegas trip this winter break. Byrder attended the New Orleans trip last spring break.
“I want people to be pushed out of their comfort zones and be forced to encounter issues they may have never considered before,” he said.
Bryer described how it had been a huge process to plan the trip. He looks forward to seeing his weeks of very hard work pay off by bringing excitement and challenges to his participants.
Applicants this year must go through a two-step application process that consists of a writing portion and an in-person interview.
Hannah Stein, a sophomore public health major, applied for the Guatemala trip this winter break, which will take place from Jan. 8-17.
“I applied because winter break is too long, and I also want to do something fun for my practicum for my major,” Stein said. “I heard about this trip from several friends, and I am looking forward to the opportunity of helping those in need and immersing myself in a new culture.”
Although these particular trips are focused on dedicating free time and labor to helping those in need, most come with a pretty hefty price, ranging from $400-$1,000. Several scholarships are offered to try and give everyone an equal opportunity to attend, however.
If you are given the opportunity, Wolf highly encourages students to take it, saying that “Experiences like these not only impact the communities we aim to help, but they impact who we are as individuals by indirectly forcing us to be aware of the greatness that each of us has to offer.”