Last year’s Guatemala alternative break trip. Photo courtesy of Maryland Hillel.

By Nicole Wohlberg
For Mitzpeh

As winter break approaches, students are scrounging for activities over the long six-week vacation.

Hillel provides alternative break trips every year over winter and spring break for Jewish students. These trips are geared for students who observe Sabbath and keep kosher.

Over the past few years, Hillel has gone to Guatemala over winter break. This year’s trip will be led by senior physiology and neurobiology major Daniel Givner and senior supply chain management and information science major Ali Dorn. Students will partner with the Long Way Home organization to take trash like bottles, cans and tires to build schools, buildings and homes for the families in the town of Compala, said Givner.

“I am just really excited and I hope to challenge my perspective and preconceived notion about environmental sustainability,” he said.

The trip is a way for students to learn about the culture and people of Guatemala, as well as travel and get to meet new people.

Sammy Turk Tolub, a junior psychology major, will also attend and looks forward to the amazing opportunity.

“I have always wanted to go on an AB trip but most are during spring break when I go on tour with Kol Sasson. When I heard that there is a trip over winter break, I knew I had to do it, especially since winter break is so long for us,” said Tolub.

Veronica Leifer, a sophomore biology and psychology major, will embark on two different trips to Israel over winter break. Her first trip, organized by the Jewish National Fund, is a week-long volunteer trip in Israel that is fully subsidized with a fundraising minimum of $950. All the money raised goes to the project that the student will volunteer at.

Leifer’s second trip to Israel is through Hillel. This trip is open to both Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders from this university.

“You learn about Israel for people who have never been there and never experienced it from an unbiased experience. We are going to be touring and going into the West Bank and analyzing political issues and telling both narratives of the conflict,” said Leifer.

Many Jewish students choose to return to Israel to visit gap-year programs they attended during this long break. Maya Greenbaum, a freshman kinesiology major, is attending a two-day program through Yavneh Fellowships as a Yavneh Fellow. Yavneh is run by the Orthodox Union and Mizrachi and aims to teach fellows about what components Jewish communities on their campus might be missing. The fellows are expected to spend Shabbat weekends together over the year as well as attend this program in Israel over winter break.

While Greenbaum is in Israel, she will also attend a program that is run by her seminary.

“I will be taking part in my seminary’s Recharge program where alumni are able to return to the seminary for about ten days, sleep in the school’s apartments and attend shiurim from our teachers, learning in the beit midrash [learning facility] and go on a couple hikes with the school,” she said.

Hillel also provides opportunities to expose students to Israel for the first time through Birthright, which takes thousands of Jews who have never been to Israel to the country each year. Maryland Hillel is partnering with Birthright to take students at this university to Israel during winter break, as they have been doing for several years.

Whether it’s someone’s first time in Israel, or they are returning, students are excited to spend time in Israel. These trips give many students something to look forward to during the stress of school and finals.

“When I bought my ticket, I printed it out and taped it to my desk so that I can look at it and have something to motivate me to get through all the stressful school work. I am looking forward to this trip more than I can describe,” said Greenbaum.


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