Lee Cohen, Director of Hillel at Ben Gurion University
| Feb 13, 2018
Ever since I was a student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in south Israel, and I'm sure even earlier than that, there seemed to be an invisible wall between campus and the city of Beer Sheva. Some called it "the bubble" surrounding campus. As a geography major, I even learned about it in one of my classes. I came to know it as a worldwide phenomenon where campuses in certain cities become islands and students don't see themselves belonging to the city at all. This happens even when students rent apartments in the city, pay city taxes and don't live in dorms. Recently, the conversation about the phenomenon started drifting from the geography classroom walls and became a topic many students and city locals talk about. Recognizing this issue, combined with the need students have on campus for a hangout space where they can take a break, feel a sense of belonging and express themselves, brought about the idea of creating "Art to Get."
"Art to Get" was a fantastic three day long festival which took place in a big festive tent that Hillel at BGU installed at the entrance of the student union. Usually, the University does not invite non-students or faculty to enter campus events but for these three days of celebration the gates of the University opened for all and we were able to offer students and locals a place to come together, meet each other, learn from one another and build a community using art as our focus. The program was supported by BGU's president, the CJA, and even had the blessing and support of Beer Sheva's mayor.
Art to Get - Hillel BGU 2018
I believe that the use of a tent so beautifully represented Hillel International's depiction of Hillel as a wide tent. As Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel has explained on many different occasions: The wider our tent gets, and as far as our tent's pegs are from one another, our tent will be stronger, and more stable. Of course I am referring to the comparison he makes to the idea that as many diverse identities which are included in our Hillels, as many different Jewish ideas we accept, and the further we stretch and widen our limits to who can become a member of our community, the stronger and more stable we will be.
Throughout the days the tent was on campus it served as a hub for young artists who, through Hillel, are interested in exploring their identity and how its reflected through their art. Hillel participants and guest artists from the city of Beer Sheva ran many diverse workshops at the tent, one after another. The workshops went from mindfulness to sketching, theater to pilates and more. The workshops got so many students interested and learning about Hillel, it was exhilarating. We could literally see our tent getting fuller and fuller with each passing day, and with it, our community getting stronger, more diverse and interesting.
Art to Get - Hillel BGU 2018.
"Art to Get" was one of the highlight events planned by the participants in our yearlong program called "Muza Mekomit-Local Muse." The program launched as a pilot working to achieve several goals, among which are creating and empowering the community, conducting an inclusive dialogue regarding the exploration of our Jewish identities, bringing BGU students and young adults from Beer Sheva to interact and learn from one another, and to do it all through art. The participants were carefully chosen to take part in the program and the final group was comprised of both students and local artists. Meeting once a week and led by our Hillel staff, the participants learn and work together. The group will continue working together during spring semester and I can't wait to see what surprises they will be coming up with next.
Yael Romani, BGU Hillel coordinator of Muza Mekomit shared these thoughts: “I wanted to be involved and to take a leadership role at BGU Hillel because of my passion and belief in the overlap between Judaism, community building, and art. Muza Mekomit is a one of a kind program as it is the only program I know of which brings students and young artists from Beer Sheva together. Having a group of diverse participants has created valuable friendships and relationships, and highlighted the connections between our personal identities and our communal ones and connected them to our worldwide Jewish identities.”
Check out these additional pictures
from the event.
* This project is generously supported by the CJA.