Hillel Gets Funding for MAZON Intern

Trinity recently became one of only eight colleges in the country to receive a two-semester grant from the Schusterman Hillel International Center to take part in a creative new student internship program designed to raise campus awareness about hunger and homelessness. The grant was offered through a partnership between Hillel and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national, not-for-profit organization that distributes donations from the Jewish community to combat hunger in the United States and around the world. According to Hillel Director Lisa Kassow, the grant, received in January, is being used to fund the work of an intern “committed to the Jewish concept of Tzedek (social justice)” and dedicated to creating “thoughtful programs that will educate our student population and make a difference in the world.”

“We are thrilled to be one of the campuses with a MAZON intern,” explains Kassow. “In Jewish life, there is an imperative to engage in helping others through social action. The concept is called tikkun olam—repairing the world. For Julie, our MAZON intern, the contextual basis for this work resonates very deeply. The phrase ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue’ from Deuteronomy and the words of the great first century Rabbi Hillel, ‘If not now, when?’ inspire her and, in turn, motivate others in our community to take to heart this obligation to make a positive difference in the world.”

The MAZON intern for the spring 2005 semester is Julie Hirsh ’08, who came to Trinity from Atlanta after spending a year studying in the Young Judea Program in Israel. Among the initiatives that Julie has already set into motion are the Hillel-based assembly of Purim mishloach manot (gift boxes of holiday foods), which were distributed to senior citizens at the Hebrew Home and Hospital in West Hartford; a campus-wide knitting program, with support from the Schusterman International Center, to create and sell handmade items with the proceeds going to MAZON; and, along with Chartwells Food Service, an initiative to donate leftover soup from the campus dining halls to a Hartford homeless shelter.

Julie also played an integral part in Hillel’s successful Gift of Life Bone Marrow Drive, which registered 34 potential donors to a national data bank. The drive was intended to identify potential Jewish bone marrow donors because the death of so many Jews in the Holocaust has made the accessibility of matching genetic tissue a particular challenge. Gift of Life, an organization that is working to expand the representation of Jewish people in the donor pool, has organized approximately 50 bone marrow drives on college campuses around the country. Trinity’s drive was open to everyone from the campus community as well as the general public—both Jews and non-Jews—between the ages of 18 and 60.

Julie’s contributions to the effort included the creation of visual story boards describing the link between genocide and the subsequent lack of a donor base of life-saving transplants, with special emphasis on the current situation in Darfur, Sudan. “The MAZON internship has provided me with a profound understanding of global poverty and how organizations operate locally to raise awareness and offer relief,” she says. “My contact with the Mercy House and my research into the inadequate aid in Darfur has also alerted me to the human crisis of poverty so that I could truly identify with victims of hunger and homelessness as people.”


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