Monday, January 31, 2011

Kick some tuchas!

Who says Jews aren't athletic? 

Not me!
Krav Maga is a self defense system originally created in a small Jewish community as a protection mechanism against Nazi brutality in Europe. Now Krav Maga is practiced in Israel as well as right here at UF Hillel! 

Classes are weekly, on Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm. My class will kick your butt, with a fusion of conditioning, self-protection, and combatives. You come to my class ready to get your sweat on and learn how to effectively protect yourself on the street. Krav Maga is one of my many passions as I have spent the last year and eight months training and teaching only to prepare for the ultimate challenge. On Friday, February 4th I will be catching a flight to Los Angeles, to subject myself to a week's worth of learning, practicing, sparring, and instructing. I hope that from my hard work I will leave the Phase training officially certified by the Worldwide Krav Maga Association. We will have one more official class this Tuesday before I go, so come check it out. And wish me luck! Yalla Bye!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Going Green!!

Israel Goes Green: Israeli Leadership in Green Technology
Hillel, Gators for Israel, The Geography Club, & Gators for a Sustainable Campus present:

Paul Hirschson the Deputy Consul General of the Israeli Consulate General to Florida & Puerto Rico in a discussion about Israeli innovation and leadership in green technology and sustainable living, while also discussing the unique environmental challenges Israel confronts.

The event is going to be in the Reitz Union -- Matthew's Suite (4th Floor) tonight at 7:00 p.m.

This is a great opportunity for all students.  We all have the opportunity to help make this world a better place and why pass up a chance to hear about ways that people are making a change and how you can make a change too.

We hope to see you there!!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You can save Shabbat!

 A word from Andrea James.

Every week Jeremy and I come to Hillel to set up for Shabbat dinner. We come every week and perform the same work over and over. Don’t get me wrong, we love our job, but it is always nice to try new things. We have recently found ourselves in a rut. We want to liven up, not only Shabbat, but the rest of the holidays to come. We have Purim and Passover coming up and are so excited to begin planning, but we are missing one thing. YOU! Manoa means “engine” in Hebrew. As we all know engines have many parts, all with different purposes, but without one the engine won’t work. Jeremy and I are looking for creative minds to share ideas with. Connect with us, on campus, during Shabbat, or if you see Jeremy at Best Buy! We look forward to the rest of the semester with you beside us!

Andrea James

"Israel? Yalla!" event was a hit!

Tues. night UF Hillel hosted this informational, cultural and food-stuffing-fun event relating to all things Israel. Jewish and non-Jewish students joined Joshua Kahn, Jeffrey Kaplan and Jessica Davis on the second floor and balcony of Hillel for some free barbeque, hummus, beer, Bisli and Bamba. A live band kept up the lively atmosphere of the event while students traveled around the rooms viewing obsure Israeli facts posted on the walls and voting on the best pictures from the most recent Taglit Birthright trip.

During the event, students listened to a presentation about studying abroad from a University of Haifa and Masa representative. The representative explained that UF and the University of Haifa now have an official joint study program and huge support from both administrations. How exciting!

Also during the presentation three student winners were chosen and given giftcards to the places of their choice. Two winners were chosen from a raffle and one winner from the last Birthright trip was awarded for having the best Israel picture. Congratulations Chelsea Egozi for taking an awesome picture!

Keep your eyes and ears open for more events like this one because we always have something sababa (cool) up our sleeves!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Challah for Hunger Kick Off

Good afternoon, fellow Mitzvah-minded people!

If you’re mouth is already watering from a taste of Tzedek Tuesdays, hold that appetite for this Friday at our Challah for Hunger Kick-off Event in the Plaza of Americas from 11:00am to 2:00pm.

So what is Challah for Hunger? Let’s break it down.

1) Challah: Challah is special, braided egg bread traditionally eaten by European Jews on Shabbat. ( Fresh baked Challah in the Plaza of Americas is available every Friday starting at 11:00am for a $4.00 donation. We bake all unique flavors!

2) Hunger: A compelling need or desire for food. (Something you may be experiencing Fridays around 11:00am) Challah for Hunger truly addresses the problem of food insecurity, defined by the US Census Bureau as “not always having enough food to meet basic needs.” International hunger needs can even be more overwhelming, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries plagued with overpopulation, natural disasters, disease, and violence. Challah for Hunger sends half of its proceeds to qualm hunger in Darfur through the American Jewish World Service.

There are over 1,300 homeless people in Alachua County, and just over one-third of them are children. This is an alarming statistic. However, not only homeless people benefit from hunger relief programs in Alachua County. Over 22,000 people in Alachua County receive food stamps and are still in line for more benefits from non-governmental outlets.

Over 4,817,100 refugees live in dire needs in Sudan today according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Genocide and interstate violence has been present in Darfur since 2003. Warrants for International War Crimes have been issued for the government’s highest leaders. A voting referendum took place this month with an outcome for the southern part of the country – where almost all the refugees reside – to secede and create its own state.

Where your money goes?

ALL proceeds go straight to hunger relief efforts. Half of these proceeds benefit people in Alachua County through Bread of the Mighty Food Bank ( The other half of the proceeds made benefits Darfur refugee relief efforts through the American Jewish World Service (

Look for more Tzedek Tuesday blogs about Hunger and Homelessness Issues. Also a great thanks to Sarah Pollack, our Challah for Hunger chair for making this happen each week on the UF Campus! Also thank you to Pammie Shapiro for spearheading Hillel’s Darfur awareness initiatives.

Interested in more ways to learn about how to help hunger needs locally?
Here are some great websites to check out!

St. Francis House:
Interfaith Hospitality Network:
Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry:
Alachua County Hunger Abatement Plan:

Weekly Tzedek Tip!

Donate $4.00 this (and every) Friday and enjoy a delicious Challah. Help volunteer for Challah for Hunger every Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Dough-making and braiding 11:00am at Hillel
                  Baking 6:30pm at Hillel
Friday: Volunteer in Plaza of the Americas from 11:00am to 2:00pm. (Friday volunteers get discounted Challah!)

Green Bags! Green bags aren’t just for grocery shopping. Bring them with you to the mall, pharmacy, convenience store, or any place else you normally use a plastic bag.

Contact Emily Sasser for more Social Action or Community Service oriented ideas for Hillel at

Josh has 6 different Bosses

OK if you don't know Josh, here's his bio on our website:
Joshua Kahn (Israel Fellow) was born in Australia, raised throughout America, and at the age of 20 made Aliyah to Israel. After completing his undergraduate degree at the Lauder School of Government as an Argov Fellow in Leadership and Diplomacy, he enlisted as a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. After his release, Josh joined the Israel Project in Washington, DC as their strategic communications intern. Josh is excited to share his passion and love for Israel and join the Hillel family. His brother James (a Hillel rabbi at U-Md) and his wife, Paula, were active members of the Hillel at UF, as were his parents, a generation ago. Josh, a committed vegan for the last ten years, enjoys scuba-diving, rock-climbing and traveling the Land of Israel in his free-time.

Here's a picture:Joshua Kahn

Now that you've gotten to know Josh meet his bosses: Me, Keith, Ronen, Anat, Wayne, Sharansky.

These are Josh's supervisors, not in order of  importance but rather amount of exposure.  I mean I share an office with him.  Keith, the exec director of our Hillel, is down the hall.  Ronen who supervises all Shlichim in North America and Wayne, the President of Hillel intl, are both in D.C. Anat works with the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Sharansky is the president of JAFI. 

Each one of us is invested in Josh, and each one of us has expectations of him as they correspond to our agenda.  A local Hillel doesn't necesarily have the same agenda as the Hillel Intl center, and JAFI and Hillel, although in a beatuiful partenership, have different goals. 

And Josh falls in the middle of this.  He has to balance all of these competing expectations and succeed on campus.

Why do I bring any of this up?  Because in less than an hour one of the other bosses is coming to town, to see Josh, his apartment, probably evaluate him, meet students, make sure I supervise him correctly, etc... This is totally Kosher, btw.

So we put together this kick-tuchas program for tonight about Israel step one and two programs -a step one is something like a ten day trip on Birthright, step two is something like study abroad- that included live jam band, bonfire, BBQ, information about programs,with representatives from Masa, the University of Haifa, and Yossi Chajes. 

Then the fit hit the shan.  We've been having storms all day and expect another 2 inches to come down.  

So no Bonfire.

All day we've been scrambling to find a way to replicate the feel of an outdoor event in our gazebo next to the fire pit in a upstairs foyer, balcony, and gameroom.  

We will make it work, this stuff kind of always happens when you plan events.  You can have your own idea of how it will run and who will be there, but you never really know until it happens, and what challenges you'll face until they surprise you.  We are good at that.  I actually think that we as a staff are really good at that. 

We'll have to wait and see how Josh's other 4 bosses react to how this thing turns out.  

Stay tuned, we will have a Youtube Video up tomorrow about the event!

This post is written by Jeff Kaplan, Program director.  You can reach him at or on Twitter @jeffdude

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blessings of nature

Today was Tu b'Shevat, the "new year for the trees."  We experienced an expanded consciousness and special attunement to the natural world, and we now have the opportunity to extend this awareness past the end of the holiday and to invite it into our everyday consciousness.
How do we do this practically? And how do we do this Jewishly? Here's one way, laid out in a simple two-step process.

The first step is to become aware of nature.  The next time you find yourself outside, take a moment and look at the trees--feel the wind--gaze at the flowers.  Really open your eyes, and make a conscious choice to become aware of what you see.  Have a direct experience with the mysterious beauty of nature.  This first step of direct experience is essential.

The second step is to acknowledge what you are experiencing.  Give yourself permission to say, "Wow, this is beautiful," or whatever your experience may bring to mind.  Many Jews have taken up the practice of making a special bracha (blessing) while immersed in the wonders of nature, which connects our feelings of awe and gratitude and directs them back to the holy Source of nature.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha-olam, Oseih maaseih v’reisheet.
"Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, Maker of the work of creation."

I know someone who makes this a daily practice, finding at least one thing in nature each day and saying this bracha.  There is so much wonder in nature, we could literally spend the rest of lives in awe and gratitude--if we only gave a few moments of awareness to each plant, we would run out of time before we ran out of plants!  Given that, surely we can find at least one nature experience today (and every day) worthy of our awareness and acknowledgement.  May these experiences enrich our lives, awaken our spirits, and lead us toward a caring and responsible relationship with the natural environment and each another.

With blessings of peace and love,
Andrew Shaw

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Israel is waiting..

It has been consuming my thoughts.

When the date is set I will begin counting down the weeks... then days.

Israel is Waiting.

My dad went to Israel twice while in college.  Many of my friends have already been on the Birthright trip and now it's my turn.

No other place can you shape and define your Jewish identity like in Israel.  With the tremendous amount of sensory stimulation how can you not fall in love with it all. The sights, the people, the food, the language.

I've been Jewish my whole life.  Named and Bat Mitzvahed in the same Temple, but never have I felt more pride and excitment to learn about my heritage than now.

I'm getting older and wiser (I hope) and more curious about the world around me.  Many people start at a young age to discover who they are, where they come from and where they want to go.  I feel like this is just the beginning for me and I can't wait to get my fresh start and fresh outlook while in Israel.

If you still aren't sure this trip is right for you check out the website for Birthright and make sure to stop by Hillel with any questions you may have. 

Registration opens up in February so make sure to not miss out on an experience of a lifetime.

Isreal here I come,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tzedek Tuesday!

Get rid of those Terrible Tuesdays and make the switch to Tzedek Tuesdays! On the new Tzedek Tuesday blog at UF Hillel, you can keep up with all the projects and events our Tzedek Team does throughout the year in the sake of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world.
Thanks to my Tzedek Team for putting up with a very productive planning meeting! We came up with some great stuff to look out for like:
*Alternative Spring Break
Join friends and strangers on a Spring Break trip of a lifetime! Hillel offers  three Alternative Spring Break trips for 2011 including trips to Israel, the  Gulf Coast, and Los Angeles! Do your Spring Break up right: make new  friends and start giving back! For more information visit for more information!
*Adopt a Bubbe and Zeidee Kick-off
Are you itching to get some advice from a Yenta, but your grandmother is too  far away? Get to know a Jewish senior in Gainesville!
*Relay for Life Sign-Up
JSU and Hillel are putting together a bangin’ Relay for Life Team! Mark your  calendars for 18 hours of fun in the O’Dome and register here: pg=entry
Check back every Tzedek Tuesday for updates on how you can give back. This blog will not only feature events at Hillel, but weekly tips on how you can fulfill your Mitzvah of giving back!
Weekly Tip: Unplug your Electronics!
Save energy (cash) and give back to the environment! Unplug your computer charger, cell phone charger, other electronics that are not in use. Get a surge protector and you just need to pull one plug when you leave your house or apartment.
Check out for more tips on energy conservation!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why is this Thursday different from all other Thursdays?

Hey there, and welcome to the blog.  The plan is that each week, members of Hillel's student manoa board will be posting some of their thoughts here--I'll be writing in on Thursday's, a day of the week that I’d like to explore in this post.

As the week comes to a close, Thursday is an excellent time for reflection on the past week and for preparing oneself for the coming Shabbat, which begins at sundown each Friday.  Preparing for Shabbat definitely has a physical element (tidying up one's living space, doing laundry, etc.).  There is an important spiritual component as well.  Before Shabbat even starts, it can be beneficial to set aside time to reflect on the week that was, examine our actions, and strengthen our personal goals and commitments for the coming week--whatever those commitments may be.  This gives us more space during Shabbat to slow down and simply be present in the moment, without having to invite in the day-to-day stresses and (often negative) stories of “what happened to us during the week.”  I’d much rather deal with those conflicts on Thursday, and not carry them into Shabbat. 

As the sun goes down on Friday night, we invite the Shabbat presence into our midst, and we in turn are invited to dwell in a world without stress or pressure—25 hours to simply be.  And please know that everyone is invited—no special training or certification is needed!  All that is required is the willingness to reflect on the past week sometime before Shabbat; to state your intention to leave the pressures of week behind for a set period of time; and to make your Shabbat special by doing the sort of activities that awaken you to the present moment.  This teaching has made a tremendous difference in my life, and in the lives of many who choose to practice it—and it starts with Thursday.