Winter Break 2017 Reflections


This winter, Penn State Jewish students spend their breaks learning with their peers, connecting with their Judaism and diving into the history of the Jewish people. This first trip this break included 40 students who traveled to Poland. These students spent an incredible, emotional, and powerful week diving into history. For centuries, Poland was at the epicenter of world Jewry. In a matter of years, its place in the Jewish world was nearly eliminated as the Holocaust was perpetrated by Nazi Germany.  Students toured Poland investigating its place in Jewish history, its present, and our future. Together, they challenged ourselves to walk in the steps of our ancestors, to come face to face with the horror of the Holocaust, and to hold our heads high with pride in the resiliency of the Jewish People. They left their week-long journey feeling sad and a little broken, but incredibly honored and proud to be Jewish.

“The Aish/Hillel Poland Trip was life changing for me. I was a huge proponent of Holocaust Awareness and Genocide Education to the State College community throughout my time at Penn State and this trip helped me further my personal connection to this time in history as well as how my family and my friend’s family stories connected to each other. The whole experience was eye opening – I didn’t realize how close the towns and people’s homes were to the catastrophes that were going on inside the ghettos. The most impactful moment for me, was standing in the gas chamber next to my 41 friends  and peers singing the Shema and thinking of our loved ones back home. The power of Judaism radiated through the walls, the same walls that stripped so many of our family’s basic right to live. I am beyond grateful for this experience for I am a better person because of it.” – Jamie Butler, Hospitality Management ’17



Students also spend their winter break in Israel! Two buses of Penn State students, and students from around the country, traveled to Israel for a 10-day journey through old and new Israel. They uncovered 

the history of the land, the people, and the state, and together they formed an unbreakable bond, strengthened their Jewish identities and connected to the global Jewish community. The trip included a visit to Tzfat where students learned about mysticism and Kabbalah. They also met with a local artist. Other stops included the holy city of Jerusalem, the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv, and the green mountains of the Golan Heights. 

Penn State student, Juliette (pictured left) celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on top of Masada. She said the traditional blessings and read from the Torah in front of 45 of her new friends. Although Juliette may not have had her Bat Mitzvah at the traditional age of 13, her ceremony and celebration was unforgettable.

Students also paid a visit to Kol Haot, the interactive Jewish education art program located in the artist

colony of Jerusalem. Students learned from artist and Rabbi Michael Berkowitz and spent time expressing their Jewish identity through art and Torah.

The trip was incredible! If you, or someone you know, is interested in traveling to Israel this summer. Please visit our Birthright Israel page to learn more!