UM Hillel hosts first Tel Aviv Night, engages new and returning students with Israeli culture

University of Miami's Hillel held its first Tel Aviv Night on Wednesday night. The event was aimed at recruiting new and returning students to join and learn more about the organization. Photo Credit: Kayla Haley

Music of the Tony Flow Band echoed down the halls and the rich smell of Israeli food filled the air when UM Hillel hosted its first Tel Aviv Night, an event aimed at expanding the Jewish community at the university.

Senior Seth Manilove, president of UM Hillel, said he wanted to organize the event, held Wednesday night, to give students “a full taste of Tel Aviv,” one of the largest cities in Israel. Manilove also said he wanted to expose students to the Israeli culture and allow everyone to be “immersed in the life of an Israeli for a night.”

With such a diverse student body, religion and culture become a crucial stitch in the tapestry of student life.

Rabbi Lyle Rothman, the campus rabbi and chair of the University of Miami Chaplains Association, said he wants to welcome all students and introduce them to Judaism in a new and dynamic way.

“This generation of students is searching for meaning, is searching for answers, is searching for truth and, as a rabbi, I believe it is our responsibility as Hillel to inspire minds and open eyes,” Rothman said.

Freshman Aaron Fils, a new member of Hillel, said that joining Hillel has eased the transition into college.

“To come here and have a service that you are familiar with and have people that you automatically have something in common with … it feels really good to have that sense,” said Fils, a biomedical engineering major. “It’s kind of like a rock.”

For Carson Pinker, finding a college with a Hillel on campus was at the top of her checklist when deciding which university to attend.

“I am so glad that I made this choice, and it just feels very much like home,” said Pinker, an exercise physiology major.

Rothman said creating a positive environment is also central to Hillel’s mission.

“There’s enough hatred and bigotry in this world today that we feel as Hillel it is our responsibility to champion all that is good in this world,” Rothman said.

Throughout the night, Moty’s Grill food truck provided over 100 guests with a free taste of authentic, Kosher Israeli cuisine. Stand With Us, a nonprofit organization, brought virtual reality goggles to visually transport guests to Tel Aviv.

The event was one of many that Hillel will host throughout the semester to reach out to all new and returning students.

“I hope other students take full advantage of what Hillel has to offer,” Manilove said. “Hillel has a lot for everyone, not just Jewish students.”