HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Pushing Students Beyond Their Comfort Zones
Over the past several years I have had the good fortune of working for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, combining the two perspectives of the Shema (“You shall teach your children diligently”) and of the Talmud by engaging our young people in experiential education under the assumption that they are truly the builders of our people and of the world. In Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, our organization’s namesake Hillel the Elder stated, “A shy person cannot learn” (Mishnah Avot 2:6). Today, our organization encourages Jewish students to leave their comfort zones, to push their personal boundaries and to take an active part in enriching the Jewish people and the world.
Our new engagement methodologies are based upon peer-to-peer relationships; we help identify student social networks as a means to engage their peers and help them connect to the Jewish community. In record numbers, Jewish university students are actualizing this role in a very real way—for example, taking hammers and power tools in their hands to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. This is not a comfortable experience. It is growth through discomfort as students push themselves to the limit and labor to better the world around them. Elsewhere, students are taking part in building themselves and their communities through active, experiential learning. They are discussing, debating, arguing, and agonizing over our ancient texts in an effort to answer very modern and often personal questions. We must challenge them to challenge themselves, to embrace the uncomfortable and to engage the world in active dialogue. ♦
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