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A Peek into the David Project at UC

     There are so many different organizations on and around the University of Cincinnati campus that students may have never heard about before. From the robotics team, Active Minds UC and Cincinnati Hillel are just a few organizations this campus has to offer. Hillel at UC’s mission is to enrich the lives and strengthen the Jewish identity of Jewish college students at UC, and build bridges to Jewish life after college. They work with students across campus and also help to pair them with internships. The David Project is one of those internships, their interns work with leaders on the UC campus and this past December sent four students to Israel free of charge. Three out of the four students who went are not Jewish and this provided them with the opportunity to learn about a culture, religion and life that they did not know much about before. Her Campus had the opportunity to talk with two of the students before and after their trip in order to learn about their experience and share it with the UC community and beyond.

 

WHO THEY ARE:

Bess Brown 

Major: Psychology; Art Therapy (minor)

Year: 2nd year

Campus Involvements: Kappa Delta (officer position), Hillel UC and I am a David Project Intern

Where I am from: Cleveland

Brooke Duncan

Major: Urban Planning, DAAP; Marketing and International Business (minors)

Year: 4 out of 5

Campus Involvements: Student Government (At Large Senator and incoming Student Vice President), Student Activities Board, Kappa Kappa Gamma, ROAR Tour Guide, The Aruna Project, Sigma Phi Women’s Honorary (President) and Cincinnati Women in Excellence & Spirit Together 

Where I am from: The Queen City ~ grew up on Skyline. YUM. 

 

BEFORE THE TRIP:

Her Campus University of Cincinnati: Have you been to Israel before?

Brooke Duncan: No! I’ve been on four UC abroad trips and this will be my fifth. I can’t say enough about how important it is to see and learn about the world we live in! 

Bess Brown: This will be my 4th time in Israel. The last time I was in Israel was in 2013-2014 when I traveled there for a gap year program where I spent the year studying and volunteering. 

 

HCUC: What are your expectations for the trip?

BD: This experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I could not be more grateful to meet college students from all over the U.S. (120 students). We each unite together on one common ground; we truly want to understand and learn about the dynamics in Israel. We’re apart of different community’s on our campuses, but our unique story’s will be teachable moments. I am leaving any expectations I have for Israel behind and focusing on expanding my knowledge of Israel and its people. Learning about the infrastructure, culture, difficulties, and individuals who call Israel home. OH…and let’s not forget excitement to try the food! 

BB: I think the trip will be very eye opening and more educational than any of the other trips I have been on. Our campus coordinator, Dylan, has said that every part of your itinerary is intentional and that each speaker and sight we see connects to one another. I’m also expecting all of the participants to get close with each other, which is something that often happens on trips like this. 

 

HCUC: Are you nervous for anything?

BD: I’m not too nervous actually. Mostly excited for what awaits me! 

BB: I think I’m most nervous about seeing everyone else’s reactions and opinions to the things we learn about and experience while there. I’ve only been on trips before with all Jewish students and I think that it will be a very different experience going with a trip composed of a third Jewish students and two-thirds non Jewish students. It will be interesting to see everyone form their different backgrounds with their different opinions. 

 

HCUC:What do you hope to take away from the trip?

BD:  I hope to take away friendship, inspiration, and knowledge. I hope to become more educated and put myself in uncomfortable situations and conversations to help me grow. If I take away anything, I hope I take away the stories.

BB: I hope to be able to use the other students insight on how to enhance Jewish life and Israel advocacy on campus. I think being able to use other students who have had previous experience in different programing will be helpful. I think all of the students on the trip will be able to learn a lot from one another. 

(From left to right: Mitchell Phelps, Brooke Duncan, Bess Brown and Filip Jotevski)

AFTER THE TRIP:

HCUC: What was your favorite part of the trip?

BD: My favorite part of the trip was at The World Holocaust Remembrance Center – Yad Vashem. It was during the Children’s Memorial that pulled the entire experience in Israel together for me and the loss of 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust. Life was taken away and the concept of coexistence seemed more real than ever at that moment – the idea that different background can live together in peace. 

BB: I’d say my favorite part of the trip was meeting different people from all over the place! It was interesting seeing how different people were involved on different campuses and how they had their own personal connections to Israel. I was also exciting how close everyone got during such a short trip. 

 

HCUC: Were there any parts of the trip that surprised you?

BD: I was surprised by the friendliness of everyone we met and the willingness the people of Israel had to share life experiences. 

BB: One of the places we went was the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave a famous sermon found in the book of Matthews. Despite the fact that I had been to Israel several times before I hadn’t ever heard of the Mount, nor did I really understand its significance. I was shocked at how emotional many of the Christian students got while on the mount. It made me realize how truly similar Judaism and Christianity are and how we can really relate to each others laws and commandments. 

 

HC: Would you ever go back to Israel?

BD: YES. I would love to go back to Israel – I felt that I was able to see and learn a lot, but I wanted to talk with the people of Israel more to gain a daily experience of what it was like for different individuals. 

BB: 100% yes! I’m already doing research trying to figure out how I can get back to Israel next. Luckily there are so many programs that you can do through school and for graduate programs that its not hard to find your way back. I’ve even considered looking into working for the David Project! 

 

HCUC: Would you encourage friends to go?

BD: Absolutely. Stop listening to the people around you that tell you what Israel is like. Go for yourself and choose what you want Israel to be for you. 

BB: Whenever I tell people about time when I’ve been to Israel they always ask about whether or not I felt safe while there. Every time I respond with the same thing: the world is a dangerous place. There are shootings in schools all over America but millions of people still live here. The land of Israel is a beautiful place and I refuse to let the possibility of harm stop me from going there. 

 

HCUC: What was a big takeaway from the trip?

BD: I took away a refreshed outlook on love and hate. I feel that I am now interested more in understanding other religions that people care about. I feel it is my duty as a global citizen to learn about you, your story, and where you come from. I also took away friends and new relationships from all over the U.S. – we formed a unique bond of different voices and opinions. These people taught me more on the trip that I would have not had otherwise. 

BB: By being in a country with many people who knew very little about it I was asked a lot of questions. These questions pushed me to formulate concrete opinions on a variety of things. Unlike past trips I wasn’t able to just ignore the speaker, but I actually paid attention to wheat they were saying and how my personal views related to theirs. I feel so much more confident now discussing my opinion and being able to properly advocate for Israel. 

The opportunities that lie within the UC campus are endless so take advantage in the short four or five years of college, you never know what extraordinary adventures await.

Maddie Huggins is a fourth year student at the University of Cincinnati. Originally from Columbus, she quickly learned to swap out the OSU scarlet and grey for UC red and black. Maddie has loved writing since she was a little girl and is always down for a good time. She prides herself in being the world's best hugger.
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