Your latest update on Jewish student life at Penn State!
Student Newsletter - December 15, 2017
Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, & Happy Winter Break! 

Why We Celebrate Hanukkah | Nights 1, 2, 3, & 4

Hello and Happy Hanukkah!

My name is Emi Naidoff and I am honored to introduce myself as the new student president of Penn State Hillel. I cannot wait to get started this January and continue the hard work Penn State Hillel has done on campus.

This Hanukkah, as I begin to prepare for my time as president, I think about what brought me to this new role. At the start of freshman year, Hillel became a significant part of my college experience. As a Chicago native, I took a risk by traveling over 600 miles to attend college at a place where I knew nobody and no one knew me. That decision was not easy knowing that I’d be leaving my home and the community I grew up in.

My first week on campus had its fair share of challenges from navigating the campus, to meeting new people and finding a community that I felt comfortable in. During that week I decided to attend a welcome event hosted by Hillel. When I arrived I immediately felt a sense of belonging. The Hillel community welcomed me with open arms; they provided me with opportunities to engage in my Judaism and to be a part of a community. With passion and love, this community has supported me through my personal and unique Jewish journey at Penn State.

This sense of belonging and “home”, along with unconditional support from the community, is why I became student president. This Hanukkah, I invite you to join me in celebrating our community - our success, our growth and our continued dedication to creating a space that celebrates and welcomes all of the the estimated 5,000 Jewish students.

Chag Sameach!
Emi Naidoff
Communication Sciences and Disorders 2020

Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” is the festival that commemorates the purification and rededication of the Temple following the destruction caused by the Greeks. Today, the story of Hanukkah offers us a time to rededicate ourselves to our Jewish values, roots, and traditions. As we lit the second candle, we dedicated ourselves to keeping the flame of Jewish religion, culture, and peoplehood burning bright so that it may be passed on from generation to generation, l’dor, v’dor.

Penn State Hillel is dedicated to helping Jewish students build an authentic understanding of their unique Jewish identities. Jewish pluralism is at the foundation of everything that Penn State Hillel does as an organization.  With your support, we can continue to provide opportunities for students to explore, interact with, learn, and question Jewish topics; and we can offer programming and ritual observance around all major Jewish holidays including Hanukkah!

Tonight, as we light candle number 4, we celebrate hope. We know from the story of Hanukkah, hope played a key component in the Jewish people’s survival. Throughout the first destruction of the Temple, the military victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks, and the miracle of the oil that should have lasted one day but stayed burning for eight, hope was not lost. Several centuries later the Temple, hope was challenged again. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans the rabbis began to argue that this destruction should end the celebration of Hanukkah, because without the Temple, what was the point? The point was hope. We learn from the story of Hanukkah that even though the Temple was destroyed, Jewish hope was not. The building may have been lost, but the story, the memories, and the light remained. What had happened once could happen again, but as we say in Israel’s national anthem, od lo avdah tikvatenu, “our hope is not destroyed.”
Coming Up On Campus

Enjoy your winter break!

For more information visit

*This is a JewPAC sponsored program.
To learn more about JewPAC visit
Onward Israel | Join the Bus

Penn State Hillel Onward Israel participants will be matched with internships that connect to their creative passion and offer real-world experience in unique fields towards what they are hoping to achieve at Penn State. Participants will explore Israel and experience living like a local with other Penn State students in Tel Aviv!

Penn State Hillel Onward program is geared towards students from Penn State looking to live and work in Israel over the summer. This opportunity stretches to a variety of different internship placements and allows students to gain experience in an international community. Students will get to live with other Penn State students on top of travel and learn throughout the experience.

This Onward Israel program is operated through a partnership between the Beacon and Shapira Foundations and other leading philanthropists, and Masa Israel Journey.

Participants on Onward Israel programs that are run in partnership with Masa may return to Israel on long-term Masa programs after Onward Israel. They may also be eligible for additional scholarships from Masa to help fund their participation, although the size of that scholarship may be influenced by prior participation on Onward Israel. For details please contact Masa Israel Journey directly.

Masa-eligible participants in programs which are part of the Onward/Masa partnership may qualify for additional scholarships. For more information, call Onward Israel or your local partner professional.

Dates: June 6 – July 31, 2018

Cost: $600

  • Cost includes housing, insurance, modest food stipend, transportation within city, and program costs
  • All participants are responsible for cost of and arranging their own flights.
  • Participants will be required to submit a $250 participation and security deposit upon arrival in Israel. Deposits will be refunded at the end of the program pending good standing.
  • The actual cost of the Onward Israel program is much higher, and is subsidized up to 70% by Onward Israel, private donors, and local Jewish communities and institutions.

Admission is rolling. Applications will close on March 15, 2018 or earlier if the program fills.


  • Apartments or dorm-style housing in the Tel Aviv area.
  • The number of participants to an apartment or room is dependent on the size of the accommodations and number of participants on the program.
  • While meeting common standards, Onward Israel housing differs by program and even within a program. To learn more about this and other Onward Israel housing details, please visit our housing FAQ.

Acceptance Criteria

  • This program is open to young adults from Penn State University with an interest in interning with the field that compliments what they are studying:
  • Between 19-27 years old (or at least one full year post-high school at the start of the program) who have NOT spent 3 or more months in Israel as part of an educational or peer-program (this includes semester abroad, gap year or any other MASA or Onward Israel program)
  • Fluent in English
  • Previous participation in Taglit-Birthright Israel is encouraged for any eligible applicants
For More Information: Lauren Levinson
Apply today:
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Penn State Hillel
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