Tackling Tough Issues: Avi Shabbat Drew Teitelbaum '16

 On February 13th, W&L Hillel hosted its first Avi Shabbat program: an annual event during which Hillels and other Jewish student groups across North America bring together students on campus for a communal meal and a shared conversation about Israeli and Palestinian relations. Our event drew nearly 100 people from across the student body, faculty, and community.

A bit of background: Avi Schaefer (z"l) was an American soldier who served in the IDF. After his time in the military, he attended Brown University where he was committed to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and actively sought to change the atmosphere surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict. His life and work were tragically cut short on February 12th, 2010, when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking near Brown's campus. As a result, the Avi Schaefer Fund was established, which seeks to fund Shabbat programs across the country that are specifically designed to nurture peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

In our program, facilitators led small group discussions focused on a specific aspect of the conflict: Israeli-Arab conflict, the BDS movement, and growing anti-Semitism around the world were just a few examples of the types of topics covered. These conversations enabled students, faculty, and community members-with beliefs and opinions ranging across the sociopolitical spectrum-to successfully engage in productive dialogue with their peers. As the first program of its kind at W&L, we were a bit nervous; however, the enthusiasm for the subject matter and the engrossing discussions that followed led us not to worry and to instead wonder how the program could be made even better next year! W&L Hillel is so grateful to our facilitators, Morris Trimmer, Professor Seth Cantey and Professor Mark Rush from W&L, Professor Speedy Rice from the Law School and Professor Mary Rose Sheldon and Professor Reshef Agam-Segal from VMI, and to the Avi Schaefer Fund, who awarded W&L Hillel an Avi Shabbat grant!