Hillel hires new fellow to increase engagement with Israel

Peter Kotecki , Assistant Campus Editor

To increase Northwestern students’ engagement with Israel, NU Hillel hired Simcha Masala as its Israel fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year.

NU Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon said campus discussion about Israel contributed to the hiring. Masala is the first person to fill this role since the 2011-2012 academic year. Simon said Hillel did not hire another Israel fellow for the 2012-2013 academic year because it decided to wait for a more appropriate time to re-incorporate the position into its staff.

In light of the launch of NU Divest and the NU Coalition for Peace last year, Simon said Hillel looked at how to provide resources for students to have conversations about Israel, and hiring Masala was an opportunity to help enrich those conversations.

NU Divest’s resolution, which passed during an Associated Student Government Senate meeting in February 2015, asked the University to pursue socially responsible investment and divest from six corporations the group says violate Palestinian human rights. The NU Coalition for Peace formed last year by students who opposed the resolution.

Israel fellows are young professionals who have served in the Israel Defense Forces prior to working on college campuses, Simon said. Masala is one of about 65 Israel fellows serving more than 100 campuses in North America, he said.

After serving in the Israeli army, Masala said she traveled to South America and noticed people there knew little about Israel.

“It’s something that I decided to take on myself, to raise awareness about Israel and help people more know about Israel,” Masala said.

Masala also traveled to South Africa for Israeli Apartheid Week during college — as a result of seeing hatred toward Israel on campuses outside Israel, Masala decided to become active and teach about Israel, she said.

At NU, Masala said she will work on furthering Hillel’s mission to help Jewish students make a meaningful and enduring commitment to Israel.

As Hillel conducted interviews for this year’s Israel fellow, Simon said Emily Kagan, engagement associate at NU Hillel, and some NU students had a chance to meet Masala prior to her joining the staff.

“They felt that she had a great personality and was warm and engaging,” Simon said.

He added Masala had a great resume, which includes an educational role in the Israeli army and a degree from IDC Herzliya in Israel. In addition, she is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, and Simon said he looks forward to Masala sharing her story with the NU community.

Masala said she wants to work with other minority groups to discuss Israel and its effect on the Jewish identity, because Israel is a prominent topic on campus.

“My goal this year is to show other sides of Israel, show a side of Israel that people may not necessarily know,” she said.

Medill senior Lily Goldstein, co-president of NU Hillel’s student executive board, said Masala will work on Israel engagement with NU students, helping them engage — and figure out their relationship — with Israel. Masala stood out among applicants for the Israel fellow position at NU, she added.

“Simcha was above and beyond in terms of the applicant pool they’ve viewed in previous years, and so it made sense to bring her here, especially in light of the greater conversation,” Goldstein said.

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