Improving the Lives of New Olim Students on and about the Campus
Welcome to the Bar-Ilan University main campus, which has become a magnet for over 700 English-speaking new olim students – even those not studying at the University! Indeed, according to Rachel Yeger, a second-year student in BIU’s English-language Interdisciplinary Social Sciences program who hails from Teaneck, NJ, even students registered at other universities prefer to live in the BIU neighborhood because of the multitude of services the University provides to new olim.
“They are drawn to Bar-Ilan due to the friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the many programs and activities offered by the University – both in English and Hebrew,” explains Rachel. From the Model Student UN, to the School of Communication’s English radio station, to the University’s unique test translation services and the willingness of most instructors to permit submitting papers in English, “Anglo” students from both observant and secular backgrounds enjoy the general feeling of acceptance and warmth they receive from BIU faculty members.
The English-language programs are another reason for Anglo students to feel comfortable at Bar-Ilan. “BIU provides English-language degree programs in Communications, Economics, and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, as well as offering support services for students from abroad who are able to study in Hebrew,” elucidates Daniel Schuval, Director of International Programs.
In addition, the BIU “Agudat Hastudentim” (Student Union) goes out of its way to organize English-language activities for olim, such as open mike night, karaoke night, Zionist trivia night, Shabbatonim – even a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings! Anglo students also keep in touch through “Camp Bar-Ilan” – their very own Facebook page, and have now, at their request, been assigned their own rabbi, Ari Yablok, thanks to the Office of the Dean of Overseas Students and the Office of the Campus Rabbi!
“In my role as Rabbi of the Anglo student community of Bar-Ilan,” says Rabbi Yablok, “I give weekly Torah classes in English and answer any halakhic questions that students from the University or from the surrounding neighborhood of Givat Shmuel may have.”
Rabbi Yablok, who is also the campus director for “The Israel Experience,”BIU’s one-year program for overseas students helps organize programs and events together with students and administrators that take place throughout the year. “I also offer one-on one learning opportunities, individual counseling sessions, and my wife, Ayelet, and I love hosting students for Shabbat meals all the time,” says the young rabbi.
The close-meshed Bar-Ilan University Anglo community has even drawn the attention of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that provides olim with employment resources, assistance with governmental absorption, community based guidance and support and needbased financial aid in order to make each individual’s aliyah as successful as possible.
“Due to the strong BIU Anglo community and offerings, Nefesh B’Nefesh is encouraging young singles and families to make aliyah to the neighborhood surrounding Bar-Ilan,” says Benji Davis, Advisor and Program Coordinator for the Nefesh B’Nefesh Post Aliyah Department. “We definitely see Bar-Ilan University and its environs as an attractive target for new olim,” he adds.
The BIU student community has many plans on the drawing board, such as establishing student welcoming and chesed committees to organize volunteer activities.
“It’s great to live in a place with so many people who share a common background as me,” says third-year optometry student Shai Steiman, originally from Toronto, Canada. “With the studies being as hard as they are, it’s fantastic to know that the BIU community is there to support you.”