“How did you get involved with organizing?”
“How have you managed to work within the system?”
These are questions that rabbinical students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) asked Amal Elsana Alh’jooj.
Amal is an advocate for social justice, for equality for underrepresented groups, and for women’s rights. She grew up in Lakiya, a Bedouin village in the Negev. From a young age she witnessed firsthand the impact of poverty, discrimination, and patriarchal attitudes about women’s role in society — and she was determined to confront these wrongs. At the age of 17, she established the first Bedouin women’s organization. Today, she is a board member of NIF and a scholar at McGill University.
Amal’s interaction with rabbinical students was facilitated by the Elissa Froman Memorial Lecture Tour, part of the Social Change Fellowship in honor of Elissa Froman (z”l) sponsored by the Eugene and Janet Lerner Family Foundation, HUC-JIR, and NIF. The lecture and fellowship were designed to give rabbinical students the type of experience that Elissa would have relished. “We want to give rabbinical students exposure to perspectives that they don’t have access to,” says David Chapman, the Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships in NIF’s NY/Tri-State Region.
Last year, Mutasim Ali, the first Sudanese person to gain refugee status in Israel, was the speaker chosen for the Elissa Froman Memorial Lecture.
In addition to HUC-JIR in New York, Amal spoke with students from Hebrew College in Boston, from HUC Boston, from the Ziegler School at the American Jewish University, and from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles. The lectures attracted current students, faculty, administration, prospective students, and NIF supporters.
The fellowship is now in its third year. It takes place in two sites: Jerusalem and New York. There, Froman fellows become familiar with NIF’s work with Israeli civil society so that they can become ambassadors for progressive change in Israel as they enter the rabbinate. The first fellow will graduate from rabbinical school in the spring and head into the rabbinate with his experience.