Close to 400 eager recruits who plan to attend secular colleges in America this fall following studies in Israel have signed on board with The Heart to Heart Project (H2H) – an OU NextGen partnership program – after meeting H2H Founder Hart Levine, Founder of H2H, during his whirlwind “tour and meet” trip this month.
Hart’s goal? In conjunction with visits by leadership of the OU NextGen Division, the OU delegation visited yeshivot across the spectrum of Orthodox observance in order to engage students about the impact they can have on the Jewish community at their respective campuses (such as advisors for NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership); and to educate them about the resources provided by the OU to assist them.
Leadership of OU NextGen -- whose purpose is to maintain connections with young alumni of NCSY and other Orthodox Union programs -- included Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuk, Director of OU Alumni Connections; and Rabbi Ilan Haber, Director of the OU’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program.
Heart to Heart is a grassroots movement of active Jewish students “sharing the beauty of Torah Judaism with non-active Jewish students who are living in their dorms and attending the same classes – friends sharing what they love with their friends,” according to Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, Director of OU NextGen. He also noted that many of the active students are NCSY alumni and yeshiva/day school graduates who participate in JLIC – which will expand to 16 campuses across the United States and Canada this fall.
Rabbi Dave, as he is commonly referred, has served as a professional mentor of the H2H Project for the past five years. Last year, the OU officially took H2H under its wing – providing funding; leadership development for Hart and his student leaders; and office space and supplies.
Hart Levine’s part of the Israeli tour consisted of 25 yeshivot across Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, the Gush Etzion region, Kibbutz Ein HaNatziv, Mevaseret Zion and Maale Gilboa.
According to Hart, “When finishing the year in yeshiva in Israel, it’s very uncommon for students to be told about the amazing impact they can have on 80 percent of their college campuses. When I speak at schools, students are excited to hear what they can do on campus. It is natural to also feel nervous to participate – students feel that they wouldn’t know how to handle a situation or how to answer questions – and that is where we step in. With Heart to Heart and OU NextGen, students are part of a support network – they aren’t alone.”
Hart is already following up with his new recruits in order to lay the groundwork, introducing them to H2H leaders at their campuses and also introducing incoming students to each other. “Individuals want to know how they can make an impact on their campus. I tell them to get to know Jewish life first, and then see how they can fill a need.”
A leadership training Shabbaton is also planned for late summer in New York for new recruits.
OU | Enhancing Jewish Life