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Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, 9190501

tel. 972.2.5494950

Student Interaction and Dialogue

Platform for Student Interaction and Dialogue

The campus is often the first place that many students experience significant and ongoing encounters with those from other identify groups, as equals. For many minority communities, higher education constitutes a significant first experience of encounter. While students may physically occupy the same space, they will only get to know others if they make an active effort to reach out as most students study and socialize with peers exclusively from their own community. CSMD seeks to capitalize on the potential for interaction between different social groups by providing students with opportunities for interaction and supporting them during this process. Students initiated most of the projects described here with CSMD’s support.


The Madrasa – An Interreligious House of Study: The Madrasa was established by students through their involvement in the Clinic for Multiculturalism and Diversity. Since its establishment in 2016, over 50 students have participated in Madrasa. Over the past two years, it was run by students who participated in the first cohort. During meetings, students from all three monotheistic faiths discuss social and philosophical issues such as creation of man in the image of God, the treatment of the stranger, the tension between religious innovation and observance of tradition, the attitude towards women in religion and more. Discussions are based on texts from the Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions (translated into Hebrew and Arabic). Every year students organize an open study day in which they invite the university community to join in these discussions. They also organize an annual tour of religious sites guided by Madrasa participants.  


Dialogue Spaces: Dialogue spaces, which planned a series of one-time events, invited students to participate in public events and discussions. In response to an inquiry we submitted with the Social Involvement Unit at the Office of the Dean of Students, ten students from a variety of fields of study were selected to lead this project. They were trained to facilitate various one-off dialogue groups. Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, we held several open discussion sessions for students. We experimented with a meeting for women only, a meeting in a faculty forum and an open meeting for all students. Each discussion focused on different aspects of a multicultural campus. Attendance at open meetings was poor; we hope that we can establish a more stable routine of open events and that this will promote higher attendance.  


Arab-Jewish Student Forum in the Faculty of Humanities: In 2017, a group of Jewish and Arab humanities students met every two weeks to promote a shared Arab-Jewish space on campus and create a bilingual academic dialogue. This project was initiated by graduate students in the faculty who felt that addressing the fundamentals of the student experience was a pre-requisite for promoting a multicultural and respectful academic space. The group was co-facilitated by a Jewish and an Arab student and was overseen by the Social Involvement Unit at the Office of the Dean of Students. During the meetings, participants generated ideas for various initiatives which could promote a shared academic and social space. These ideas were then presented to the Dean and other faculty administrators. Some of the initiatives have begun to materialize; for instance, the university has begun to add Arabic to computer keyboards and Arabic signs were placed in the cafeteria. A central goal of this forum is to improve communication between Arab students and the faculty administrators.  


Jewish-Arab Lab Teams at the Faculty of Science (Safra Campus): This initiative was founded by students who sought to promote mixed Jewish-Arab lab teams. With CSMD's support, the students identified some 12 Arab and Jewish students who advocated with students and staff for the formation of such teams. This campaign resulted in the formation of a bi-lingual lab in genetics with about 20 teams. The Arab-Jewish students' group also organized multicultural events on campus such as an Iftar Ramadan break-fast, a soccer game and a picnic.


Haredi Student Group: For many ultra-orthodox students, entering higher education - with its largely secular and liberal orientation - is very dramatic and raises questions of identity and belonging. CSMD organized a group of such students; at meetings, they share dilemmas and challenges with their peers who are often the only people they know who can relate to their experience. This group, facilitated by Dina Zaleznik, an ultra-orthodox PhD student in psychology, gives them tools for navigating this challenging environment.


Voices of the East: This is a program run by the Hillel Center on campus. Students are creating an on-line video library documenting the histories of the vanishing world of Jews who were born and raised in North Africa and the Middle East. CSMD supports the project and participated in training students in preparation for their work on this initiative.


Code for Her: This project was initiated by an MA student wishing to support fellow female Arab students who want to acquire skills necessary for successful integration into the job market. She established a group of 12 such students studying education or in the humanities and created a course in software app design and computing