Hillel International shares Israeli culture with a night of traditional dance

Culture allows people from a common background to share a common bond. Hillel International shared a part of Israeli culture with the Geneseo campus and brought students together through its Israeli Dance Night on Saturday Nov. 9. Hillel President senior Ayelet Harel said she and the other members of Hillel wanted to bring the Israeli Dance Night as its Geneseo Late Knight event to show how Israeli dance plays into the history of its culture.

“Israeli dancing is … really joyous,” Harel said. “It was a celebratory thing when … Jewish people started to come back from the Diaspora to Israel. When that started happening, people said, 'This is really cool - we want to celebrate.'”

Israeli dance instructor Max Steiner of Rochester taught the dances throughout the evening in addition to the meaning behind many of the dances. Steiner's high energy in every dance added to the excitement participants experienced while learning the dances.

According to Steiner, popular Israeli artists such as Subliminal often perform the songs used for the dances. The lyrics sometimes correspond with the dance moves; in the dance Hafinali, dancers put their hands in the air for the Hebrew word for heaven, shamayim.

Many of the dances incorporated fast-paced music that emulated the joyous sentiment in either line or circle form. Each dance varied in difficulty, which depended on the intricacy of the footwork. The dance moves ranged from simple side steps to jazz squares to various kicks.

Each dance is unique in meaning and music, but many dances share dance moves; one common dance move is the mime, also known as the grapevine. Harel said the dance moves are similar because the dances are derived from a plethora of cultures, especially from Eastern Europe.

“Israel is really interesting in that it's probably more of a melting pot than America. It's a combination of everybody that came … spread out throughout the world form the Diaspora and mixed all their cultures into something that's really cool,” Harel said.

The Israeli Dance Night is part of Hillel's mission to share the Israeli culture with Geneseo students, Harel said. As Hillel elects their new executive board to start in the spring semester, Harel said she and other members look forward to the other cultural programs Hillel provides for the campus community.

“I feel like Hillel did a great job of getting people who aren't Jewish and who are Jewish to have a sense of Jewish and Israeli culture through dancing,” Hillel treasurer senior Marty Rogachefsky said. “Dancing is part of Israeli culture, and having that part introduced to Geneseo is essential for understanding Judaism as a whole.”