On Feb. 5, the fledgling Jewish Student Organization held its first weekly meeting of the term in the Dankook room of the Stevenson Union. The new JSO, also referred to as the “Jewish Club”, is an effort on the part of founder Ben Sperber to create “a place for Jewish students to hang out.”
On why he started the group, Sperber says, “The main reason was [because] I wanted a place for all the Jewish students to come together on campus and know that there’s more than just a few of us.” For Jews, an identity defined by both religion and ethnicity, it can be difficult to find others, especially considering the relatively small population of either religious or ethnic Jews worldwide. Jews come from a wide variety of races, ethnic groups, countries, and cultures, and have just as many styles or degrees of religious observance. As a result, many Jews can feel somewhat isolated from their community, especially if they are uninterested in reaching out to local synagogues or Orthodox religious groups like Chabad. By having a Jewish Student Organization on campus, Jewish students at SOU, regardless of origin, degree of observance, or ethnic identity, have a place to feel welcome among their own.
As Sperber says, “Diversity is great, but it’s [also] nice to be among your own people,” and with no other Jewish group on campus, religious or otherwise, this need was lacking in fulfillment. At the first meeting of the JSO, members came from a diverse range of backgrounds, including a conservative Jew, a reform Jew, another who had worked on a Kibbutz (communal farm) in Israel, and so on.
Sperber wants all Jewish students on campus to feel welcome in the club. Some members do attend services at the local Chabad, located just off campus. Sperber heavily emphasizes that attending service is neither a club function nor necessary for attendance or to feel like a part of the club. Events such as coffee and bagels, a challa bake, and other fun games and events, all somewhat connected to Jewish tradition and culture, are planned for the future.
For now, Sperber invites all Jews at SOU to come to the club, hang out, and get to know each other, however Jewish or whatever Jew you may be. Meetings are held weekly, every Wednesday at 6PM, in the Dankook room, SU 314.