Jewish programming intends to educate

Students can sip lattes, paint homemade pottery, dance the Horah and learn once and for all why Jews don’t believe in Jesus this month at Hillel. It is Jewish Awareness Month, the drive to increase participation at GW’s Jewish student center.

The diverse Jewish social, educational and cultural programs, ranging from last week’s X-Files premiere to weekly Torah study classes, are aimed at attracting a wide variety of students to Hillel, said Greg Schofer, the center’s assistant director.

Students shouldn’t be intimidated by Hillel, he said. There is something for everyone here, and this month we hope students take advantage of any program that touches their individual Jewish interests.

Hillel has more than 300 dues-paying members. Jewish Student Association President Ari Grossman said he hopes JAM’s creative programming will appeal to Jewish students who are not active with Hillel or are unfamiliar with its programs.

In an atmosphere like D.C., where there are so many opportunities for students beyond campus, it’s easy to be drawn to activities that don’t relate to Judaism, he said. We just want students to know that being a part of the Jewish community here is an important experience, one that is always open to everyone.

Hillel runs 19 smaller Jewish student organizations under the auspices of the Jewish Student Association, which will hold its annual elections Saturday at 3 p.m. The groups include at least one organization for each Jewish religious denomination, three organizations supporting Israel and others relating to academic fields, women’s issues, sports and Holocaust remembrance.

Creating unity among the groups is a goal of Hillel leaders this year, Grossman said.

So far, we’ve had a lot of success with religious pluralism at Hillel, he said. Bringing all types of Jews together and making them feel comfortable is tricky, but it is something we are working hard to achieve.

To do this, Hillel leaders are focusing on non-denominational programs. One example is like the Go FYSH game, in which freshmen win prizes when they meet their matches, fellow freshmen wearing fish pins identical to their own. Hillel will also host a campus-wide Gala Shabbat Dec. 3 aimed at bringing together students from all Jewish denominations.

The Israel 2000 trip was also a tremendous draw for students, Schofer said. Of nearly 200 who applied, 40 students selected for the program will travel to Israel for the first time this winter.

A lot of students feel a Jewish connection, though it might not be to religious observance, Schofer said. There are so many facets of Judaism to explore. Our job is to help everyone find what they’re looking for.

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