It’s not a sorority. But it is a sisterhood.
The Sisterhood at GW Hillel is a new student group where female undergraduate and graduate students at the University come together to celebrate their Jewish heritage through social events. Members describe it as a sorority without the dues or commitment, and it is one of almost a dozen student organizations that operate under the Jewish Student Association and in conjunction with Hillel.
The groups creation was spurred last semester by an offhand joke by a Hillel staff member.
“It started as a whim when someone at a Hillel service asked me to make the announcements for the week,” said freshman Ariel Warmflash, the Sisterhood’s founder. “They introduced me as ‘president of the sisterhood’ since they knew I was always getting a group of girls to come to Hillel.”
Warmflash took the words to heart and founded the all-female group, which revolves around social events based on cultural aspects of Judaism.
With an often inconsistent sense of school spirit and the lure of D.C. keeping students busy off campus, groups like the Sisterhood hope to bring social life back on campus and foster community in Foggy Bottom.
“Because there are so many Jewish people at GW, it becomes almost overwhelming,” Warmflash said. “GW is really big and there are many places so it is easy to get lost but Hillel is a great community that caters to amazing groups that are very specific in this large Jewish community.”
Every Thursday night, the women bond over baking challah bread. Other events in the past have involved cooking latkes and matzo ball soup.
“We hold these Sisterhood events to give students something familiar from home,” said Alison Stromberg, engagement assistant at GW Hillel. “Since students are away from home, this is a good way to meet other people the same age and with similar beliefs.”
The group is nondenominational and welcomes women of all religions, Warmflash said. While most – if not all – of the Sisterhood members consider themselves culturally Jewish, not all of the girls are religiously affiliated.
“I didn’t grow up in a religious setting,” said freshman Rebecca Kahn-Whitman, a member of the Sisterhood. “But, from the beginning, Hillel had that community environment that really helped in the transition from high school to college.”
She added, “It’s a tough transition to make for everyone, but Hillel became a nice outlet to be with friends similar to you.”
Jenny Norel, a freshman in charge of planning Sisterhood events, said the group brings together women with similar backgrounds and interests to form a close-knit community at GW.
“The Sisterhood has become a social outlet for people,” Norel said. “It opens my eyes to more people.”
The leaders of the group plan to continue their efforts for years to come and hope to gain more members as the group grows.
Warmflash said, “This is my baby. This is the baby of all the girls of Hillel, and we’re going to try and make it last.”