The Jewish campus community continues to address the emotional and spiritual needs of students on campus in the wake of the suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers. Hillels are taking the lead in creating accepting environments for students of all sexual preferences.
Meanwhile, kosher cafes and Hillel buildings are popping up on campuses everywhere, thanks to increasing Jewish student populations. Universities are also taking preventative measures by making campus support services known to students who need help. On the other hand, more creative ways to celebrate Sukkot include manufacturing sukkahs out of edible goodies.
Breaking the Silence
In the wake of recent suicides, the University of Georgia Hillel organized a fair for students that promote campus support services. A few of the campus support offices featured at the fair were the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, Counseling and Psychiatric Services, and the Disability Resource Center. The idea of the fair was to let students know that help is just around the corner.
The University of Georgia wasn’t the only one that responded to the suicides. Rutgers Hillel had already established an organization earlier this year called Jewish Allies and Queers, to provide a safe place for gay and lesbian students. Days Without Hate is an annual event that has been taking place since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The week-long event is focused on giving back to the university and spreading love.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Universities large and small are reaching out to Jewish students and helping to create campuses that meet their needs. Schools in the Baltimore area and nationwide are doing outreach to Jewish high school students and building kosher dining facilities.
Hillel’s Small and Mighty Soref Initiative works with students and university administrations to address the unique concerns of campuses with small Jewish populations.
Celebrating With Edible Sukkahs and Jewish Music
An edible sukkah contest was held on Sept. 22 at Simmons College. Twelve student organizations and campus offices participated in constructing model sukkahs out of gingerbread cookies and candy. In the fall of 2009, the Simmons Hillel sukkah was destroyed by a fire, so this year’s contest was held to educate other organizations about the holiday of Sukkot.
The rainy weather did not stop SUNY Rockland students and faculty from celebrating Sukkot. The celebration was moved from the outdoor sukkot to the Student Union building. Kosher pizza, falafel balls and pastries were provided, along with a performance by Jewish indie-rocker Moshe Hecht. About 100 students participated and enjoyed it tremendously.
Pittsburgh and Jerusalem Skylines Become One
A 20-foot-long mural of Pittsburg’s skyline melding into Jerusalem’s was painted during the summer. Lauren Demby, a senior, painted the mural at the Pittsburgh Hillel Jewish University Center. She spent eight-hour days over two months to paint with seven different colored paints including black, white, red, blue, yellow, orange, and gold. The mural carries out a message of how Pittsburgh is incorporated with Jerusalem.
Meira Kirschbaum is a student in Washington, D.C.