Many Thanks to Mollie

A special thank you to a good friend of mine and freshmen Mollie Selmanoff for helping me with this week’s post! 

      “My transition to college was not easy to say the least, and it continues to be challenge but I can say for a fact that I wouldn’t be nearly as happy here as I am without Hillel/JSU.  I thoroughly enjoy going to many events that they have to offer, and I have made some of my closest friends through JSU.  Not only am I welcome to come to events, but the doors are always open for me to come in, chat with staff members and enjoy a good laugh.                                                                                                  

      Before coming to CofC, I wanted to be in an A Capella group.  I thought college would be the perfect place to explore that passion of mine.  Since we didn’t have a Jewish A Capella group, I decided to start one with a couple friends and Dara Rosenblatt.  Kol HaCougarim is the first and only Jewish A Capella group on campus.  One of my highlights every week is going to rehearsal and whether we accomplish anything or not, we always are sure to have a good laugh and a fun time. Though we may only be 4 singers, we are strong and determined to continue our love for music through this group.”

Want to share what your experience has been like at CofC? Comment on here and let me know! I would love to feature anyone in a blog post. 

The Klaper Fellowship in Jewish Studies

Our very own Andrew Spector was awarded the Klaper Fellowship Scholarship in Jewish Studies this past summer. On Tuesday evening, he gave an incredible presentation on his time spent exploring Jewish spirituality in Israel and also the Buddhist meditation retreat he attended in his home state of Massachusetts. 

He explained how in Israel it was all about Judaism, spirituality, the Talmud, and trying to be the best person you can be. He seemed to have a great group of individuals who also attended the program and a mentor who had a major impact during his time there. I could  tell he learned a lot, became  in touch with his inner self, and even embraced his inner yogi to meditate every so often while there. 

Andrew’s summer journey took a turn when he returned to America and attended a Buddhist spiritual meditation retreat. He told us that he was nervous and not looking forward to the experience which was the complete opposite of Israel. He sang, dance, drank, prayed, studied and connected with his religion while in Israel. Yet while in Massachusetts, he had to do a complete 180 of not speaking to anyone, looking them in the eye, smiling, and ultimately being just an organism living amongst other organisms. When he shared the challenge he faced of not feeling comfortable bowing down to the Buddha at the front of the room before each meditation session, it reminded me of my time at Catholic high school in Savannah. It was mandatory for all students to attend mass once a month. Although I did not sing the songs,  read and recite the prayers, and kneel during the service (we were even required to kneel during graduation, but I chose to just slide down in the pew to make it look like I was kneeling) , I took it as a learning and reflection experience. I took in a different culture, different way of looking at religion, and speaking to G-d.  From my interpretation and his presentation, I feel that Andrew had the same experience. He even said in order to show respect, not necessarily Buddha, he would bow down to his teachers before he meditated.

Andrew has been a good friend of mine for the past couple of years. I have seen him grow as an individual, and this year turn the corner in moving forward and being more open with what seems to be a passion of that is meditation,  spirituality, and sharing that with everyone around him. I am extremely proud of him and seeing the room Tuesday evening full of his friends, mentors, and the Klapers , I know I am not the only one who feels this way! Way to go Andrew! 

If you are interested in the Klaper Fellowship in Jewish Studies program, contact Dara for more information! You can choose an “internship” you take either in the US, Europe, or Israel and essentially make the program exactly what you want with the help of the generous funds offered by the Klapers. 

Are you Jewish by religion or culture?

Thank you to another guest blogger, Senior from Atlanta, Georgia Nicole Lubel, for writing her thoughts on the question “Are you Jewish by religion or culture?” Nicole’s approach to this question was from the culture aspect and how a visit to Israel made this connection between Judaism and our culture even deeper. 

“Growing up in a conservative Zionist household, I always was surrounded by thoughts about “the Holy Land” and was very knowledgeable about the meaning of the State of Israel, but it was not until I experienced the Holy Land through my own eyes that I really felt a connection. During the summer of 2010 (after my freshman year) I went on a Birthright trip to Israel through The College’s JSU/Hillel. Even though I had been to Israel before, it was this trip that made the connection so much deeper. I was able to experience the Holy Land with people my age and of the same faith. Not only did I see all the contributions that Israel has made to the world, but I came to appreciate the importance of the Jewish State to the continuation of the Jewish People. I saw how important it was that we as Jews should always have a place to call home. To this day I try to do my part in advocate for Israel to insure that we always have a homeland. “

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Thank you to Nicole once again! How do you feel..do you feel that religion plays a large role than culture in identifying yourself as Jewish? Or vice versa? Comment on the post and let me know! 

 

Being Jewish at the College of Charleston

First, a special thank you to Dara for many new blog topics! She came up with the topic, “What does being Jewish at the College of Charleston mean to you?”. I decided to take a short walk down memory lane and figure out an exact answer to this question. 

Ironically enough, one major reason why i chose to not only apply to the College but also come to school here was because I was very involved with BBYO during high school. Dixie Council was the council I was in within the Southern Region of BBYO. Dixie included Jewish, high school students from Charleston, Columbia, Augusta, and Savannah. Every Labor Day, all of Dixie would meet in Charleston for their annual Labor Day Beau Sweetheart dance. So, for the last almost eight years (four from high school and four from college), I have celebrated Labor Day in Charleston! Throughout those dance weekends, I familiarized myself with downtown and other areas in Charleston. It really felt like a second home for me as soon as I arrived on campus for my Freshmen year. It was also a fun shopping excursion for my mom and I during middle and high school since it was only a two hour drive away. 

I knew coming to the College would be an easy transition from not only my Jewish roots and friends in Savannah, but also in joining another student led organization such as the JSU/Hillel. I enjoyed having the consistency of BBYO in my life and attending meetings, helping with fundraisers and volunteering, and the social side such as the out of town weekends. The JSU/Hillel has offered me the same outlets through the weekly meals, executive board meetings, and the social action & student engagement events. 

Ultimately, I believe being Jewish at the College is definitely a unique experience. Joining board about two years ago felt natural for me. I was not nervous to be on board or felt I would be looked at differently for taking an executive board member position. I love the close knit feeling that comes along with being a Jewish student here since there are not that many on campus.I feel as though I know a good amount of the Jewish student here on campus. I reconnect with familiar and new faces each and every Wednesday and Friday evening for our two free meals. I also enjoy sharing with others on and off campus that I am part of the JSU/Hillel as one of their executive board because I believe it gives credibility to the fantastic Jewish Student organization we have here on campus! 

I’m interested to hear what it’s like for you to be Jewish at the College of Charleston? Have you had a similar situation to mine or have you been faced with something different being a minority on campus? Comment here and let me know! 

What’s New This Week and Next

This rain has not been nice but the cooler weather has been! I am looking forward to the weather staying consistently cool and not hot for a week then cold for maybe one day.  Moving on from the weather, tonight (Tuesday, October 8th) there will be an Ice Cream Study Break at 8:00 PM in Arnold Hall! Tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 9th) we will have an Italian feast at Meet to Eat! 

Luckily, Friday begins our fall break (Friday evening everyone…don’t get too excited!) Unfortunately, there will be no Shabbat dinner or services, but if you are interested in celebrating Shabbat and will be in town, contact Dara.

Looking ahead to next Friday, it is Perspective Student’s Weekend! Jodie has been working hard to promote this event and get current students excited about those who may be interested in attending the College. It is a great way to show how strong the Jewish community is on campus and also include them and their families to our Shabbat celebration. Friday night will also be a Lock In at the JSC with games, food, and fun outings all night. If you are interested in helping or getting connected with a perspective student who may be coming from your area, get in touch with Jodie Singer via Facebook or her email : singerjm@cofc.edu . 

Who were the Bedouins?

I asked a recent College of Charleston graduate, Hannah Reynolds, to tell me a little bit about her Bedouin experience from her Birthright trip this past summer. 

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A Bedouin Moment – Hannah Reynolds

“Close your eyes for a moment—

Feel the grit of the dirt blowing in the wind against your skin, your teeth.

Smell the smoke from the fires in the distance, the smell of the animals and their dung.      

See the simplicity of the night sky; the stars set apart from one another without interference from outside light.

I meditated in the Negev Desert after dinner. I was all there. I opened my eyes to the glorious sky and felt the pull, the rationale of the Bedouins. They were a people surviving on their traditions and community. They kept things simple. The original Israelites.” 

I know little to nothing about who the Bedouins were so I enjoyed reading what Hannah though of them. Want to learn more? Come to the JSC at 5:45 PM before dinner tomorrow night (October 4th) for a discussion on who they  were and formulate your own thoughts with our Shabbat leader, Andrew Spector. I will be there so hope to see many others! 

 

 

Spotlight

I’ve decided to generate a list of people who I knew would be great at guest posting. Chantelle Berman, my first guest blogger, was the  Israel Chair on the JSU Student Board last year and a fellow member of the Senior class. I asked her to write a little about her most recent adventure she went on

during second semester of her Junior year. She studied abroad in South Africa and from the photos I saw on Facebook, it looked as though she had the time of her life! Here’s her story. 

“I spent this past spring semester studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Making the choice to leave College of Charleston (and the US!) for five months was not an easy one by any means, but it is something I am unbelievably grateful I chose to do. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but hadn’t had the opportunity to return since leaving in 1994. Part of what made my experience so special was being able to connect with where I was born and to see my family (my grandmother, aunts, uncle, and cousins) for the first time in almost 15 years. I connected with an important piece of my identity I didn’t truly even realize I had been missing. In addition to forming these special connections, I did things I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do in my life: I dove with Great White Sharks, made it to the top of Table Mountain, pet cheetahs and lions, drove along the scenic Garden Route, and immersed myself in authentic African cultures. But besides the experiential things, I took several important things away from my time in Cape Town. The first is that I experienced so much personal growth. I don’t know how to write about it without sounding cliché, but I truly feel so much like an adult since returning home. I know that living in a foreign country virtually on your own is likely to result in such things, but being abroad has forced me to grow up and to realize that I am a completely competent and capable young woman. I no longer feel like a child who needs her parents to do everything.I’ve discovered an inner strength in myself that I never thought I possessed. Secondly, I’ve learned to appreciate simplicity in profound ways. Things that ordinarily would have gotten me all worked up now don’t even feature as a concern. I feel such an inner sense of calm and simplicity. It takes very little for me to be happy: as long as I have my good health, my loving family, and my wonderful friends, I am happy. As long as I can find joy in every single day, I’m happy. If I can laugh, that’s happiness. Something about living in South Africa for five months showed me that.

 

In terms of my Judaism, I never felt disconnected with it while I was away. In fact, there were several instances where I felt incredibly connected to it. I witnessed a lot of anti-semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on the University of Cape Town campus in the form of protests, fairs, etc. It was so unlike our “quiet” campus here at College of Charleston. However, I can’t explain the feeling I got when I saw the UCT Jewish Student Union countering the slander simply by playing the guitar, dancing and singing, and waving Israeli flags just a few feet away. Watching the positive way in which they responded made me burst with pride. Additionally, I met quite a few Jewish students studying on the same program as me with whom I was able to connect with. It’s comforting to know that I can travel 10,000 miles away for five months and still stay in touch with Judaism.

 

Studying abroad was the single greatest time of my life, and it is something I wish all my peers had the opportunity to experience. “

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