JSU Facebook Page
It’s hard for clubs to have a unified student community when so many are not at school because of the coronavirus and, even if they are at school, they must practice social distancing. Cultural clubs have found it especially difficult. The Jewish Student Union, a student-run organization at Northeastern University, has experimented with different ways to safely get people together and make the most out of this hybrid semester. The president and founding member of JSU, Tali Glickman, a fifth-year psychology major, is experimenting various ways to continue club activities.
The Jewish Student Union (JSU) has stood as “an inclusive and cohesive, peer-led Jewish community at Northeastern focused on empowering and challenging students through coordination, awareness, dialogue, and programming among Jewish interest organizations,” as stated on their club Facebook page. The club gained traction at the beginning of the fall semester, during Virtual Fall Fest. Many new incoming students, both on campus and at home, were able to join and have the opportunity to explore a space where they are comfortable.
“We wanted to create a space that was student-led and had no outside organizations, being in charge of the agenda, but also as a space for all Jewish students on campus for anyone to feel comfortable,” Glickman said.
As gatherings and in-person meetings are on pause for this semester, JSU has taken to Zoom and virtual events as a way to keep up with interaction. Leaders and members of the Executive Board have found this transition challenging as an important part of Judaism is all about coming together.
“It’s really hard if I’m going to be honest. A big thing in Judaism is coming together to eat,” Glickman said. “We have Shabbat meals and during the big Jewish holiday season, you can’t go be with your community, you can’t sit next to someone during services. It’s definitely been a challenge.”
As the restrictions have gradually eased and frequent testing has been effective for the Northeastern community, the club has been able to create opportunities for those who are on campus. Normally, weekends would call for Shabbat meals but now the club created Shabbat walks.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve been doing is trying to do a mixture of Shabbat Walks. We’ve been doing a bi-weekly socially distant walk together to try and get the community together if people are on campus,” Glickman said.
JSU has ensured that their community stays connected no matter where its members are. A lot of it has consisted of experimenting with different online resources. Whether it’s through different social media platforms, Slack or Zoom meetings, it’s still a way for everyone in the club to stay connected to one another. Glickman mentioned that they’ve been trying out different Zoom activities.
“We’re about to launch one of the main things that we do which is our Mishpacha,” Glickman said. “So Mishpacha means ‘family’ in Hebrew. So we’re kind of doing like a family system. Even if you’re remote in California, you’re still going to be connected to Jewish students at Northeastern. More details about this are still up and coming.”
As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have recently passed, the club made an extended effort to make sure there was something for everyone during the High Holiday season. There are two other Jewish clubs on campus that have funding for events, whether it’s in-person or online. In part, JSU made announcements to promote events that the other clubs were hosting.
Between the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, JSU was able to host a virtual learning session with Dr. Laurel Leff, a professor in the School of Journalism. As the director of Northeastern’s Jewish Studies Program and the advisor of JSU, Leff was able to lead an informational discussion for those interested in learning more about the High Holiday. She covered the historical context, cultural context, and all the other things that students may have not known about it regarding the holiday.
The club has still managed to show growth despite this semester forcing things to be run differently. It first was created out of the want and need for there to be a student-run organization without there being a parent organization, and it’s further grown from more of a reactive place. Today, despite the challenges that the pandemic has placed, JSU will continue to be a safe space for anyone on campus.
“It was a little bit of a reactive then it grew into something where this space makes sense,” Glickman said. “JSU is really awesome for a ton of people and it can be an umbrella for a lot of different Jews on campus to figure out what space makes sense for them.