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The Indiana Daily Student

campus student life

IU Hillel, IUSG collaborate for Shabbat services, Jewish education discussion

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IU Hillel and IU Student Government collaborated for Shabbat services, a Jewish education discussion and a Shabbat dinner on Friday. The discussion covered Jewish history, denominations, life events, symbols and Jewish denominations. 

“We came upon the idea of having a Judaism education event, just with the rise in antisemitism that we’ve seen not only on our campus but across the world,” IU Hillel President and sophomore Leah Sterbcow said. 

According to its website, IU Hillel is the center for Jewish life at IU. It was founded in 1938 and holds various events including a weekly Shabbat dinner for students. 

Services were held at 5 p.m. at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center on 730 E. Third St., and the discussion and dinner were held from 6-8 p.m. at the Solarium in the Indiana Memorial Union. 

On Friday, the education discussion started with a presentation about the history of Judaism by Sterbcow. 

“Judaism is more than just our religion; it’s also our peoplehood, our identity, our culture and our way of life,” Sterbcow said during the discussion. 

She also talked about antisemitism, saying it has always been around and has grown 400% since the Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7 compared to the same timeframe between 2022-23, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League. The report includes incidents of “antisemitic rhetoric, expressions of support for terrorism against the state of Israel and/or anti-Zionism.” 

The discussion featured presentations about Shabbat, Jewish denominations, life events and symbols from several members of IU Hillel. There was time between each presentation for those in attendance to discuss and ask questions. 

Sterbcow said IU Hillel and IUSG wanted to collaborate for a long time. 

“We decided to do a night of educating people on the basics of Judaism,” she said. 

A Shabbat dinner followed the education discussion. Shabbat is a day of rest in Judaism; the meal includes bread, vegetables, fruit, meat and soup. 

“The event was a huge success,” IU Hillel Vice President Eli Amsterdam said. “We had a big turnout. People are really understanding what Judaism is and learning about the different backgrounds and history.” 

Several members from IUSG attended the events, including Student Body President Aaliyah Raji and Student Body Vice President Marsha Koda. 

“We wanted to do something because we recognized we hadn’t collaborated prior, so we wanted to start working toward building a relationship with Hillel,” Raji said. “I think there’s a lot of people who didn’t know a lot of things about Judaism today that they were able to learn, including myself. I didn’t know a lot of these things, so coming here was informative.” 

In November, some members of IUSG and Jewish students accused Raji and Koda for allegedly failing to address antisemitism on campus following Hamas’ attack. Five members of the IUSG executive branch resigned Nov. 10-13, leading the IUSG Committee on Oversight and Finance to investigate the accusations. During the investigation, some students criticized IUSG leadership for not planning an event with IU Hillel or reaching out to Jewish students, but Raji said she never discouraged IUSG directors from holding events. 

IUSG Committee on Oversight and Finance released a report recommending impeachment Jan. 10, but Congress voted against impeaching Raji and Koda on Jan. 29. 

Raji’s tenure as student body president ends March 15, but she said the event could be the start of a long-term partnership between IUSG and Hillel. 

“I think it sets a precedent for other collaborations that can happen,” she said. “Hopefully growing the event and reaching more students — those outside of the Hillel community and the IUSG community — and opening it to Bloomington as a whole.” 

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