Connecting with heritage through the Jewish Student Organization

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Photo courtesy of hillelmetrodetroit on Instagram

Hillel of Metro Detroit students volunteered for bookstock.

Arianna Heyman, Features Editor

The Jewish Student Organization (JSO) at Oakland University is a small club with growing influence. The JSO encourages members to “take advantage of the connections, programs and leadership opportunities that will make you stand out from the crowd.”

With meetings occurring on Wednesdays, JSO members bond over shared history and future goals they hope to accomplish as an organization. Vice President Lily Hooberman cites many examples of why joining JSO can be an enlightening experience. 

“[You] learn about our Jewish heritage and how you can implement it in your life,” Hooberman says. “You can relate to other people who you know share the same religion as you.” 

Through JSO, members celebrate various Jewish holidays, gather for Shabbat dinners and engage with like-minded individuals. The JSO provides students with a way to connect through shared cultural practices which creates a sense of community on campuses where many students often feel alone. 

JSO is sponsored by the Hillel organization which is a national group. Hillel was founded in 1923 to strengthen Jewish communities on college campuses. Through Hillel of Metro Detroit, other JSO groups have the opportunity to interact through various events. 

“[In the] beginning of this year, there was an event. It was the Van Gogh exhibit downtown [with] all the Hillels,” Hooberman says. “We [also] partner with [Wayne State University] and do Shabbat dinner sometimes.” 

Another goal the JSO hopes to achieve is partnering with other OU cultural organizations to plan events. 

“People [who] don’t really know about Judaism can come and join,” Hooberman says. “They can learn all about it and we [plan to] partner with other organizations and we can learn about each other’s religions.” 

The JSO regularly schedules events and is planning numerous activities for the rest of the winter semester. 

“After break we’re having a Purim event where we’re gonna make our own hamentashen and play games,” Hooberman says.

The JSO events are not exclusively for members and Jewish students. The JSO encourages OU students of all cultural backgrounds to come celebrate and learn about the Jewish culture alongside JSO members. 

With antisemitism on the rise on college campuses across the country, the need for the JSO is more vital than ever. In the last year alone, antisemitic incidents on campuses reached an all time high

A survey conducted for Hillel International and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) found that antisemitism is a looming and present threat for Jewish college students, with one in three students personally experiencing antisemitic hate directed at them in the last academic year,” Hooberman says. 

Hooberman says that while antisemitism is not frequently spoken about, the issue is ever present in the back of everyone’s minds. 

With antisemitism and hate speech on the rise, it is more important for minority group to have a strong sense of community in order to lean on one another in trying times. The JSO provides this for Jewish students at OU and across metro Detroit. 

For more information about JSO or for those looking to join the organization, find them on Facebook, Instagram or via Campus Labs.