The Jewish Student Union, which first formed last year but took a small presence in the community, is designed to bring Jewish students together in a fun yet educational way.
Led by junior presidents Taylor Soroka and Amanda Levin, the Jewish Student Union club partners with the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), which is an Orthodox Jewish youth group sponsored by the Orthodox Union. JSU has been around since 2002, but only started in the Greater Washington Area in 2012. This community now has 10 clubs, as part of the over 150 clubs around the United States. “Participation is always free and open to anyone, regardless of their background,” junior president Taylor Soroka said.
Standing strong with 35 members, the club serves to unite the Jewish community at the school. While the club is run by Soroka and Levin, they partner with Rabbi Aryeh Wielgus, Greater Washington JSU coordinator from Atlantic Seaboard NCSY to run the meetings every other week. Wielgus works for NCSY to help run the JSU meetings across the Greater Washington Area. “Aryeh plans every meeting with Taylor and me in advance so we have something entertaining yet educational to offer to members,” Levin said. “We often do activities involving upcoming holidays or events in the Jewish calendar.”
According to Wielgus, JSU is a network of student-run clubs for teens interested in learning about Jewish culture and tradition. While many of the teens attending are Jewish and are interested in learning about their heritage, some of the teens participating are not Jewish but are interested in learning about what Jewish culture is. Therefore, the club tries to run programming that can cater to all students.
After Soroka connected with Wielgus and JSU through a program, the club has expanded drastically and continues to grow every meeting. “Judaism is an important part of my life so I like being part of the club,” sophomore member Aliza Reinstein said. “It is cool to know there are people in the school with the same views as me.”
Wielgus visits multiple schools in the area to conduct JSU meetings through NCSY in hopes to educate Jewish youth. “What I do is to coordinate all the clubs and make sure the teen leaders have the support they need to ensure the cub remains successful,” Wielgus said. “I’ll provide free pizza and the program for a club, be it a fun game, a discussion, or anything else the teens want related to Jewish culture.”
The JSU is on the rise here, educating Jewish youth one free slice of pizza at a time.