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Student groups encourage Jewish involvement in the midst of Hanukkah

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | DECEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Two University of Iowa student organizations are hoping visual awareness and semester-long events — including a menorah lighting on the Pedestrian Mall and a welcome-back barbeque — will add to diversity.

The Iowa Hillel and Chabad chapters are working to bring additional Jewish awareness to campus. On Dec. 7, Iowa Hillel students celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with homemade menorah creations.

“Our Hillel is one of the smallest in the Big Ten just because of the Jewish population at Iowa,” UI junior and Iowa Hillel Copresident Sammie Marks said. “It’s our goal this year to remind upperclassmen and show underclassmen that we welcome those with all different backgrounds with welcome arms.”

Marks called 2012 a “rebuilding year” for Iowa Hillel as they focus on recruitment and building interest. Starting next semester, they will establish a buddy system and a Big Ten network with other Hillel chapters to promote leadership and development.

Hillel Executive Director Gerald Sorokin said out of the total 31,000 UI students, roughly 800 are Jewish, an estimated 600 of whom are undergraduates. In comparison, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has a total student population of nearly 40,000 undergraduates, has an estimated 5,000 Jewish students.

UI Professor of religious studies Jay Holstein said the UI’s Jewish history is physically interwoven in campus buildings such as the Levitt Center and the Pomerantz Career Center. He said both demonstrate Jewish dedication to higher education.

Holstein noted that Jewish study classes have been offered on campus since 1933. He said organizations such as Hillel and Chabad are essential for Jewish enrichment on campus for Jewish-Americans.


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