A first for State: Jewish student group pioneering at SDSU

Noah Brown

CORRECTION: A student in the photo for this story was previously misidentified. The caption has now been corrected and The Collegian apologizes for the error.

There are many student groups on campus—bull riding, unicycling and paintball to name a few. But before this year, there was never a group on campus where Jewish students could come together. It could be just a place to talk with fellow students who share a similar background and lifestyle, or a place to practice ancient traditions—ones that seem strange to many SDSU students.

All of that changed after The Order of B’rith Sholom was granted provisional status by the Students’ Association. A small group of dedicated members are now shaping the future of the first-ever Jewish student organization in the state. The group has been accepted into Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. They have affiliated groups on over 500 colleges and universities and just one in South Dakota.

The population of Jewish students on campus is small, but that did not stop Tim Hanna, the organization’s president, from working to locate Jewish students on campus.

“Someone would know a Jewish student on campus, and that person would know a couple of kids, and so on,” said Hanna, who is studying to earn his PhD. in Sociology.

So far the group is focused on the administrative side, especially getting the group officially recognized by the Students’ Association. That will change as the group grows.

“I suspect that by next fall we will be up and running with a predetermined events calendar,” Hanna said.

Once that happens, there are many goals the group wants to accomplish.

“My vision is for this to be an all-inclusive group,” Hanna said. “There are people who are religiously Jewish, and then there are those that are culturally Jewish. We want to reach out to anyone who is interested.”

One of the major building blocks of the group is acceptance of everyone’s beliefs—people who are Jewish and people who are simply interested in learning more about Jewish culture and traditions.

“One of the biggest parts of Judaism is hospitality. We want to show that to people,” said Rachel Hunt, vice president of the organization.

Raising the awareness level on campus about Jewish traditions will also be a primary aim of the group.

“We just want to let people know that there are Jews on campus,” Hunt said.

Some customs can cause unusual problems for Jewish students. For example, Hanukkah rarely falls during the scheduled winter break for the university. Also, for those students who practice more orthodox versions of Judaism, food choices become a problem on campus.

Kosher food is nearly impossible to find on campus—something Hanna hopes to change.

“When you have undergrads coming in that are forced to buy a meal plan that they can’t even use because of religious reasons, it becomes problematic,” Hanna said.

He contacted the Aramark corporate headquarters to raise his concern. The problem eventually found its way to Student Affairs, where it remains for now.

“I imagine they are just as busy as everyone else these first couple weeks. Hopefully I will hear from them,” Hanna said.

Hanna stressed that the group is not there to protest or pick fights about conflicts such as these, but rather to increase the collective knowledge and tolerance of the campus as a whole.

While no one has tried to prevent the organization from forming, Hanna says that there are still some people who have missed the point of campus religious organizations.

“I have noticed issues individually with some of the Christian groups trying to convert and proselytize to me individually,” says Hanna. “I don’t think that it is malicious. … However, as the campus becomes more diverse, I think that these groups are going to have to realize that is not acceptable behavior.”

Hanna said that even though he understands it is their right to do so, it becomes offensive at a point.

“When you have a group or individuals that are constantly after you about this stuff it can become annoying,” he said.

He stressed that The Order of B’rith Sholom will strive to be accepting of any group and hopes that others will so the same.