On April 21, the Jewish Student Union/Hillel sponsored Israel Fest at the Yaschik Jewish Studies Center. A two-hour event including games, prizes and a traditional dinner, Israel Fest celebrated the culture and customs of Israel for students both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Jamie Lief, a sophomore at the College and the current Israel Chair for the JSU, believes that events like Israel Fest are extremely important, and not only to Jewish students; she says that all students receive the opportunity to experience Israeli culture without traveling there. “There is so much negative talk about Israel because there is a stigma or terror and harsh politics, but in fact, the country is an incredible place to live and travel, especially for Jewish people. Giving students more understanding of actual Israeli life erases this stigma little by little and promotes positive attitudes towards Israel,” Lief states.
Held in the Arnold Hall of the Jewish Studies Center, Israel Fest was lively and inclusive, welcoming all students and encouraging them to participate in traditional Israeli activities. Guests could sign for a raffle to win such prizes as a Hamsa necklace, a kosher cookbook, Israeli flags and a beach hat with a Hebrew inscription.
Guests were then welcomed into the event hall, where popular Israeli music played over loudspeakers. Upon exploring the room, guests were encouraged to visit the Israeli “market” to try snacks like peanut-flavored Cheetos. Guests could apply a real Dead Sea scrub to their hands and rinse off in a bowl. There was also a craft table, where guests could make Perler bead patterns. After exploring the tables, a traditional dinner was served, including pita and falafel.
Jazzie Morgan, a senior at the College and an active member of Hillel, believes that as a Jewish student on the peninsula, “we’re lucky to have such an inclusive religious community. Educational fun events like these are where people are able to feel comfortable enough to open their horizons to new topics and cultures. It’s a chance to bring multiple communities together and share our beliefs.”
According to the College’s Jewish Studies webpage, Jewish people have a found a home in Charleston since the 1690’s. The website attests that while being a part of the historic Charleston community, “JSU/Hillel anchors students in the unique Judaism of Charleston, at once being shaped by it and transforming it.”