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News by students, for students of Millennium Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, NY

The Phoenix

The Phoenix

Shalom! The JSU Arrives at Millennium

A New Club Entry Celebrates Jewish Culture and Heritage

In the wake of the new year, a club that holds immense amounts of cultural pride has come about – Millennium’s first ever Jewish Student Union. The second extracurricular club within MBHS with a religious affiliation, JSU aims to create a space in which Jewish students feel they can gather each Friday as a lively community to explore their identity and learn more about Judaism. 

“It was a bit of a shock that we didn’t have a Jewish Student Union,” says co-founder Aya Stern. “Me and my friend Gila Solmsen had a lot of passion for our culture and decided that we needed a safe space.” This desire for a designated and comfortable place to convene and discuss Jewish culture was the biggest motivation for these students to make the move towards creating JSU. Co-founder Joela Susman notes that she wanted to help create JSU “because there are a lot of Jews in our school and there wasn’t really a place for us all to join together…It’s important for us to have an outlet.”  

In a school community where an array of cultural and religious identities are on full display, creating a space in which groups of students can hone in on what makes their own person and identity unique specifically is of the utmost importance. “I am very passionate about my Jewish identity,” says Stern. “I came from an environment where everyone was Jewish so it was a big transition coming here. I would end up talking about Judaism a lot and people wouldn’t really care because they weren’t Jewish. So I thought: Let me make a space, because I do know some Jews and I would love to talk about Judaism in an [organized] fashion.” 

In regards to JSU’s plans for the rest of the year and beyond, Stern says that, “[Everything we do] is going to be super exciting because we’re going to have discussions that are sometimes political, sometimes emotional, celebrations, meals, dancing, music, lessons, everything”. In the JSU meeting that I attended in March, the joviality and inclusivity of the club was on full display. This meeting was specifically organized to celebrate the holiday Purim. The story goes that thousands of years ago, Esther, a Jewish woman who was married to a Persian king was forced to hide her Judaism; she stood up to her husband’s evil advisor, a man who wanted to wipe out the Jews of the land–demonstrating her bravery and wit. The club took time to discuss the traditional meaning and backstory behind the celebration, before hosting a makeshift fashion show to illustrate the way that Esther had to hide such an important part of her identity in the story of Purim. Bagels, lox, candy, and Hamantaschen–a classic Purim dessert – were all laid out, and the shared geniality made for a memorable afternoon. 

To those considering joining JSU – Jewish or non-Jewish – Susman says: “You should join! There is no pressure in the club, it is just going to be a place where we can delve into the Jewish culture while also having a lot of fun.” 

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