This semester, the independent and student-run Progressive Jewish Alliance joins other Jewish organizations on campus.
Founded by College junior Marissa Priceman, College sophomore Noah Weiner and College junior Justin Kirschner, the group hopes to create a concrete space for liberal-minded Jewish and non-Jewish students.
“If you look historically, Jewish advocates were at the forefront of various human rights movements, reflecting the traditional Jewish values that promote ‘tikkun olam’ — repairing the world,” Priceman said. “On this campus, though, we haven’t really seen these Jewish values being put into place for major issues going on, so we founded this group. We’re basically taking traditional values and applying them to social justice and the rights of other people.”
While the group is still in the process of applying for official Student Advisory Council recognition, it has already held its first general body meeting and has events lined up for the semester. Priceman noted that next month, the club will feature three “well-known speakers” discussing institutionalized racism from the Civil Rights Movement up to the present.
“Our hope is that this event will illuminate the continued existence of racism within our legal system,” she said.
Priceman added that at some point in the future, there will be other speaker events on the Israel-Palestine conflict and labor issues, depending on how much membership builds up this semester.
The alliance has also been working with Hillel, receiving advice on logistical issues and recruiting. Hillel’s executive director Rabbi Mike Uram expressed enthusiasm for the new Jewish student group.
“Hillel‘s approach to student life is that when something is missing from the spectrum of expressions which should be visible, we work to try to create it,” Uram said. “So when a student group comes forward saying ‘we want more of this,’ we think that’s a great opportunity. I think that Hillel is a safe space for liberal and progressive students, but there was probably not enough programming going on, so this is a welcome addition to help build that.”
Moving forward, Priceman says there may be some backlash to the group. “I do think when you’re throwing in LGBT and reproductive rights and other touchy topics, people will react,” she said. “It won’t stop us from doing anything though, and I don’t think the negative reaction will come from students.”
Priceman also asserted the point that the group is not limited to Jewish membership. “While there is a Jewish connection because we’re taking Jewish values and Jewish social justice aspects, our group is open to everyone,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the group as the "Jewish Progressive Alliance." The name of the group is actually the "Progressive Jewish Alliance." The DP regrets the error.
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