By Adrienne Foss, contributing writer
Student Karly Jacklin is currently in her third year at UMF and has worked hard to help form UMF’s first Jewish Student Union (JSU). The JSU became official on Monday, November 22.
The idea for a Jewish Student Union came from Jacklin, Jocelyn Royalty, Molly Ondich, and Professor of Philosophy Jonathan Cohen, who all became close over the past year. First-year student Ondich wanted to know if there was a JSU on campus and decided to take the opportunity to form one.
“We all were meeting at a Tashlich ceremony which is when you throw bread in the water to cast off sins for the Jewish New Year,” said Jacklin. The ceremony was an event held by Franklin County’s Jewish Union, which is known to its members as the Bagel and Dreidel Society.
“I’ve been hoping for one since I came to UMF in 1992,” said Cohen. “We’ve come close before, but never quite had the critical mass of sufficient students or the impetus of committed leadership to pull it off. I’m very happy that those conditions have finally been met…We’ve had a smattering of Jewish students at UMF every year that I’ve been here, and their number has been growing gradually over time.”
When trying to get the Union started, there proved to be challenges in getting approval from Student Senate. The first hurdle Jacklin went through was expanding the membership requirements.
“We couldn’t just keep it for Jewish students and allies if we wanted to get senate funding, and we had to take that out of our Constitution which we worried a little bit about,” said Jacklin. The constitution committee of the student senate said that it would be okay and assured that there would not be any anti-Semitism. If any anti-Semitism was to take place, it would go directly against the Student Code of Conduct.
The first meeting for the proposed JSU took place over Zoom on October 20, and a total of six people showed an initial interest. More people have been showing an interest in the Union since then, and more have gradually been joining.
“The main thing we are trying to do is connect Jewish students to the Jewish resources in the Farmington Area,” said Jacklin. “We just want to serve as the bridge between the Franklin County Jewish community and the students here at UMF… I’m a junior, and I had no idea that there was a Jewish group in Franklin County until I took a class with Professor Cohen…We have had discussions about going to Augusta or Waterville to go to one of the Synagogues there for more outreach.”
“I look forward to current and future Jewish students having an opportunity to connect with fellow Jewish students while in college,” said Cohen. “It’s an age at which people are figuring out their identities now that they’re no longer subject to the families they were raised in, so having the opportunity to explore their Jewish identity with fellow students in the same situation is really important for them… The club belongs to the students, so they can do with it whatever they like. I’ll be happy to work with them in whatever capacity they would like, and I look forward to doing so. It’s an exciting development!”
“People do continue to reach out to me, so the union is definitely growing,” said Jacklin. “It’s a small community here, but I think it’s going to flourish.”
If anyone has any interest in joining the Jewish Student Union, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.