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Monday, April 07, 2008

Hillel and Chabad work to increase diversity on campus

Jewish organizations share their views on diversity

By: Katelyn Bell
Posted: 4/7/08

Jewish students on campus are saying they think diversity at CU needs to be emphasized more.

"I think that diversity is lacking, hugely," said sophomore music and sociology major and Hillel board member Phillip Rubinstein. "I grew up in a very diverse city and when coming to CU it was a big change."

Rubinstein added that he noticed for the first time how much race affects people's personalities. In Los Angeles, his hometown, Rubinstein said there was tension between racial groups but they still got along.

"You either hated a race or didn't really care," he said. "When coming to Colorado, these students had no experience with other races. I think that as a generality there are large groups of people here that experience different cultures for the very first time."

Hillel has an open door policy in terms of the events and programs they host outside of the Hillel house, and never limit activities to Jewish participants only.

Rubinstein said the open door policy will help the issue of diversity at CU because they do a lot of community of service with a Jewish attitude.

"When we are out doing something we are doing it as a Jewish organization instead of just as students who happen to be Jewish," he said. "We are representing the Jewish community through our actions. We also have specific multicultural outreach programs such as No Pork, which is a Jewish-Muslim alliance and other various programs."

Rubinstein added that not only do they strive to teach others about their culture but they also take the same initiative to learn about others.

Junior psychology and sociology major Rachel Ptaszek is also a board member of Hillel. She agrees with Rubinstein about the limited diversity on campus.

"I think that it's unfortunate that there is a lack of diversity," she said. "By having a limited pool of individuals we are cutting ourselves short of different viewpoints."

Ptaszek said she thinks collaborating with and supporting other multicultural groups can improve diversity relations on campus because it will bridge the gap between cultures.

Other students agreed with Ptaszek's sentiments.

"I feel like the people that are considered minorities are really trying to make an effort to make people aware of other cultures," said sophomore history major and Hillel member Amy Leszman.

Leszman said a few ways Hillel can improve the lack of diversity is through their programs.

"Hillel always puts on a variety of programs…Israel at 60th Birthday Bash," Leszman explained. "Another is the How To, one of them being How To Change The World. Holocaust Awareness Week promotes knowledge of not only the past but Jews in general and other minority groups."

Rebecca Levin, sophomore political science major and president of Chabad, said she thinks the campus should promote inclusion of all groups of people.

"I think there is a really big lack of (diversity) and the diversity that there is here doesn't have a big enough effort to include everyone," Levin said. "The majority of people don't include the minorities enough."

Similar to Hillel, Chabad has an open door policy in that they are open to people who are non-Jewish.

"We encourage our members to invite non-Jewish friends to our Friday night Shabbat, just so that they can see that we all have a lot of similarities to each other," Levin explained. "By doing this people can see that Jewish people are similar to everyone so we can all still relate."

Levin said members of Chabad try to improve diversity by making themselves a noticeable presence on campus.

"It disappoints me that such an academically successful school cannot be successful in diversity," Levin said.

Rick Gaines, a junior MCD biology major and member of Chabad, said he doesn't find CU extremely diverse ethnically but more diverse in the interest and activities on campus.

"Pretty much anything you can think of is a student group," Gaines said. "We have a lot of congregations, sports and political groups which has a lot of diversity."

He added that he thinks President Benson will be directed towards funding which will indirectly lead to more diversity by lowering tuition and increasing financial aid.

Gaines said since Jewish holidays are typically family and community oriented, students will feel welcome in the Jewish organizations on campus. By having a strong sense of community, Gaines said he thinks students will be more willing to come to CU, which will in turn increase diversity.

"We are open to more students in that sense," he said. "When I was a freshman I came down with a bad cold and the rabbi and his wife made me Matzah ball soup and brought it to my dorm. This made me feel very at home. This shows how strong the Jewish community is here."

Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Katelyn Bell at Katelyn.bell@colorado.edu. © Copyright 2008 Campus Press

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