The first event was a program focusing on issues of antisemitism.
From Jan. 23-27, more than 450 students, faculty and community members celebrated Central Michigan University’s first Jewish Heritage Week. The events were held the week leading up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the lives of those who perished and those who survived, and to educate CMU’s community on how they can be allies in uplifting Jewish voices today.
This dynamic week of programming was organized by me, Lily Segall, along with Elizabeth Slater and Kristen Morey, and supported by the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan (HCAM).
Early in the school year, my friends and I encountered antisemitism on campus and began to discuss the idea of bringing education and awareness of Jewish identities to CMU. After creating a plan for events, we presented the idea of a Jewish Heritage Week to the Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS) office at Central, whose purpose is to uplift the voices of students with diverse identities through community building, activism and education.
During our presentation, we provided them with the goal of each event and why they were important and educational. The office didn’t initially provide the support we were expecting, instead rejecting the week for being too religious. This showed us just how necessary this education was and made us more motivated to create an impactful campus-wide program.
Working directly with HCAM, we contacted the Division of Student Affairs, who then got involved, leading to full support of the week. After months of hard work, the first Jewish cultural and educational programming offered at CMU became a reality.
The first event was a program focusing on issues of antisemitism. We began by sharing personal experiences of antisemitism faced on campus, then speaker Maddi Jackson, manager of the Israel Action and Addressing Antisemitism Program at Hillel International, highlighted antisemitism from a broader perspective, training more than 115 people how to identify and address antisemitism.
The second event of the week, Jewish Cultural Food Night, gave attendees the opportunity to learn and enjoy Jewish foods. There was a short and interactive presentation on the importance of specific foods to Jewish culture. Everyone then had the opportunity to enjoy the foods and socialize.
For the third event of the week, Irene Miller, a Holocaust survivor, shared her own personal experience being a young child during the Holocaust. She also shared about her life and accomplishments after the Holocaust, and how she moves through the world with a purpose of bettering herself and society. This event allowed CMU’s community to reflect on the horrific reality of life during the Holocaust and celebrate the resilience and hope that came from Irene Miller’s message.
Thursday’s event took a lighter approach and had attendees playing dreidel. Attendees of all ages were able to learn more about the reasons Jewish people play dreidel and when they play it. Attendees had fun playing the game and engaging with their peers.
The last event of the week was Jewish Trivia. Attendees participated in a game of Jeopardy to learn more about Judaism. This event wrapped up a meaningful week of learning and education with fun and community building.
Overall, this week provided much-needed education and brought together a diverse group of students, faculty and community members at CMU to learn about and celebrate Jewish culture.
Lily Segall is a sophomore at Central Michigan University from Indianapolis, Indiana.