ASU orgs

Students gather to celebrate at Olami’s annual Chanukah party, Dec. 1, 2021.

As 2022 approaches, Arizona State University’s Jewish organizations are examining their goals for the coming year to better serve Jewish students.

The three best-known Jewish organizations, Olami at ASU, Hillel at ASU and Chabad at ASU, have individual missions, but most students move among them easily. Ahead of the next semester, all are thinking about how to reach more of the Jewish student body.

Nathan Chmelnik, a graduate student studying industrial engineering, has some ideas.

“[Olami, Hillel and Chabad] should focus on instilling Jewish identity in students,” he said. Many students “know they’re Jewish, but they don’t feel it… I feel these events do a great job in helping us feel excited about being Jewish, proud to be Jewish and continuing to be an active part of this community.”

He said, “all it takes is one event where they have fun” to make Jewish students feel comfortable in the Jewish community on campus.

“Once they’re here, they stay,” Chmelnik said. “The hardest part is just getting them in the door.”

Events like these and more are in the organizations’ plans.

Next semester, Olami plans to continue “connecting Jewish students to their heritage and to each other,” Risa Brumer, Olami Arizona’s director, said.

“This semester we started up our JBiz and JHealth chapters,” she said “We have just added JTech as well. Next semester, we plan to expand them both in terms of membership and in terms of programming.”

JBiz, JHealth and JTech are clubs for Jewish students looking to enter the business, health and technology fields, respectively. The programs offer mentorship from industry leaders, retreats for members and help with applying for jobs and internships.

“There are thousands of Jews on campus,” Brumer said. “We just need to make sure they know where they can find us.”

Hillel at ASU will be hosting more events and programs as well as helping students “explore Jewish spaces and identity,” said Taylor Millman, the organization’s assistant director.

“The pandemic has taught us how to be flexible, gather feedback quickly and be readily available to meet students’ needs,” Millman said. Plans for social events like the Fall Food Truck Fest are in the works. She said Birthright and other “immersive experiences,” too, will be “up and running” soon.

The food truck event, hosted earlier this fall, attracted more than 100 people.

Millman wants to “ensure students have the chance to form a deeper connection to their Jewish roots and peers,” she said. “We are very conscious of our calendar and work hard each semester to create a diverse set of programs and opportunities that cater to every type of student.”

Chabad at ASU’s director, Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, aims to continue his current work, with a few additions.

Tiechtel plans to add more Jewish learning classes, a Birthright trip and continue hosting socials on Tuesday evenings, Shabbat dinners on Fridays and their Sinai Scholars classes, as well as offering tables on campus with free food and helping men with their tefillin.

“Our goal is to be a source of love, warmth, connection, Jewish knowledge and Jewish education for the students,” he said. “We want to continue being advocates for Jewish students, so they always know Chabad is a home for them for their Jewish needs. But also if you have a problem with a class, with a roommate, we will help you find resources within the university.”

Emily Singer, a senior studying landscape architecture and the student president of Chabad, stands fully behind Tiechtel’s vision.

“In the past year or so — I think because of COVID — we have lost a lot of our upperclassmen, and so we’re trying to reengage the juniors and seniors,” Singer said.

She wants to make sure that more women are involved, so she is planning on hosting women-only events such as art nights and game nights.

“Ultimately, it’s about meeting the students where they are,” Tiechtel said.

Matthew Friedman is a junior business management and entrepreneurship double major, serves on the Chabad board, and is the president of SunPAC, the AIPAC cadre on campus. He believes that word of mouth between students is the best way for the Jewish community to become more involved.

“Finding Jewish people on campus and telling them about the events, especially hyping up the food and the community aspect, is the way to go,” he said. “Find people who don’t normally come to events and encourage them to come.”

Friedman believes that events from Olami, Hillel and Chabad are the best way for people to “stay in touch with their Judaism.” JN

Madeleine Steppel is a sophomore studying journalism and religious studies at Arizona State University.