Cristina and friends

Cristina Aguilar, right, stands with her friends, Jeremy Millman and Briana Fontanez. Although not Jewish, Aguilar has found community at Hillel at ASU.

On Nov. 1, antisemitic flyers were found on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University for the third time in three years. Despite the chilling effect this may have had on some Jewish students, the university boasts a wide variety of Jewish organizations, which try to include all students looking for some kind of community, regardless of religious beliefs.

Some of these groups are considered more religious, whereas others are more for socializing. But no matter their focus, all claim to accept anyone who walks in their doors, no matter their religion.

Cristina Aguilar, an ASU graduate student studying speech and hearing sciences, went to Hillel at ASU for the first time in September with a friend and was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response she received.

“They’re really welcoming,” she said.

Aguilar found Judaism fascinating and decided to return to Hillel to learn and experience more. She now enjoys spending Shabbat at Hillel, and especially likes how the traditional Friday night dinner brings people together as friends and family. She described Rabbi Suzy Stone, Hillel’s campus rabbi, as someone who prioritizes making everyone feel comfortable and welcome.

“Rabbi Suzy takes the time to go around and talk to everyone and get to know them a little better,” she said.

Aguilar said she feels a connection with the Jewish community and appreciates how it accepted her at events and holidays without hesitation.

“They know I’m not Jewish, and they still invite me to events,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of Jewish friends this semester.”

Ella Lowder, an ASU sophomore studying anthropology, attended her first Shabbat dinner at Chabad of ASU when friends convinced her to join them.

“It was super welcoming,” she said. “I didn’t really have any expectations.”

She said that nobody questioned why she was there, and the atmosphere made her feel accepted. She said she would be interested in returning to Chabad.

Lowder began her Jewish experience at ASU when she started eating at the kosher bistro on campus.

“I started going to the kosher dining hall about a month ago, and now on average I go about four to five times a week,” she said.

Lowder said she meets friends at the bistro or studies there almost every night. She describes her friendships with Jews as “very nice” and said that they will always explain what a Hebrew or Jewish term means when she does not understand.

“The general fear with a lot of religious people is that they will be unwelcoming to non-religious people but that has not been my experience at all,” Lowder said.

Abdullah Zia, a junior at ASU studying industrial engineering, started eating at the kosher bistro in his freshman year in an attempt to uphold the Muslim custom of halal.

“Anything that’s kosher is mostly halal,” he said.

Simply by eating at the bistro he hit it off with some Jewish students.

“I made Jewish friends eating at the [kosher] bistro and a lot of them welcomed me to come and see the Jewish culture and learn more about the religion,” he said.

Zia has since attended events at Hillel at ASU and Chabad at ASU and goes to Jewish holiday events regularly.

He said he has always felt welcome in the Jewish community and feels like he has formed a bond with Jews on campus.

“I’ve had good connections with them, and I would like to say I actively engage with them,” he said.

Zia said that sitting together and having fun can bring you closer together but eating together is the way to make connections that last.

“(Our) communities tend to bond over food,” he said.

Zia said that many of his friends are Jews, and the fact that he is not Jewish has never been a problem.

“I am a Muslim in faith,” Zia said. “But my community on campus is Jewish.” JN

Shira Tanzer is a sophomore at Arizona State Universiity, studying journalism.