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Public school ‘Jew Clubs’ take Shalhevet students out of Orthodox bubble

MIXER%3A+At+LACES+High+School+in+nearby+Carthay+Circle%2C+junior+Nathan+Benyowitz+leads+a+joint+meeting+between+public+school+students+and+Shalhevet%E2%80%99s+JSU+club.+
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Public school ‘Jew Clubs’ take Shalhevet students out of Orthodox bubble

MIXER: At LACES High School in nearby Carthay Circle, junior Nathan Benyowitz leads a joint meeting between public school students and Shalhevet’s JSU club.

MIXER: At LACES High School in nearby Carthay Circle, junior Nathan Benyowitz leads a joint meeting between public school students and Shalhevet’s JSU club.

BP Photo by Yosef Miller

MIXER: At LACES High School in nearby Carthay Circle, junior Nathan Benyowitz leads a joint meeting between public school students and Shalhevet’s JSU club.

BP Photo by Yosef Miller

BP Photo by Yosef Miller

MIXER: At LACES High School in nearby Carthay Circle, junior Nathan Benyowitz leads a joint meeting between public school students and Shalhevet’s JSU club.

Ma'ayan Waldman, Community Editor

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When Shalhevet’s latest club began to venture off campus to public high schools during lunch, students quickly discovered that they would not just be friends or role models for diverse Jewish teens.

Instead, they discovered another world of Jewish teen life that they had not known existed.

They were following Judaic Studies teacher Yosef Miller, who teaches the basics of Judaism class at Shalhevet and is city director of NCSY, into public high schools where he leads programming for almost 300 students all year long.  The programs, all at lunch, are officially called Jewish Student Union.

But at schools like Beverly Hills High, LACES, Hamilton and Santa Monica, they have evolved into student-run meetings that the participants themselves call “Jew club.”

“It’s a way to identify with your religion, or a way to show some sort of interest even if you’re not Jewish,” Mr. Miller said. “You go to the club because it’s something you can connect to, it’s something that’s yours.” Junior Nathan Benyowitz spurred interest in JSU amongst Shalhevet students. He heard about the program last year and decided to create a club to go along with Mr. Miller multiple times a month.

Nathan thought this program could be beneficial not just to kids in public high schools but also to Shalhevet students.

“We don’t want to educate — it’s not about educating them,” Nathan said. “It’s about making friends and new relationships with Jews that have a different background than us.”

The weekly routine is pretty consistent. Mr. Miller usually introduces a game such as Israel trivia or a dreidel tournament and then serves pizza from Pizza Station.

Over pizza or another snack, such as jelly donuts on Chanukah, Yosef, and sometimes the Shalhevet students with him, join conversations about common interests, their Jewish backgrounds, or their Jewish future.

“My vision is to bring them into the community,” Nathan told the Boiling Point. “To show them how our experiences with Judaism are similar and different, allow them to ask questions, and just talk and hang out with them.”

After visiting Santa Monica High School on several occasions, Nathan became friends with the SAMO JSU president Max Dorf.

“Even though they live very different lifestyles as far as Judaism is concerned, as far as where they are in life it’s pretty similar,” Mr. Miller said. Similarly, junior Maya Golan talked about starting a chavruta with a girl she met at Santa Monica High.

According to Hamilton junior Rodney Nobles, the clubs are attractive to a diverse crowd.

Some come because they are Jewish and want to strengthen their roots. Some are interested in learning about a unique culture. And some just want pizza.

Rodney described himself as an observer of some Jewish traditions, but also an attendee at church.

“I came because I wanted to learn more about the tradition,” he told the Boiling Point. “I have been coming every week since I was a freshman and it has made me proud to be Jewish.”

David Mosseri, a senior at Hamilton, has a different story.

He comes from Jewish Moroccan and Egyptian descent and was the first member of his family to be born and raised in America.

“JSU impacted my identity by showing me that it’s not da-da-da and da-da-da,” he said, gesturing with his hands to imitate the rigid structure of strictly observed Judaism, “but that it’s also about community, faith, and spirit.”

“Now I know mah zeh lihyot Yehudi – what it means to be a Jew –  and I can connect. I realize that I love being a Jew, so late in my life.”

Many kids like David have become more involved in Jewish organizations after going to Jew Club.

However, the goal of the club is not to make kids religious, said Mr. Miller.

“The goal is to provide them with enough education, enough knowledge, and enough ability,” he said, “so that when they graduate high school every life decision they make factors in their Judaism.”

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Meet the Writer
Maayan Waldman, Co Editor-in-Chief

Ma’ayan Waldman has interviewed, reported, and reviewed for the Boiling Point since ninth grade. She has served as staff writer, Arts Editor and Opinion Editor, Community Editor during her junior year, and is now co-Editor-in-Chief. Aside from her passion for journalism, she also enjoys debate, Mock Trial, and swimming. Outside of school, she loves spending time with her family and friends and listening to music. 

1 Comment

One Response to “Public school ‘Jew Clubs’ take Shalhevet students out of Orthodox bubble”

  1. D. Solomon on June 30th, 2016 6:56 am

    For greater esteem and continuity for our people….

    The title should not say…Public School ‘Jew Clubs’ take Shalhevet students out of Othodox bubble..

    Instead, it should say , Orthodox students take public school students out of their secular bubble.

    Bubble sounds like something that should be popped.

    But, if preserving our path by following the Torah, with the traditional family values, then the bubble is a beautiful concept that should never be popped.

    Let’s be a Yid in the home, AND in the street.

    D. Solomon
    Los Angeles

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Public school ‘Jew Clubs’ take Shalhevet students out of Orthodox bubble