This summer was a time for adventure. I decided to take risks and they paid off in a big way. I pedaled to Asheville, North Carolina through June and the experience was cleansing to say the least. Upon arriving I was greeted by the some of the most pleasant people I have ever met. It is entirely possible I was riding an endorphin high, but everywhere I turned I was greeted with glee. I arrived early Friday morning sweaty, smelly burnt and a little bloody. Despite my disheveled appearance, every face I met returned a friendly and genuine smile. There was such a feeling of calm and content as the sun shone down. Just being in the street was pleasant as I was witness to all of the happiness around me. I have not felt such a sense of ease, and elegant excitement since. At least not until early this semester when I visited the Jewish Student Union.
I attended the JSU’s first potluck meal of the semester. Showing up a little worse for wear, due to a full day of errands and the Charleston heat, I scanned the room and shook the hands of the people who invited me. I was washed with hugs, high-fives and pleasantries. There was not one frown in sight. The center was filled with people ecstatic to be exactly where they were. Instantly I was drawn in. I ate delicious food and was awarded the opportunity to sit and witness the scene that unfolded around me. Everywhere, everyone was thrilled to be seeing one another. In the embrace of a close community wide toothy smiles spread across the faces of all in attendance. I was amazed at how wide my own lips spread as I sat and partook in the hospitality. New friends were made and old companions were reunited once more. Connections between students, and an all-inclusive acceptance link together to bond all students at the College of Charleston. One could almost call it a family.
“All are welcome at the Jewish Student Union. There is no Jewish requirement. The JSU opens its doors to everyone who is interested in culture or branching outside of their cultural norms,” Israeli Chair Kayla Schulnick said. The Jewish Student Union is a non-membership organization so students can come and go as they please. Although most choose to stay.
The Jewish Student Union was started in the late 1990’s. Initially it was just a few students meeting in the philosophy office of Marty Perlmutter (now the director of the Jewish Studies Program). Since then, the Jewish Student Union has grown to encompass more than 200 students. Future plans are underway to expand on the building and incorporate a full dining hall which will cater to vegan, vegetarian, and kosher students inside and outside of the JSU.
Jewish Student Union President Carly Shevitz seemed excited about the new addition and its amenities. She said, “We are scheduled for expansion to be completed about a year and half now – the space will house class rooms, meeting spaces and an office as well.”
The Jewish Student Union is a proud stance for Jewish students in the Charleston area, but also a welcoming area for all Charlestonians. It is easy to see why the JSU has been successful when you take a look at the warmth bestowed on everyone when they walk through the door. In Charleston, the Jewish community has grown in general due to the support from both the student community and the larger city as a whole. With such a thriving and friendly student basis, I believe it’s impossible for the organization not to flourish.