A Mensch's Guide to Campus Activism


The importance of giving back to the community

 Lauren Levy 
By Lauren Levy

Every big Jewish United Fund (JUF) donor had to start somewhere.

“For Jewish college students, giving back to the broader community is important because you are getting in the habit of giving money annually and making it a part of your life,” said Northwestern University (NU) senior Gabe Rich.

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is the largest not-for-profit social welfare institution in Illinois and the central address of Chicago's Jewish community. JUF provides critical resources that provide food, refuge, health care, education and emergency assistance to 300,000 Chicagoans of all faiths and two million Jews around the world.

Although adults in the Chicago Jewish community are aware of JUF, too few Jewish college students know what it is, let alone how important its role is in helping the Jewish community. NU is trying to remedy that through its Jewish United Fund Campus Campaign (JUFCC), also known as JUF on Campus.

Director of Student Life at NU’s Hillel and JUF employee Cydney Topaz helps run JUFCC. Topaz said that the Federation is important because it addresses the needs of local, national and international Jewish communities.

“There is no other organization that is so effective in addressing those needs on such a grand level that affects the young, old, teens and young adults in such an impactful and positive way,” Topaz said.

Rich said that the money that goes to the federation is distributed wherever it’s needed, not to just one place.

It also provides many opportunities for college students that include birthright israel and Israel advocacy, Topaz said. JUF also financially supports Hillels on Illinois campuses.

“JUF does anything from turning on the lights in our Jewish institutions to providing free kosher meals to people in need,” Topaz said.

In order to raise money in the past, NU’s JUFCC held a fashion show with college celebrities, hosted bar parties and hosted professional dinners. JUFCC is planning a coffee house and talent show this coming fall, Topaz said. At each event there is a suggested donation at the door.

Rich said that being a part of JUFCC is a great way to stay involved with the Jewish community regardless of religious observance.

“I like what we do and I like how JUFCC isn’t too serious of a group because we can have fun with it while doing what we can,” Rich said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of Jew you are, everybody can do it; it’s not exclusive. JUF wants to have help, and it’s a great uniting organization for Jews everywhere.”

Despite the positive aspects of NU’s JUFCC, there is a major challenge to running it at NU, Topaz said.

“The act of educating students about the variety of programs and opportunities that JUF funds all over the world is hard,” Topaz said. “It’s also hard to ask students for money because college students don’t always have the funds available for donations.”

Because JUFCCs aren’t common, Topaz made some suggestions for students who want to start one at their university. First of all, she advised students to contact their local federation to find out what needs to be done.

“In order to help spread the message to other college students who are affected by JUF dollars, you need to find ways to promote this through volunteer experiences, social experiences and to spread the message about the importance and the impact that JUF has,” Topaz said.

Posted: 10/18/2007 05:33:00 AM

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