Jewish Student Union rises as newest affinity group

Members of the Diversity Alliance leadership team gather to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, September 29, 2019. Courtesy of Ethan Brodie ’20

Over the past two years, the school community has witnessed the introduction of three new affinity groups: the Pan-Asian Association, the Gay-Straight Alliance, and most recently, the Jewish Student Union. Along with the Black Student Union, these clubs comprise most of the school’s Diversity Alliance, headed by the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Director Mr. Brendon Jobs.

     The JSU, founded by Sixth Former Ethan Brodie, Fifth Former Matthew Schwartz, and Fourth Former Alexander Waldman last May, is the first religious affinity group to emerge recently in the Haverford community, marking a historic moment.

     Brodie said that the JSU’s establishment can be attributed to a similar affinity group at one of Haverford’s sister schools, The Agnes Irwin School.

     “In the early part of last year, my younger sister, who attends Agnes Irwin, told me about all of the great things that her school’s JSU has done in the middle school and upper school,” Brodie said.

     At a meeting of the Poker Club, Brodie discussed the success of Agnes Irwin’s JSU with some of his Jewish clubmates, including Schwartz and Waldman. Inspired, they considered starting Haverford’s own Jewish Student Union.

     “We ultimately decided it would be beneficial to our school’s community to found the JSU. [Schwartz] and [Waldman] are two of my closest friends who are also Jewish, and I knew I could depend on to help me start the JSU,” Brodie said.

     “We first brought the idea to Mr. Jobs in March of last year,” Brodie said. “After attending a few Diversity Alliance meetings and learning about our school’s affinity groups, we deemed that there was a place for JSU at Haverford.”

     Following a summer of planning, the JSU was ready to tackle the upcoming school year. And with the new year came goals.

“It was important to get word out about the Jewish Student Union quickly.

Ethan Brodie ’20

     “Our primary goal in the first few months of this year is to really let people know we exist,” Brodie said. “The first few months of school also happen to coincide with the Jewish High Holidays—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—so it was important to get word out about the Jewish Student Union quickly. Our launching point was the clubs videos”

     “Once we gauge the community’s interest in our club through our first few meetings, we can move from there. If we don’t really elicit a lot of interest early on, we will have to work harder to put ourselves out there for the community. But if we do, we can delve right into promoting positivity about the Jewish faith, specifically through in-depth discussions and planning events,” Brodie said.

     Although the JSU has yet to make any concrete plans, Brodie added, it does have an idea what will be one of its more fun and enjoyable events.

     “I have engaged in recent conversations with our school’s God-Club Leader and student council president Vincent Scuazzo about a potential JSU vs. God Club Dodgeball Game. We think it could be a fun way to bring the community together and demonstrate a unison among religions in our community,” Brodie said.

     Brodie emphasized the lack of prerequisites to attend a JSU meeting, emphasizing its desire to promote an inclusive atmosphere.

     “You don’t have to necessarily be Jewish to attend,” Brodie said. “If you want to learn more about the Jewish faith and like food, you are welcome to come to a meeting.”

Author: Ryan LaRocca '20

Ryan LaRocca is an editor-in-chief of the newspaper, previously serving as the editor of the sports section. Last year, his article "J.R. Leitz emerges as leader in the pool" received third place recognition for sports articles in the Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing Awards. This year, his piece "Swimming & diving look to spring back" earned a Gold Key and his feature "Rise of the Jewish Student Union" earned a Silver Key. Outside of The Index, Ryan acts as the captain for the water polo team and the vice president of the Entrepreneurship Club. In the classroom, his favorite subject is history.