Jewish Student Center Kicks Off Labor Day in Style


By Tisha Herrera, Staff Writer

This past Labor Day, Chabad at GMU hosted a BBQ for all the new and returning members. The warm and sunny day was accompanied with a variety of kosher foods, Giant Jenga, Bubble Soccer and friendly company. Though the Chabad at GMU house only recently opened their doors August 21, the members poured in and warmly greeted each other. Spirits were high at this Jewish “home away from home,” just like how it’s printed on the backs of their free yarmulkes.

With everyone so welcoming, I questioned: is it really like this for everyone that wanted to join their Jewish club? Dan Kling, a sophomore at Mason, answered my question with a smile.

I wanted to know if anyone would be welcomed to the Chabad house.

“Absolutely,” Kling said. “No matter what their opinion is.” He wanted the students of Mason to know that their members “are there. Jews are here, and they want to be a part of the Mason community,” to show that Judaism is here “to help and reach out” as he put it.

At this point you may be wondering “what is Chabad at GMU?” While the Jewish Student Center has a Facebook page (@chabadGMU), I spoke with the President of the club to get her take on their community.

Elana Sokol, a senior at Mason, first explained her reasoning for wanting to join Chabad saying, “the cultural connection to other Jews on campus is really nice…. [The] common connection is welcoming – being involved with fellow Jews.”

When asked if anyone could come who wished to attend, Sokol explained that while some of the events are focused on the Jewish customs and cultural activities, the members are, “pretty welcoming to everyone that wants to know more about Judaism, and to explore more of the cultural aspects of what Judaism means.” She said that Chabad and Hillel share events, because they’re “all one Jewish community.” She also mentioned that more information and upcoming events are posted on their website, such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Both Kling and Sokol assured me that the club welcomes diversity, but is the club as multicultural as it claims to be?

I spoke with Chanel Shirazi, a sophomore at Mason, and a returning Arab-Jewish member to find out. Shirazi, having been to Israel, feels that Mason “is a place for everyone.”

“Mason is full of diverse thought and diverse ethnically, so I don’t see why two people can’t just sit down and talk about it.” Shirazi stated, “I stand up for Israel, because I stand up for the belief that people can have their own opinion about the world, and about their own identity.”

With Hebrew music playing in the background, and several engaged in either Bubble Soccer or a tricky move of Giant Jenga, it was a lively and positive environment to be in.

At the end of the day, I learned that Chabad is a Jewish house in which Jewish Mason students can call home, speak freely, and speak their faith. Though their members are Jewish, Chabad at GMU encourages students of every ethnicity and faith to stop by their open house. They’re located at the crossroads of Roberts Road and Shenandoah Lane, down the street from Mason’s Catholic Campus Ministry.

Photo by Tisha Herrera