Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Jewish center aims for greater campus involvement

The new Jewish student center is being built between the area with the majority of the on-campus churches and religious student centers, also called the God Quad and the Moody Music Building.

This Jewish student center will house Hillel, the University’s Jewish student organization and should be finished around spring break.

According to the Hillel website,, there are approximately 400 to 600 Jewish students on campus, about 150 to 200 of whom are currently in Hillel.

“Being in Alabama and being Jewish can be weird because it’s such a predominately Christian state, but it definitely doesn’t affect you as a student; it doesn’t interfere,” said Victoria Bergerson, a junior majoring in political science and a member of Hillel.

Alex Grodner, a senior majoring in management and information sciences and the co-president of Hillel, said it’s not that people think it’s weird, but it’s just something different.

“It’s just that people don’t know much about it,” Grodner said. “And they definitely want to know more.”

Grodner, who previously lived in New Jersey, said it was a big change coming from New Jersey to Alabama.

“I went to high school in New Jersey and up there knowing Jewish students is no big deal,” he said. “Then I came down to Alabama for college and I’ve met people from Arab, Alabama or Andalusia, Alabama, for example, and they don’t know many Jewish students at all. They ask me what we do, to explain it. It’s been very rewarding. Hopefully I’ve been able to teach people.”

Grodner and Bergerson said two of the most important Jewish holidays, or “high holidays,” are coming up – Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. They could be considered at the same level of importance as Christmas and Easter in the Christian faith.

This year Rosh Hashanah, the new year for the lunar calendar, is tonight.

“Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah fall very closely together because we both follow the lunar calendar,” Grodner said.

Rosh Hashanah is a big festival where you spend time with your family and eat things like apples with honey, Grodner said.

Ten days later is Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. It is most similar to the Catholic rite of confession but concentrated into one day.

“Judaism is not necessarily based on sins or the concepts of hell and heaven, but on [Yom Kippur] you fast for the entire day and atone for your sins,” Grodner said.

He said for a long time Alabama was not seen as a place to go to for Jewish students.

However, UA President Robert Witt has made an effort to recruit Jewish students and diversify the campus, Grodner said. Witt visited cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore and Birmingham and spoke at Jewish centers there.

The number of Jewish students on campus has at least doubled and includes many Jewish freshmen and out-of-state students, Bergerson said.

Grodner said Hillel is trying to become more active on campus and they will plan other events such as community service, bowling, movies, camping trips, ice cream parties and more.

They both said if students want to come and learn more or just hang out there are dinners every Friday. They also look forward to interfaith dialogue with other religious groups on campus such as the Muslim Student Association.

“There are a good number of mixed families on campus. For example, a family with a Jewish father and a Christian mother, and a lot of these students are reluctant to embrace their Jewish roots,” Grodner said. “They are afraid to come to Hillel because they think all we do is pray, but actually we just hang out. It’s a place to meet on common ground. Everybody is welcome. We have a lot of non-Jewish friends of Jewish students as well.”

More to Discover