The Star of David was in abundance on the Campus Green today as Hillel and the University Program Council celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut. Yom Ha’atzmaut translates to “Day of Independence” and is a day of commemoration for the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.
Students could play cornhole, Spikeball and eat bagels while learning more about Hillel and Israel’s independence day.
The Auburn University Hillel and Jewish Student Organization consists of students, staff, members of the community and members of Congregation Beth Shalom.
Alexa Cotel Altman, sophomore in animal science pre-veterinary medicine, is the president of Hillel.
“Every year in Israel they celebrate this, so as Hillel at Auburn we wanted to celebrate it too and support Israel,” she said.
Cotel Altman said in Israel, Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated by partying.
“It’s just a lot of pride, it’s really circled around pride and commemoration,” Cotel Altman said. “It’s just meeting new people and having a good time and celebration.”
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Madison Miller, junior in public relations and director of campus tradition for UPC, said UPC is expanding to work with more campus organizations.
“It’s just making sure we let groups know we’re here, we’re happy to help you with the programming aspect of things and we would love to support you,” Miller said.
UPC reached out to Hillel for the holiday lighting ceremony that occurs on Samford Lawn, which was virtual during the previous fall semester. Miller said UPC wanted to improve on including Judaism in the ceremony and collaborate on more events with Hillel.
“We usually just highlight Christmas, and partially we have a menorah,” Miller said. “But next year, we want to make sure we’re highlighting and recognizing Hillel and what all they’re doing here at Auburn.”
Both Miller and Cotel Altman said they think the event will bring awareness to Hillel as an organization.
“Even if they just see the name of Hillel and that’s all they leave this event with, they left with more than they came with,” Miller said.
Cotel Altman said more awareness for Hillel is beneficial to members of the organization and other Jewish and Israeli students.
“Jewish students and Israeli students historically have had a really hard time being recognized here at Auburn and in the South in general, which is what I and my fellow staff on Hillel are trying to change,” Cotel Altman said. “So, I think it means a lot that the University is starting to recognize us more and [that] UPC wanted to get involved with us.”
With the national conversation surrounding anti-Semitism on the rise, Cotel Altman said she believes recognition and support from UPC and the University will have a positive impact on the community.
Cotel Altman, who has experienced anti-Semitism personally, said she believes Auburn is moving in the right direction.
“I know Auburn just sent out a survey about race and religion and how comfortable you feel,” she said. “I think that was pretty helpful and just the fact that we’re being more recognized.”
Cotel Altman said she was warned about the small Jewish community in the South before coming to Auburn from New York, but she said seeing the support for the celebration on Thursday gave her optimism.
“Today means a lot to me because it can be hard having such a small amount of Jewish people here, but I think seeing all these people and seeing so much support it means a lot to me personally,” she said.
Now, Cotel Altman said she and her fellow members are working toward more inclusivity for Jewish and Israeli students.
“What we’re trying to do is make it easier and more attractive for people like me from the north who are Jewish to come here and they won’t be so afraid or uncomfortable to do so,” Cotel Altman said.
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