Jewish students seek representation

Griffin Fletcher

WKU is a leading American university with international reach, but its Jewish Student Union, or JSU, has not held a meeting in years.

Montgomery, Alabama, fifth-year senior Rachel “Ray” Blondheim is one of few Jewish students at WKU who actively lives out a Jewish heritage.

“That was a lie,” Blondheim said of the phantom of JSU for which many students search when attending WKU. “That thing died a few years ago.”

With more and more Jewish students graduating or transferring, Blondheim knows of only five other openly active Jewish students at WKU.

“There may be more, but I haven’t met them,” Blondheim said.

When asked if WKU offers any formal organizations by which Jewish students can meet and discuss their culture alongside fellow Jewish students, Blondheim was quick to reply.


Rather than meet through a university-supported club or student organization, in Blondheim’s personal experience, she is used to encountering other Jewish students largely by chance or under accidental circumstances.

“If we have any semblance of a JSU, it’s through personal interaction,” Blondheim said.

Though WKU’s JSU was once legitimate and still exists under a revivable charter, Jewish students at WKU did not agree with many of the organization’s policies and opted to not re-charter the JSU.

Students briefly considered creating a new Jewish student organization at WKU through Hillel International, a Jewish organization represented at more than 550 colleges and communities in the United States and across the world. However, further policy disagreements and Hillel’s Zionist stance turned away interested students and resulted in the project’s termination.

With hardly any support and the sequential Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur quickly approaching, celebration is not only difficult at WKU but also in Bowling Green.

Though a Messianic synagogue exists in Bowling Green, followers of traditional Judaism share different beliefs and are hesitant to attend.

“That’s another thing––there are no good synagogues here,” Blondheim said.

In order to visit a proper synagogue, Blondheim says she must travel to Nashville or Louisville.

Rosh Hashanah, otherwise known as the Jewish New Year, will start Wednesday, Sept. 20 and last until Friday, Sept. 22, yet Blondheim is still unsure where and how she will celebrate.

Depending upon the Rabbi, initial Rosh Hashanah services, which predominantly involve a gathering of people and prayer for a good and prosperous year, can last from three to four hours.

In comparison to Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah is commonly viewed as an easy-going and enjoyable holiday.

Blondheim describes it as “gathering and eating, with a little bit of prayer.”

Yom Kippur, which will take place Sept. 29-Sept. 30, is known as a day of atonement, involving another three to four-hour service but also a day of fasting.

“It just kind of sucks,” Blondheim said. “No water. No food.”

Because Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur occur within such close proximity of one another, Blondheim views Rosh Hashanah as a kind of introduction to the more serious and physically demanding Yom Kippur.

“You got your pretty new year phase, and then you got your buckle-down phase,” Blondheim said.

Due to the rigorous nature of daylong fasting, Blondheim wishes she could experience Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah among individuals undergoing similar hardship.

“Being a Jewish student at WKU can be kind of lonely. And kind of scary,” Blondheim said, considering politically-based struggles Jewish people still endure globally.

As for the future of Jewish representation at WKU, Blondheim is hopeful, so long as Jewish students are motivated to share their culture with one another and the rest of Bowling Green.

“If the Jewish students can find each other,” Blondheim said. “There’s always a future in serendipidity.”

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at (270)745-2655 and [email protected].