By Nora Tarabishi
Sophomore Benjy Cannon first got his nickname from his mother when he was young.
“She’s called me ‘Benjy’ as long as I can remember,” recalled Cannon.
Cannon, who is a government and politics and philosophy double major, has a busy schedule to say the least. Aside from his double degree, Cannon is president of J-Street U, a pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace organization run by students interested in facilitating a resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is also assisting in creating the Maryland Jewish Beacon which will be a post denominational, cosmopolitan, social action oriented Jewish community. Rounding out the sophomore’s resume, Cannon is also a Hillel Engagement intern, which means he meets with Jewish students on campus and helps them get more involved in the Jewish community.
Freshman government and politics major Amna Farooqi is on J-Street U with Cannon and loves working with him. “He’s the perfect example of a natural leader,” said Farooqi. “Benjy knows everything there is to know about Israeli-Palestinian conflict so he’s a great president for the group. We couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
Cannon chose to attend this university because it has such a strong government and politics program and is close to D.C. “It’s also in-state, so that was a plus!” said Cannon.
One of the first friends Cannon made freshman year was Josh Tarr, who lived in the same dorm. Tarr, a sophomore American studies and history major, recalled thinking, ‘no way am I going to be friends with this kid,’ however, the two ended up becoming best friends.
Tarr is also involved in the Jewish community as a Hillel Engagement intern. Tarr and Cannon’s friendship revolves a lot around debating with each other. “We use each other as sounding boards, bouncing ideas off each other until we develop a new understanding of the perspective,” Tarr said.
One of Tarr’s favorite memories with Cannon involves a talent show they were in last year, where they sang Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and stripped down to their boxers. “We didn’t win,” said Tarr. But it sounded like quite a show…
Although it may seem that Cannon has minimal free time with his packed schedule, he finds time to relax. He enjoys reading, playing the ukulele, and cooking.
“I’m not the best cook, but I love cooking Italian food,” Cannon said. “Recently I’ve been trying to cook some new things, like meatless food.”
Cannon is also interested in filmmaking. In high school, he filmed and sold videos of bar mitzvahs and weddings. Cannon put his earnings to good use and bought himself a 2007 Hyundai Sonata.
“I can’t wait to bring my car here,” said Cannon.
Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family, the Cannon family celebrates all the Jewish holidays.
“I love coming home for Rosh Hashanah; my parents are wonderful cooks.”
However, Cannon spent his first Passover without his family this year because his family went to Israel to visit his younger brother who just graduated from high school.
“At my Jewish day school, we graduate in January, and spend the second semester of senior year in Israel,” explained Cannon.
“I’d say Passover is my favorite holiday because it’s a great subject to talk about with other Jews; I feel like the whole point of Passover is to drink a lot of wine and talk a lot about Jewish history which is my favorite!” Cannon said.
Although Cannon missed his family, he enjoyed getting to know some new Jews on campus during Passover this year.
Since Cannon’s father was the head of his Jewish day school, the Cannon family moved around a lot so his dad could work at different schools.
Cannon was born in England, where his parents are originally from, and lived there for about three years. After living in England, his family moved to Hong Kong for about five years.
“All I remember about Hong Kong is the humidity and pollution,” said Cannon. “But it was definitely an experience to live somewhere where you can’t understand what people are saying.”
Cannon’s favorite Israeli foods are shawarma and falafel.
“There’s a new place here in College Park called Garbanzo,” said Cannon. “Their falafel was really good!”
Last summer, Cannon interned at the Computer Communications Industry Association in D.C. where he worked with technology. After interning for just one summer, Cannon got hired.
While Cannon is very involved with Jewish life on campus now, he wasn’t always. When Cannon first came to college he actually wanted some distance from the Jewish involvement that his whole childhood revolved around. However, he found his way back.
“I couldn’t stay away for long,” said Cannon.