By Alicia McElhaney
When senior Reby Silverman and recent graduate Rebecca Krevat first created JFEM, this university’s only Jewish feminist organization, they set out to fill a void felt by students in the Jewish community.
“We felt there wasn’t a place in Hillel where we could explore what it means to be a feminist and a Jew,” said Silverman, a senior studying global women’s health. “There were all these unanswered questions that Jewish feminists were asking.”
Silverman and Krevat started the club in November 2012 with the support of the Hillel. Since then, JFEM has grown from just Silverman and Krevat to more than 200 members in a Facebook group. The group discusses articles and incidents posted online, in addition to meeting on Sunday nights and holding special events during the semester.
“We’re a Jewish feminist group, so we look to discuss social and legal issues,” said Jane Rose, a sophomore hearing and speech sciences major who is also on JFEM’s executive board. “We like to remind people that any gender and religion are welcome to participate in our events.”
Although Silverman had fears of failure, the club’s popularity has soared, especially within the Hillel community. Because the club is not registered through the university itself, Silverman was not sure how popular it would become. However, more than 25 new members participated in a bonfire kickoff on Sept. 16, which came as a surprise to both Rose and Silverman.
“The response has been so wonderful and uplifting,” Silverman said. “People are interested in what Jewish feminism means. I’ve met people from other schools who say, ‘I want that on my campus,’ so there really is a need for it.”
This semester, JFEM will be hosting several events, such as a screening of Girl Rising, a movie about women in developing nations, on Oct. 17. UMD Feminists and other on campus groups will co-sponsor the event.
Later in the semester, members will volunteer at a battered women’s shelter and host speakers, including a female Orthodox Rabbi and an Orthodox sex therapist.
“The conversation with the Orthodox sex therapist is always a great one that people really don’t expect to have,” Rose said.
Those interested in JFEM can join by coming to meetings on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. in the South Campus Dining Hall.