By Samantha Caruso
Maryland Hillel hosted its sixth annual Global Justice Shabbat this weekend with the theme Respond & Prevent Sexual Assault.
The event, which included a formal Shabbat dinner on Friday night at Hillel and a Havdalah service Saturday night at the Zeta Beta Tau chapter house, aimed to spark a conversation on the issue of sexual assault.
On Friday night, speakers Olivia Hinerfeld and Matt Scott addressed a crowd of over 200 students and local community members at the Rosenbloom Center about their advocacy work for the prevention of sexual assault.
Hinerfeld, a survivor, told the story of her assault during her freshman year at Georgetown University and how it inspired her to become an advocate for the prevention of sexual assault. After working with multiple sexual assault prevention groups at Georgetown, she interned in the office of former Vice President Joe Biden for the Violence Against Women Team.
Marley Rosenthal, a freshman communications major, took a lot away from Hinerfeld’s story.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear a survivor’s story because many people do not come forward with the story,” Rosenthal said. “It was definitely eye opening hearing it from her.”
Matt Scott attended George Washington University where he became heavily involved in Students Against Sexual Assault. The experience inspired him to pursue a career in social impact storytelling with a focus on sexual assault prevention.
On Saturday night, the Zeta Beta Tau chapter house held an intimate Havdalah service to conclude the event. The service was led by Talia Orencel, the Director of Engagement and Social Justice for Maryland Hillel, and Drew Hein, a junior information science major and member of Zeta Beta Tau, who helped plan the event.
“I thought it was very meaningful,” Hein said when asked about the weekend. “The speakers were very meaningful and touched on some very important topics, so I’m hoping that people were able to take something away, and that we can improve on this issue here on our campus.”
Orencel, who also helped plan the event, explained why Hillel chose to focus on sexual assault prevention for this year’s Global Justice Shabbat.
“Every year we’ve chosen a different topic, and this year we chose sexual assault because it is a national and global issue that’s recently been brought to light, especially with the recent #MeToo movement,” she said. “This has been a problem that has been happening for many years, but it’s just starting to surface more. That’s why we thought it would be such a great topic to cover at Global Justice Shabbat.”
“What I took away was how not spoken about this issue was before Shabbat,” said Keren Idan, a sophomore global business and marketing major. “I feel like a lot of people kind of shiver at the words ‘sexual assault,’ and it’s not really talked about enough on campuses.”
Idan also loved that the discussion of sexual assault was unusually stigma-free.
“It was spoken about without any stigma,” she said. “It was an issue like immigration or tax reform. It was something an issue we have to deal with that wasn’t attached to an emotional stigma, which I think is really hard to separate a lot of the time.”