By Haleigh Whisted
The Jewish Student Union hosted its annual semi-formal on Thursday with a Mardi Gras theme and a goal of bringing a community of diverse students together right before the Hanukkah festival.
Hanukkah “celebrates the strength of the Jewish people and signifies a time to build community growth in order to build connections between cultural groups,” said Samantha Jalowicz, a co-president of JSU and a senior computer science and leadership studies major.
Yael Hamburger, a sophomore family science major, said that the semi-formal allowed Jews of all denominations and affiliations to unite and have a good time.
JSU is a student-led group on campus that organizes events and programs for the entire student body at this university. Its events are open to students of all backgrounds, but the organization does hope to bring Jewish students together for entertaining events.
Sydney Roston, the other co-president of JSU, said that the event unifies a lot of people from different parts of her life. “It is like one big bar mitzvah,” said the senior physiology and neurobiology major.
Some Jewish students are turned off by the religious services and learning events, but still want to be a part of the Jewish community, so events like this are also very beneficial in that way, said Naomi Grant, a senior government and politics and Spanish major.
This year’s semi-formal took place at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center in the Dorothy D. & Nicholas Orem Alumni Hall. The student group decorated the spread-out tables with blue tablecloths, balloons, hershey kisses, Mardi Gras beads and bumper stickers that promote JSU.
Terrapin Beats Society DJed the event, playing mainly pop songs and top 50 hits. JSU also served chips and candy at a table in the dancing area, and set up a photo backdrop in the lobby area for students to take pictures.
The semi-formal is especially beneficial for students who are not engaged in Greek life, said Grant. She said that without engaging in Greek life, most students are not able to attend a formal event during their college career, but JSU’s formal festivities allow all students at this university to experience one.
The organization expected about 75 people, but some students felt that the event was much smaller than previous years.
“I wish more people had come and I’m not sure why they didn’t,” said Grant.
“It was a smaller turnout than I expected, there were a lot more people last year when I went,” said Hamburger. She also felt that the semi-formal could have been publicized more on social media to keep the attendance numbers up, but that the event was still a great way to de-stress before finals.
A raffle occurred during the event where students were able to win gift cards for local College Park restaurants.
The organization allowed three ways for students to pay for their tickets: online payment, venmo and at the door. All of the profit, made from selling the tickets to get into the event, goes into buying the entertainment, food and any other amenities for the semi-formal, according to Jack Quint, the JSU treasurer.