By Nene Narh-Mensah
Hamsa, the Jewish LGBTQ+ and allies student group at this university, announced new events for the spring semester, including a new round of Nice Jewish Queer discussions, a game night, a movie night and an arts & crafts event, all held virtually. Meira Goldfischer, a junior criminology & criminal justice major and president of Hamsa, said that the club also plans to have an event for Passover.
NJQ (Nice Jewish Queers) is a series of talks hosted by Hamsa in collaboration with this university’s LGBT equity center. Topics range from casual talks to discussions on various subjects, like religion and current news. These talks are for their queer members only, but other events are open to all club members including allies.
“The primary focus [of NJQs] is just to have a community, and it’s to be there for each other,” said Goldfischer.
Professor Maxine Grossman, who teaches JWST492, a course on the relationship between sex, gender and Jewish identity, emphasized the importance of community when navigating sexual identity struggles among college students.
“People in college are growing as individuals, and having people around them who are supportive and challenge them in healthy ways really helps people sort out their own selves,: she said.
In prior years, when the club met in person, the holidays could be hard for some club members who would have to go back to a hostile environment at home, according to Goldfischer. Now, more students live at home all the time.
“Being separated from being physically close with your friends and possibly being in circumstances where you’re living at home with parents who might or might not be supportive of all of that identity work can be a real challenge,” added Grossman.
Goldfischer said the club had a slow start towards the beginning of the semester due to the pandemic, but they’re adjusting to having online events.
“Having Hamsa online and having our NJQ meetings every two weeks essentially serves as a biweekly source of comfort for many of our members,” she said.
Still, there are unique challenges to hosting online-only events. For example, the treasurer of Hamsa, who is anonymous due to privacy concerns, said one of the things they had to consider when planning for the movie night was screen fatigue and more distanced connections.
“Sometimes all you want to do is get together with friends and make fun of a movie, or watch something and be able to talk over it. Because that’s the most fun part of a movie night a lot of times,” the treasurer said.
Hamsa is also dealing with some logistical issues, such as their plans to send members popcorn for a virtual movie night.
These events are also following the recent restructuring of the club to boost outreach. Hamsa broke up their board into different groups. Hamsa’s treasurer attributes the club’s growth to the president and her decision to split the board.
“[Goldfischer] put herself forward and took the initiative to really make it a club and make it a community. I loved it. The fact that every other week when NJQ meets I can see so many people that I’ve really grown to love… I’m so thankful for it,” she said.
Club news and event updates are found mainly on their Facebook page, through their newsletter and through the Rainbow Report, the newsletter of the LGBT equity center at this university.