By Jackie Budko
For Mitzpeh

Two nights before the last day of classes, the members of Hamsa, this university’s Jewish Gay-Straight Alliance, were singing along to Kesha’s “Cannibal.”

“I know a lot students are stressed studying for finals,” said Avi Alpert, a sophomore computer science major and the president of Hamsa.

“I thought this would be a fun way for students to come together as a community for LGBT and, in Hillel, for everyone to to come together and celebrate Hanukkah on campus,” Alpert said of the inaugural karaoke event.

Alpert and 15 members of the organization gathered in the Prince George’s Ballroom of the Stamp Student Union on Dec. 9 for a night of karaoke and snacks.

“We had the event because we are just trying to find what students want,” said Alpert.

Alpert said the purpose of Hamsa is to create a more unified Jewish community and enhance the sense of welcomeness for LGBT students, and Hamsa’s executive board does this through events like HannuKaraoke. The organization does about 2 or 3 events each semester.

Members of Hamsa’s executive board pose against the projector before HannuKaraoke. From left to right: Treasurer James Lebovics, former Vice President Josh Bloch, President Avi Alpert, Vice President Zev Shields and Head of Marketing Jacob Elspas. Jackie Budko/Mitzpeh.

In the past, ice cream socials were Hamsa’s most popular events. Now, after a large turnout for HannuKaraoke, Alpert is considering holding similar events in the future.

“We do an ice cream social early in the semester so that everyone can meet each other, then we have an event [like HannuKaraoke] at the end of the semester,” said Alpert.

HannuKaraoke was one of Hamsa’s larger events that was open to both the LGBT community and its allies. Jacob Elspas, a junior computer science major and member of Hamsa’s executive board, said Hamsa plans to host similar events in the future.

“It’s a small group and we want it to be bigger,” Elspas said. “Many of us are part of other Hillel organizations so we want to expand our outreach.”

Members of other Hillel organizations were present during the event, Elspas said.

“Our events at the end of the semester are supposed to be one last fun event before finals stresses all of us out,” he said.

For a couple of hours, Hamsa members sung along to seasonal Hannakah songs and pop hits and avoided thinking about upcoming exams, projects and papers.

“I heard about this event from a friend, and I am definitely glad I came,” said Matanya Loewenthal, a freshman computer engineering major.

**CORRECTION: This article previously said Hamsa only hosted ice cream socials in the past. It has been updated to reflect that ice cream socials were simply the group’s most popular events.


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