By Lily Rozenstauch
“Elisha is a natural born leader,” said Chad Simon, a sophomore bioengineering major. Simon is a close friend of Elisha Galler’s as well as the vice president of Kedma.
Galler is a junior economics major who dedicates most of his time to his role as president of Kedma, where he oversees the over 500 member Orthodox Jewish community. Before coming to the University of Maryland, Galler spent two years studying at Yeshivat Orayta in Israel. He also served as social chair and vice president on the Kedma board before his presidency.
“I want to expand the community and give Kedma a better reputation,” said Galler, when asked why he ran for president.
Galler was raised Orthodox and attended a pluralistic summer camp as a child . Exposure to Jews of all types has instilled in him a value of acceptance between people of all backgrounds. “No one is boxed in by a title… and we should all be accepting of everyone’s practices, connecting to them as people,” Galler said.
Because of his passion toward diversity and inclusion, Galler has spearheaded many social events to make the Orthodox community at the University of Maryland more welcoming. “I saw there were groups of students who identified as Orthodox, but felt disenfranchised by the Orthodox community and I wanted everyone who identified as Orthodox, and people who do not, to feel connected to the Jewish community,” said Galler.
One of these recent initiatives is the upcoming Zusha event. Galler has recruited Zusha, a modern Jewish band, to perform a concert in College Park on May 5. He hopes that this concert will echo his vision for the Jewish community. “Seeing people from different backgrounds and social circles all enjoying the same program or event,” said Galler, is the most rewarding part of his job.
Shira Clements, a junior kinesiology major, is another close friend of Galler’s. She was convinced by Galler to take on her current role as social chair of Kedma.
“[He’s a] phenomenal leader that tries to reach out to the community,” said Clements.
Not only do Clements and Galler plan Kedma events together, but they also host joint Shabbat meals. These Friday night dinners typically consist of about 15-20 people, usually from the Kedma community. Occasionally, they even host themed Shabbats on Halloween and Purim, where guests come dressed up in costume.
Galler took a brief break from his responsibilities to complete the Boston Marathon. Clements ran a few miles with Galler to help him train.
“It was inspirational to see him do it,” Clements said. “When he sets his mind to something, he completes it.”
Although Galler just crossed the finish line on April 14, he is already seeking his next marathon.