By Charles Summers

For Mitzpeh


If elected, SGA presidential candidate Ayelette Halbfinger would be the first Orthodox Jewish SGA president at a Big Ten university. Photo courtesy of Ayelette Halbfinger.

If you’ve walked past McKeldin Library this week, it’s likely you’ve seen students handing out fliers on either side of Testudo, asking passersby if they’ve voted in this year’s SGA elections. 

It’s that time of year again, and while students may be bogged down with studying for their finals, there are a few who are also investing themselves in the future of this university’s Student Government Association.

One such student is Ayelette Halbfinger, a junior operations management and business analytics major who is running for SGA president on the Discover Maryland ticket. 

For almost two years, Halbfinger has been involved in UMD’s SGA. She has previously worked as the organization’s business representative and deputy communications director, and is currently chief of staff for the student body president.

“I manage more the internal aspects of SGA, as well as the external, stepping in for the SGA president when he can’t make it to certain meetings or events,” Halbfinger said.

A graduate of the DCC Honors Program, a living/learning program at UMD, Halbfinger was one of the program’s awardees for her capstone project on expanding kosher food availability on UMD’s campus. Unsurprisingly, food accessibility is one of the issues she placed at the forefront of her campaign.

In Halbfinger’s plan, Hillel’s dining hall would be incorporated into UMD Dining Services, and kosher sandwich options would be provided in other dining halls for students who keep kosher. She also emphasized the importance of dining hall accessibility for students with allergies by ensuring that dining hall options “match the changing patterns of students’ dietary restrictions and allergens.”

“Meal time is an important part of student bonding experience,” Halbfinger said on the issue. “Having the university resources behind them would greatly boost accessibility for students across campus.”

If elected, Halbfinger would be the first Orthodox Jewish president at any University System of Maryland or Big Ten Alliance school.

In addition to her planned dining reforms, Halbfinger stressed the importance of integrating commuter students into campus life by altering the shuttle schedule so that it fits better with class times. She is also dedicated to making it easier for students to work in DC by subsidizing the cost of transit.

“As a D.C. native and a student who has worked part time in downtown Washington the past three years, I know how costly the Metro can be. It’s important to me that students working off campus are not spending a large portion of their paycheck simply getting to and from their office,” Halbfinger said.

She is a strong advocate for the creation of a scholarship program to help support the academic success of Native American students at the University of Maryland. She also proposed the creation of a Piscataway memorial in order to recognize the land taken from the Native American tribe that the university was built on.

“UMD is a land grant institution, the land that we are on was chartered to us and taken from the Piscataway Tribe. Given that recognition, I think it’s incredibly important that we give back,” she said.

The unifying thread for much of Halbfinger’s campaign seems to be her emphasis on the importance of community, and the need for cultural communities to remain connected with each other in order to form the greater student body. The value she ascribes to community is something she traces back to her experience as a Jewish student.

“I think being a part of the Jewish community on campus has given me the opportunity to understand how valuable community is at such a large university, and how easy it is to get lost in a conversation of over 30,000 undergraduate students,” she said about her experience. “Cultural communities are important to me because of what the Jewish community has given to me for the past three years.”

Halbfinger noted that in addition to her candidacy, there are four other members of the Kedma community running on the Discover Maryland ticket this year.

“The Jewish student body at the University of Maryland has the ability to shape the conversation when it comes to issues of religious discrimination, cultural discrimination, and academic success,” she said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Jewish community on campus to make it clear through voting that they are here, a present and involved part of the community.” 

To vote in UMD’s SGA elections, click here. Elections are open until 4PM on May 4.


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