JSA considers not running next year due to low turnout

Lucia Kouri, Reporter

Low turnout for nominations to the Jewish Students’ Association board has raised the question as to whether the 20-year-old club still has the attendance it needs to continue running next year. 

The JSA, known for running the biannual Holocaust Remembrance Assembly as well as yearly celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Hannukah, recently hoasted board nominations for the 2020-21 school year. According to adviser Susan Shapiro, 10 students showed up. Of those people, six were seniors and four were current board members.

  In response to this low turnout, Ms. Shapiro sent an email to all JSA-registered students detailing the risk of JSA not running next year and inviting members to a meeting Feb. 28.

“In a year when Jews have increasingly become targets of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic violence, it is sad to think that our mission is no longer meaningful to the Jewish community at the Lab Schools,”  Ms. Shapiro wrote in her email. 

The JSA was created in 1994 by a group of seniors in the Class of ‘95 who came to Ms. Shapiro in hopes of creating a club that would educate and celebrate Jewish culture. At the time, according to Ms. Shapiro, the Jewish population at Lab hovered at just under 20% of the student body, roughly twice as large as it is now.

Ms. Shapiro claims that even now, with the Jewish population at roughly 10% at U-High, many Jewish students don’t find the drive to show up to weekly meetings. While several Jewish and non-Jewish students claim they find support and comfort in the work and existence of the JSA, however, many lack an understanding of the student drive necessary to support the club, she said.

“Kids think ‘Oh, the JSA, they’re gonna be there. Every other year there’ll be our Holocaust assembly and we’ll do apples and honey and in September and you know’ — but really it takes work and commitment to the basic purpose of the club,” Ms. Shapiro said. 

The Feb. 28 meeting highlighted the fact that there are still at least a handful of students who feel the same passion about the existence of the club as the founding students. 

“I could come here, and I was welcomed by all of you and the people sitting next to me and behind me,” junior Elena Stern said at the meeting. “It felt like it didn’t matter what everybody else thought — it just mattered that I had that connection,.” 

Sophomore Noa Appelbaum, the only non-senior board member, expressed similar appreciation and hope for the future of JSA in the Feb. 28 meeting.

“We really need people. I mean, obviously we can’t force you, but we would really love if people would step up and please help save this club,” Noa said. 

With 15 non-board members present on Feb. 28, numbers were more promising than prior meetings. However, given that the email was sent to 48 students, the question still exists as to whether the club can foster the consistent drive it needs to survive next year. 

“It was the students who demanded it come into being to begin with,” Ms. Shapiro said, “and it’s the students will decide whether or not it’s important enough to continue.”