The Student News Site of Walnut Hills High School

The Chatterbox

The Student News Site of Walnut Hills High School

The Chatterbox

The Student News Site of Walnut Hills High School

The Chatterbox

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Reviving a tradition

Reintroducing Jewish culture to WHHS
The Jewish Student Union Club is excited to celebrate and share its culture with the student body. “There are several students who are ready to join,” Lauren McGill, advisor of JSU, said. “Hanukkah is coming up, so thatll be one of the first things that we do. And you know who doesnt love eating fried potato pancakes.”
Photo used with permission from JSU
The Jewish Student Union Club is excited to celebrate and share its culture with the student body. “There are several students who are ready to join,” Lauren McGill, advisor of JSU, said. “Hanukkah is coming up, so that’ll be one of the first things that we do. And you know who doesn’t love eating fried potato pancakes.”

In order to create a safe space filled with fun, education and appreciation of Jewish culture, the Jewish club at WHHS is making a comeback. 

Jewish Culture Club was formed in 2008 and was advised by the social studies teacher, Susan Donnett. However, after Donnett’s retirement in 2021 and the pandemic, the club disappeared. Now a new club, renamed JSU (Jewish Student Union), has been formed in order to reestablish a space for students to practice and learn about Judaism. 

“This is a space that is going to be apolitical, where people who just want to learn and experience and enjoy [Jewish culture] can gather,” Lauren McGill, adviser of JSU, said. “It’s important to me to foster education and to, on a micro level, [acknowledge] rising anti-Semitism in the world. As a history teacher, it’s important to me that this space exists for anyone who is open to sharing those experiences.”

The club was created by Sophie Kaplan, ‘27, president of JSU, who wondered why there wasn’t a club for Judaism when she saw other existing culture clubs. 

“I think [JSU] would really benefit the population of Jewish students at Walnut and even non-Jewish students,” Kaplan said. “It’s really important to have it and to have people feel welcome,” Kaplan said.

During their meetings, JSU hopes to continue similar holiday activities that the Jewish Culture Club did in the past. 

“Around Hanukkah time, we would play dreidel and sing Hanukkah songs, and cook latkes which is a traditional Hanukkah dish,” McGill said. “Food is obviously a large part of the culture, and I know Mrs. Donnett would bring in Israeli citizens to teach Israeli folk songs in Israeli folk dances.”

JSU also takes inspiration from Sycamore High School’s JSU club for activities that aren’t related to holidays. 

“We have a national representative as a mentor, who started the Jewish Student Union at Sycamore High School, and that is a thriving club over there and is also the mentor of Sophie,” McGill said. “We are going to work together to set the curriculum for the club meetings.”

However, all the activities JSU plans on doing will emphasize the joy and fun of Judaism.

“A big tenet of the Jewish religion is celebrating life, celebrating the here and now, so a lot of the activities will be focused with a celebratory air,” McGill said. “The whole point was to not just learn but to do something with your peers and make new memories.” 

For a long-term goal, JSU wants to build a strong membership.  

“[We want] to grow, have a lot of members and to also have [meetings] often,” Kaplan said. “It’s good to have a safe space, especially in school because outside of school it’s hard [to find]. It’s important to have consistency.”

As JSU continues to grow and plan more events, they hope to collaborate with other clubs. 

“I think it would do us well to reach out to other clubs and co-sponsor an event or invite other clubs,” McGill said. “I think there’s a lot of ways that we can partner with other clubs for activities and invite them to participate. That will build community bridges, which I’m excited about.”

Besides having activities and events, JSU is making an effort to focus on educating students about Judaism. 

“A lot of teachers are biased on teaching history right now, and teaching current events right now,” Kaplan said. “It’s important for people to stay educated.”

The club is excited to start and believes it will thrive because of the diversity and students’ willingness to learn at WHHS.

“One of the things I’m really proud of is how welcoming and diverse this student body is, in all shapes, sizes, colors,” McGill said. “When I started my first year here, I thought I was on the set of a movie because of how diverse it was in fashion and different ethnicities. Other schools do not teach like Walnut, look like Walnut [or] act like Walnut and that’s a blessing.” 

JSU hopes to positively impact students by reminding them to be open-minded and respectful towards different cultures.

“Hate or prejudice is easy, you don’t have to try hard,” McGill said. “Being open-minded, doing the work, having discourse, building bridges, that takes work and sometimes people are afraid to do the work.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Kim, Section Editor of News and Features
In her second year as a Chatterbox staff member, Emma Kim is enthusiastic to work as the Section Editor of News and Features. She hopes to improve her interviewing skills and develop her journalistic writing style. She was a club member during the 2022-2023 school year as a Feature Writer  Kim also swims for WHHS and is currently on the Cincinnati Aquatic Club team.  Kim hopes to attend college and major in pre-med. In her spare time, she enjoys playing piano and spending time with friends.
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