FHSU Professor aims to create a campus organization for those of Jewish faith

STORY BY DANIEL SAENZ

Studying at Fort Hays can certainly provide a diverse environment for new students, especially for those from small rural Kansas communities. It can be shocking to come to a town like Hays and encounter students from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Nigeria, South Korea, and China. Bodies such as the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as well student organizations such as the Chinse Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), International Student Union, the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO), Black Student Union, and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), all exist on campus as useful resources to make sure that the university is doing its best to help these various interest groups.

However, there is another minority group that receives little if any attention on campus: those of the Jewish faith. It is for this very reason that certain faculty members of Jewish heritage have taken action in order to address this apparent lack of representation.

Dr. Patricia Levy has been a professor from the Department of Social Work for about 18 years and involved with social work as a whole for over 45 years in both the United States and Israel. She is a dual citizen, possessing citizenship of both Israel and the United States. She decided that it was longtime for an organization to bring Jewish students and faculty together.

“We do not have very many Jewish faculty or students on campus as far as I know nor do we have a synagogue here in Hays,” Levy said. “So, as a result, when there is a Jewish holiday, or if we wanted to have an organized faith-based sociocultural activity, we have had no way to do that.”

She has been wanting to create a special organization so that people could come together to celebrate Passover among many other Judaism-related activities.

The University of Kansas has its own Jewish association, which is something that Fort Hays does not appear to have. Not to mention the fact that Hays is a predominantly Christian community. Because of this, Dr. Levy thought it would be nice to create a type of outlet for activities where domestic students and faculty could meet Jewish students and faculty such as Israeli dancing or preparing Jewish foods or discussions about antisemitism.

“I think it is important because Jews are a minority in the United States and there is not a lot of awareness and there are a lot of negative stereotypes that aren’t true,” she said.

One of the most unfortunate examples is the common trope that Jewish people are rich and good at handling money.

First of all, the reason that Jewish people even entered banking was because they were not allowed to own land and back in ancient times, handling money was considered a low-class profession. So this whole trope is based on historical ignorance. And unfortunately, these tropes aren’t harmless but have real-life consequences.

Hitler’s rhetoric about Jewish bankers ruining Germany culminated in the Shoah, killing over 6 million Jews in the process. It is for this very reason that we have Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, this has proven not to be enough. Just as we were healing from the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, another Neo-Nazi recently attacked Poway Synagogue in California driven by a belief that the Jews were importing migrants to cause a great replacement of whites.

Given that these atrocities continue to happen and the fact that antisemitic language is still very much a part of everyday conversations, having an organization that can serve as a safe haven for Jews and raises awareness of such issues would make perfect sense on FHSU’s campus and in the Hays community.  
If you are interested in becoming a member or supporter of a Jewish community organization at FHSU or in Hays, contact Dr. Patricia Levy at plevy@fhsu.edu.

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