By Garrison Murphy ’15
There is an ancient Jewish proverb that goes, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.”
If there is one thing that the Jewish Student Union chooses to embody, it is the true essence of these words coupled with a sense of unity, acceptance and friendship.
“The one qualification of this club is curiosity,” said Coby Palivathukal ’14, co-president and co-founder of the Jewish Student Union.
Informally known as the “Jewnion,” Brophy’s own chapter of the national Jewish Student Union was the brainchild of current seniors Gavin Singer ’14, Coby Palivathukal ’14 and Ben Sacks ’14. Logan Hall, a student who no longer attends Brophy, was also a founding member of the club.
“We started the club sophomore year because we wanted to establish a Jewish community at Brophy because we feared that without any sort of Jewish involvement in or life our cultural identity would kind of dissipate,” Palivathukal said. “We wanted to make sure that we had an outlet to maintain our Judaism in an environment where it’s not Jewish.”
Singer said that the idea of a club for Jewish students first occurred to him and the other three founders while in a freshman forensics class taught by Ms. Elizabeth Clarke, but they didn’t see their idea come to fruition until the following year.
Three and a half years later the club boasts 28 active members and had more than100 club fair signatures this year.
While this is a club that typically caters towards Jewish students, club leaders have put their own spin on the JSU official mission of getting “more Jewish teens attending public high schools to do something Jewish” by allowing non-Jewish individuals to join.
Almost half of the entire club isn’t actually Jewish, and club co-president Singer said that it’s a sign of growth and healthy curiosity in the Brophy Community.
“We used to think that they were only there for the free pizza,” Singer said. “But sometimes … there’s no pizza and they still stay.”
Sacks said that a typical meeting consists of a group discussion about contemporary Jewish topics, Bible study and an activity provided by outside club coordinator Schmuli Josephson.
Josephson is the JSU district representative for the Phoenix area and attends each meeting in order to supervise and participate in club activities.
On occasion Josephson is said to bring blocks of wood for club members to break with their hands in order to symbolize the process of pushing through fear.
“Schmuli is a standup guy,” said club member Michael Garber ’15. “One of the happiest guys I’ve ever met, also… he can snap the wooden boards with his head.”
Garber said that he is one of the non-seniors expected to take a leadership role in the club after the current senior class graduates.
With the Summit on Human Dignity occurring in March and focusing on race, these concepts of acceptance embodied by the Jewish Student Union will become a widely talked about topic.
The Jewish Student Union now meets every other Monday in Ms. Kelly Guffey’s room and all students are encouraged to join.
“We have no rules for new members … just show up and be nice,” Singer said.