Faculty Creates Jewish Group
by Jason Eiseman

The following article appeared on December 10, 1997 in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The article states that Marilyn Kushick and I were co-founders of the Jewish Faculty and Staff Group. This is not true; the Jewish Faculty and Staff Group had already been in existence for a number of years. The contribution of many people, including Maurianne Adams, David Bloome, Marilyn Kushick, Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, and myself, was to expand the activities of Jewish Faculty and Staff Group to include faculty programs such as the three mini-conferences held in 1995, 1996, and 1997.

A group of Jewish faculty members have organized an informal group, the Jewish Faculty and Staff Group, to celebrate being Jewish.

Richard S. Ellis, professor of mathematics, and Marilyn Kushick, professor in the music and dance department, are co-chairs, and co-founders of the group.

“We’re not a religious organization,” Ellis said. “I want to set up an environment where people can celebrate being Jewish.”

The group works closely with University of Massachusetts Hillel House and Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, Executive Director, and organizes activities involving Jewish students and faculty on campus.

“We don’t have a full time staff,” Ellis said. “[Rabbi Perlmutter] provides the space for meetings. Everyone is welcome; some people read Hebrew, some don’t.”

Some of their activities include a “mini-conference” in each of the last three years, a Torah study group, and bringing in speakers and holding luncheons.

Ellis said that the goals of the group “are as broad as the Jewish people are broad.”

Ellis listed several goals for the organization. The first was building a safe and welcoming environment in which UMass faculty and staff can speak to each other, learn from each other and can deal with issues about being Jewish.

The group also seeks to “foster a cohesive, communicative and interactive Jewish community on campus.” Perhaps most important to Ellis is the goal of serving as a resource for Jewish students at UMass.

“We wanted to be as inclusive as we can,” Ellis said. “I’m happy and I think it serves a full time purpose.”

On Nov. 16, the group held one of its mini-conferences, and according to Ellis, there was a “very good turnout.” Ellis also said that they must gear activities to resources, and receive small grants from National Hillel to run their conferences.

Ellis said that the group has no agenda. “If someone is interested, . . . fine,” he said. “People are very confused about being Jewish.”

The group has been sponsoring events for three years, and Ellis said they will continue to try to build a community.

“It’s important enough to do,” Ellis said. “It’s very gratifying.”

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