ReJEWvenate offers space for Jewish and queer students
Club discusses intersections of faith, identity and life
In 2015, then-sophomore Jenna Shaw realized there was no campus space for both of her identities — Jewish and queer — to intersect.
That’s why she created ReJEWvenate, a club that has since grown into a space where people can express themselves freely and discuss different topics of faith, identity, and life, said ReJEWvenate’s administrative chair Cameron Wheeler said.
Additionally, the club is a safe space where people can learn about themselves, even if they aren’t Jewish or queer, Shaw said.
“My vision for it is to be a space that is apolitical, which I think is very rare in both queer and Jewish spaces, but also a space where people can go and be their fullest and most authentic selves,” Shaw said.
When she started the club, Shaw said, she did not want it to turn into a political organization, something she said is very rare at AU. Because of that, she said the club does not hold a stance on Israel or Palestine, though it is associated with AU Hillel.
AU Hillel celebrates what ReJEWvenate has done for Jewish and queer students, said Jason Benkendorf, the executive director of AU Hillel.
“Being queer and Jewish can mean being a minority within a minority, and we’re proud to support students in building a supportive space where being queer and Jewish is ‘the norm,’” Benkendorf said.
While Shaw graduated in May 2017, ReJEWvenate has continued to flourish in terms of holding different social events, such as LGBTQ Shabbat dinners, that promote the club on campus. The organization still remains small and tight-knit, with about 10 or 12 students consistently attending meetings, Wheeler said.
“One of the things we have realized in recent years and what we are really trying to focus on this year, is that while we enjoy the weekly meeting, we also are really trying to emphasize the idea of having other events outside of the regular meeting,” Wheeler said.
Although he wishes more AU students would take advantage of ReJEWvenate, Wheeler said he also enjoys having a solid support group.
“I know that some of our members have asked some other members about coming out to parents and things like that in the past and that has been a really special conversation to have,” Wheeler said. “It is really interesting because they’re dealing with certain dynamics that CDI [the Center for Diversity and Inclusion] isn’t necessarily accustomed to.”
Both Shaw and Wheeler agreed that this is a club where you can meet lifelong friends. Shaw said she always knows she can come back and have a family in D.C.
“I am so thankful for it and I will always hold it with me, even from 2,000 miles [away],” Shaw said.