On Feb. 26, a Shabbat dinner for about 30 students was held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Now, in a region where Tulane annually has a Shabbat 1000, that may not seem like that large of an achievement, but at UAB, it’s a step toward a more visible Jewish presence on campus.
The UAB Jewish Student Life Organization was recently founded through the collaborative efforts of Birmingham Jewish Federation board member and UAB School of Business faculty member Jacob Gelber, BJF Programs Coordinator Caren Seligman and UAB undergraduate Max Capouano, who is from Montgomery.
Gelber is serving as the faculty advisor, and Temple Beth-El Rabbi Michelle Goldsmith is now the Jewish representative on the UAB Campus Ministry Association.
The Shabbat dinner was the first program for JSLO. The Federation sponsored the dinner, which attracted students, faculty and participants from Birmingham-Southern.
The next week, the group went to see the UAB-Memphis basketball game.
Seligman said “We care deeply about Jewish life at UAB and want to do all we can to support this new group… In addition, we want members to feel connected to the Birmingham Jewish community.”
The organization plans to reach out to a wide range of groups, including undergraduate and graduate students, residents, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators.
Gelber said there is a lack of awareness of the Jewish population at UAB — which is estimated to number several hundred among students, faculty and staff — and the existence of an organization like this can help attract additional Jewish enrollment.
Additional Shabbat dinners are planned for at least twice a semester.