Jewish Student Union established at BV; students gather to share common beliefs

Gennifer Geer, Managing Editor

Eighty-six percent of the Kansas population is Christian.
Nine percent have no religion.
And an even smaller two percent are Jewish.
Given the diversity of America, it’s no surprise Blue Valley has a number of Jewish students alongside the Christians, Hindus and other religions.
Thanks to juniors Jacob Bell, Josh Hurst and Eli Kahn, BV’s new Jewish Student Union (JSU) has taken flight.
“It’s a really good way for Jewish kids to meet and discuss ideas that regard to everything that’s going on, such as Israel and everything that’s going on in the Jewish area,” Bell said. “We have an advisor [Hillel Goldstein] who comes in and talks about that. We’ll do a lot of community service as well.”
Hurst said he plans for JSU to become wider-known in the school.
“[My] goals for the club are to publicize it a bit more and make it more known so it becomes a full-grown club,” he said. “We want to get a charter, so it’s actually official.”
Hurst said he felt BV needed a JSU to keep pace with the other district schools.
“All the other schools have one, and I thought Blue Valley should have one, too,” he said.
Sponsor Jennifer Balke said she previously facilitated a JSU at BV, and this is one reason she supervises the current one.
“Another teacher sent [Bell] to me, partly because a couple years ago we had a Jewish Student Union here at the school that I sponsored,” Balke said. “We never did meet very much, and it wasn’t very active.”
Balke said because JSU is based on religion, she isn’t allowed to be as integrated in the club’s meetings as other sponsors are — thus, Goldstein provides Jewish insight and guidance.
Goldstein represents the national JSU organization and gave members JSU locker magnets.
“It’s interesting — with religious clubs, the faculty sponsor isn’t nearly as involved,” Balke said. “I’m here mainly in a supervisory role.”
However, she said JSU has her full support.
“I think it’s great that we have [religious] clubs because we have Fellowship of Christian Athletes and [Refuge],” Balke said. “Since we have a lot of diversity in this school, I think it’s nice we have clubs that represent and show that diversity.”
Bell said JSU will be a way for students to get to know each other, and he plans on the club participating in programs at the University of Kansas.
At BV, JSU holds meetings in Balke’s room every two weeks.
“[At meetings, we] discuss community services ideas, or discuss upcoming programs,” Bell said. “That’s usually it, or the advisor will come and speak about something.”
Bell said the turnout at the first two meetings was successful.
“There’s been 15 kids at each meeting, which is pretty good for our school,” Bell said.
With the old JSU, there were both Jewish and non-Jewish members, and non-Jewish students are also welcome to the new club.
“It seems as thus far, it’s been solely Jewish students in large numbers,” Balke said. “I would encourage kids — even if they’re not Jewish — to feel free to join if they either want to explore different religions or learn more about Judaism. It’s good for us all, as individuals, to learn about each other as much as possible and to get exposure to things.”