Calling our campus heterogeneous would be an understatement. We have a diverse array of cultures, religions, ethnicities and identities on this campus, each with their own corresponding organizations. Jewish students have Hillel and Chabad. LGBT students and their allies have SpectrUM (UPride). Muslim students have MSUM. The list goes on.
It is really valuable for everyone to have a way to explore different facets of their identities with fellow peers. Belonging to a group through heritage or common traditions is a great way to stay grounded amidst all the chaos of a college environment.
Still, it would be a lost opportunity for us to go through four or more years at this university without ever engaging in another person’s culture.
I am very lucky to have experienced a small portion of this through my involvement with different organizations on campus. As outreach director of Emet Israel, an on-campus pro-Israel organization, I organize our event, Walla Sesh, which is our casual weekly hangout when we meet different student organizations and get to know them better. We have done events with a diverse group of organizations, including UM Democrats and Republicans, African Students Union and Veteran Students Organization. As a member of this organization, I love meeting members of other organizations and hearing about who they are and what they do, and in the meantime, letting them get to know me.
I am also the founder and co-director of the 18th Notes, UM’s Jewish a cappella group. We were just founded last February with the sponsorship of Hillel and Voices of UM, and this year, we held our first auditions. We were so happy to see that our numbers doubled and we finally had a full, fleshed out group of committed members. I was surprised that the majority of our new members were not Jewish. It’s split almost 50-50 between Jews and non-Jewish students in our group.
At the very beginning, we knew that being a Jewish a cappella group didn’t necessarily mean recruiting only Jewish members. We followed the example set by our friends and fellow a cappella group Tufaan. Tufaan is an Indian fusion a cappella group, but many of their members are not Indian or South Asian.
“I decided it would be cool to try something different,” said Erica Gard, a sophomore music therapy major. “Even though I didn’t know Hindi, I picked it up really fast because everyone in the group was so willing to help the new people.”
I love sharing my culture with all of our members and with the campus community, and I also love it when other people share their cultures with me. I love meeting new people who speak different languages and use different slang terms or speak in interesting accents. Going to such a heterogeneous school is truly a blessing, which provides us with opportunities that we cannot find anywhere else.
Eitan Snyder is a sophomore majoring in music business.
Featured image courtesy Pixabay user stokpic